Buoyed by an uplift in public support following his 60th birthday celebrations, Prince Charles is up to his old tricks again.
His inner circle is reportedly preparing the ground so that when — if? — he becomes King he'll be able to take a more ‘active' role in the life of this country than his mother.
According to his friend Jonathan Dimbleby, Charles wants his role to ‘evolve’ so that his knowledge and experience are not wasted.
Dimbleby says the inner circle believes that as all the political parties are now largely inter-changeable, they fail to look to the long term, leaving a vacuum of leadership. While accepting that he could not speak out as he does now, Charles would speak “for the nation and to the nation”.
Stripped of the pomposity, Charles' style would be as if the country was some vast Nolan show, with his Nibship able to gas off about whatever pops into his head ... sorry, “matters of national and international importance”. It's Charlie from Windsor on line 3.
Of course, the fact he's even thinking this way shows that his ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’ count for nought. Just imagine — poor Charles worrying the night away, brooding the country is being deprived of his ‘wisdom’. Doesn't it ever occur to him this hints at a dangerous meglomania? Or that his extravagance, pampered existence and failure to understand the lukewarm response to Camilla only highlight just how out of touch he is with what most people think. Rest assured, sir, the country will survive your enforced silence.
The whole point of being a monarch is to stand above the fray and, in his own person, express the underlying unity of one's kingdom. If Charles spends his time dispensing snippets of royal wisdom and — by implication — symbolising the disunity of the nation, he will soon find that he's Charles the Last.
At the moment, as Prince of Wales, he's created (dangerously in the opinion of some) a space to allow him to comment on ‘soft' politics — the environment, architecture, ‘faith'. That even these areas are no longer so cosy as they once were should serve as a warning to royal advisors.
For example, a green agenda may imply tax increases. How does that tie-up with the Government's tax-cutting agenda as a way out of economic meltdown? You know, Charles, the lovely-sounding holistic approach that everything is related to everything else?
Indeed, as 99% of ‘issues' involve money, may we take this chance to inquire what the royal views are on taxation and public spending?
I don't know. And quite frankly I suspect neither does Charles.
But if his ideas gain momentum, we'll be heading towards a constitutional crisis very rapidly indeed. What if Charles ends up criticising the policies of his own government? After all, the PM and government is nominally appointed by the Crown, not the people. It is the Crown, acting on the advice of his or her PM, that dissolves parliament.
It's precisely this constitutional convenient fiction, that the Crown just so happens to do what the people say, that has saved the royal family from being turfed out a long time ago. And implicit in that deal is that our rulers are — at least publicly — silent on anything smacking of party politics.
If Charles breaks that pact, will the Government have the right to say: “With all due respect, Your Highness, you're a moron.”
And, for that matter, will we?
If the Government — or we ourselves — are involved in a series of irritable debates with a monarch modelling himself on Victor Meldrew, how long before some bright spark has the idea of permanently pulling the plug on Charles' line to the nation?
There's no such thing as a ‘non-political' contribution to public debate. It may not be party political but all debates involve hard choices to be made by our country's elected leaders. As the King is pivotal to our constitution, is it not a democratic anomaly for someone to use his inherited position to criticise those who have to stand before the people every few years to take the consequences of their actions? Worse, someone to whom they must show defererence simply because of who he is. Charles can talk any old patience-sapping gibberish and the PM of the day will just have to grin and bear it.
If Charles was as radical as he likes to make out, why doesn't he advocate an elected monarchy? Or would that be a debate too far?
Mmm, an elected monarchy? I don't fancy Charles' chances of romping home. All Hail, King John Sergeant of Strictly!