Prince Charles and Tony Blair – Old Pros Old Cons

Argus title : Shouldn’t a marriage be based on truth?

I dislike being conned. And when an apparent confidence trick is attempted on the entire nation, I think it warrants protest.

As many of us prepared for St Valentines Day, buying chocolates, tacky cards and overpriced bunches of flowers as tokens of our affection, it appears two of the first gentlemen in the land were preparing to pull the wool over our eyes.

Within a matter of just a few days of each other, the Heir to the British throne announced his engagement to Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles and the Prime Minister announced his intention to renew his “personal” relationship with the electorate.

They seem to have hoped that proximity to St Valentines Day might dull our critical faculties and so immerse us in vulgar romanticism that we would be prepared to accept any old flannel. They were wrong.

Ordinary people remain sceptical about the Prince of Wales’ carefully planned public relations strategy to gain acceptance for Camilla. While most people are content for them to marry (or are indifferent) many are deeply concerned about the couple’s public role.

A recent YouGov survey of the normally loyalist readers of the Daily Telegraph indicated that while 65% of respondents felt the couple should marry, as many as 47% thought Camilla should remain without title. Remarkably, only 37% appeared ready to accept the Prince as King while 41% would prefer Prince William to succeed.

Media commentators, of course, tend to be more cynical than ordinary people. So, following the announcement, I expected to find at least some reference to recent queries about possible tax evasion.

There were none. Instead there was tortuous discussion about whether or not Charles could serve as Defender of the Faith or if a civil marriage would be legal. Monarchist argued with monarchist, while obscure royal historians had their moment of glory on day time TV.

The Archbishop of Canterbury lisped his approval (he sounds more like ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris with every day that passes) while Jonathan Dimbleby spouted the usual sycophantic nonsense.

The only person who had the courage to mention the small matter of taxes was Prince Michael of Albany, a pretender to the British throne who traces his ancestry through the Stewart line of succession. He said: “One minute Charles is caught fiddling his taxes and the next he suddenly announces he is getting married. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

The mischievous Prince Michael’s genaeological claims may or may not be correct, but he is right to question the timing of this marriage. Charles could have married Camilla years ago if he had chosen to do so. His sister, herself divorced, remarried in the Church of Scotland. And it is two years since the Church of England dropped its objection to remarriage of divorcees.

Five years ago surveys indicated that members of the public accepted the relationship and felt it should be regularised by marriage. By early 2003 the Prince’s own advisers had accepted that the British public could not be persuaded much further. Yet still he chose to delay.

Whatever the truth of the matter, to finally announce his intention to marry within days of highly-publicised parliamentary questioning about use of royal tax breaks – including calls for further investigation of the Prince’s expenditure on Camilla Parker Bowles – appears breathtakingly manipulative.

It is to be hoped that parliamentary scrutineers and the Inland Revenue will not be diverted from full and proper examination of Charles’ financial and charitable affairs. However, it’s likely to be very difficult for them to query past expenditure from the Duchy of Cornwall on the personal expenses of Camilla Parker Bowles, given that by the time any investigation takes place, she will be Duchess of Cornwall.

It may seem unlikely that the heir to the throne could be so devious in planning a marriage. Until of course we consider how he contracted the last one. And remember that even in the matter of the birth of his son William, Diana’s labour was induced to fit in with his schedule of polo fixtures.

Generous souls may argue that such a wealthy and prominent man is hardly likely to risk censure for improper financial conduct. However, parliamentary scrutiny revealed that in some of his financial dealings he may have sailed close to the wind.

For example, it may be perfectly legal to claim that trees on the estate from which you derive your vast income are your own personal possessions and therefore can be sold back to the estate for over a million pounds – but it sounds like a fiddle to ordinary people.

I confess the idea of one day being the ‘subject’ of such a man fills me with almost as much discomfort as the image of nuptials with Tony Blair.

On the eve of St Valentine’s Day Tony Blair told us – that is the “British people” – that we must decide whether we want our “relationship” with him to continue.

Many people believe Blair is out of touch, arrogant and increasingly presidential. Contrary to what he and his advisers intended, his speech last Sunday did nothing to dispel this impression.

Pompously, he said “…it’s not a bad idea to think of it in terms of…any other relationship: you, the British people, and me, the person you chose as your Prime Minister”.

He appears to have forgotten that he is not a president and that no-one voted for him other than his Sedgefield constituents. In fact, many people voted Labour despite him, either out of loyalty to the Labour Party or in support of their local M.P.. Many have indicated that they may not vote again for a party that seems unable to either change its leader or hold him accountable.

Last Sunday at Gateshead, with no apparent embarrassment, shame or sense of irony, Tony Blair gave his analysis of how he felt his relationship with the British people had developed.

Like a 1950s husband addressing an unhappy wife, Blair told us “As the big decisions mounted, and the thousand little things that irritate and grate, and then all of a sudden there you are, the British people, thinking, ‘You’re not listening” and I think ‘You’re not hearing me’. And before you know it, you raise your voice and I raise mine. Some of you throw a bit of crockery”.

Rarely can any leader have so patronised and insulted his party’s supporters. It seems to have slipped this blood-soaked prime minister’s memory that he threw more than crockery at the Iraqi people. And that more than a couple of voices were raised when over a million British people went out on the streets to try to halt an illegal war which he had foisted on them.

Tens of thousands have died because of Blair’s decision to go to war. Honourable soldiers in the British army have been besmirched both by the decision to engage in illegal war and the abuses which have accompanied it. Our basic human rights have been compromised by Blair’s uncritical support of Bush’s so-called ‘war on terror’.

But last Sunday, Tony Blair reassured us: “I believe in you, the British people as much as ever.” In such a way an abusive husband may, instead of apologising to his victimised wife, reassure her that he ‘forgives’ her. Such cognitive distortion is based in denial and refusal to take real responsibility for the consequences of destructive actions.

Blair continued: “I learned on some issues, sometimes you just have to agree to disagree”.

Once again he is wrong. The electorate does not have to accept the unacceptable.

We fought for the right to vote and to organise. We should use both to ensure we get the political leadership we deserve, demanding of M.P,s that they represent our wishes and serve our interests in leadership elections.

And in regard to the monarchy….the time has definitely come for divorce.

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