Wednesday, 14 March 2007

God bless the Prince of Wales?

Monday night’s Dispatches program on Channel 4 had the title “Charles: The Meddling Prince”.

Let me make my views on the Royal family perfectly clear - I am not a Royalist. If there is to be a Prince of Wales, it should be a honorary position probably held by a member of the Wales Rugby Team. Past holders would have been: Phil Bennett, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, etc. I hope when Wales play England on Saturday Shane Williams will qualify for the title.

Returning to the Channel 4, its own description of the program, quote:

“Prince Charles will one day be crowned King of England - a position which by constitutional convention is politically neutral. But in this six-month investigation, Dispatches reveals a number of serious concerns: the extent of his political ambition and interference, the measures his office have employed to silence critics and questionable financial arrangements, which raise questions about his suitability for the throne and the future of the monarchy.”

It has been some time since I have seen such a biased and onesided presentation of a case. It was amusing to see (unelected) members of the House of Lords complaining about Prince Charles campaigning activities. The main complaint being he has undue influence over Government Ministers. If this is true, then I would be extremely concerned, to think the Ministers are so easily influenced. Are we to believe that if Charles was against the invasion of Iraq Tony Blair would have told Bush, “Hu sorry and all that, but the Prince will not let me come out to play”. If he is writing too many letters to Ministers, the solution is simple - they should treat his views as they do public opinion, and ignore him.

The program accused the Prince’s senior aid of making an official complaint against Professor Edzard Ernst of Exeter University as a result of which he nearly lost his job. The Professor was asked by the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health to review a draft report on whether alternative remedies were cost-effective and should be funded by the NHS. The Professor was asked and readily agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the content of the draft to third parties. He broke that agreement when he discussed the report with the Times Newspaper - and that was the reason for, in my opinion, a legitimate complaint.

There can not be a critical program about the Royal family without some reference to their extravagant life style, the rules which allow members of the Royal Family to avoid paying tax and whether they are value for money. Are they any different to any other wealthy family?

The program did not have a single interview with a supporter of the Prince’s case. They did however make selective reference to a document prepared by the Prince’s aids denying the charges made by the program. If there is to be trial by TV then let it at least be fair and unbiased, with both sides allowed to give evidence and importantly question and examine the validity and accuracy of the evidence presented against them.

I have recently been the victim of summary justice. When the verdict and sentence was made public, even before I was informed that I was accused of a misdemeanour. Subsequently I was informed I could make a defence case but I was denied access to any evidence.

Is this the future of justice in the UK?

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