Belfast Telegraph

Can I make an intervention in your plans, Charles? Stay clear of politics

By Lindy McDowell

Prince Charles - who died and made him king? No-one ... at least not yet. But as we all know that is the natural progression that will lead to Charles eventually ascending the throne. Some day ... For now, though, he must wait in the wings. A prince, itching it seems, to make his regal mark upon history.

We've read about the secret letters or "black spider memos" (so named on account of his scrawly writing) sent by Chas to various government ministers apprising them of his views on various matters of state. Although to date, we haven't seen their full content, if we ever will.

Meanwhile, quoting an institution as old as the monarchy itself - the "well-placed source" - newspaper reports tell us that Charles, when he gets the crown on his head, intends to shake things up a bit.

He wants to "re-shape the monarchy." And, we're told, he plans to make "heartfelt interventions in public life" when he becomes Chas III. Can this be true?

Clarence House says it will not comment on the claims but then goes on to comment quite a bit about how Charles "cares deeply" for his country, "has devoted most of his working life to helping individuals and organisations to make a difference" and that it is this "unique perspective which has often led to him identifying issues before others which might otherwise be overlooked".

Sounds like a yes, then?

Back to the well-placed source who assures us that the Prince of Heartfelt Interventions will, when the time comes, employ a cautious strategy.

"Speeches will have to pass the following test: would it seem odd because the Queen wouldn't have said it or would it seem dangerous?"

Hmm. If Charles's heartfelt intervening only amounts to saying things the Queen herself would have said, we are hardly going to notice much of a sea change. Many would argue, however, that the whole idea of a monarch meddling in political life (because that is what it comes down to) is by its very nature dangerous.

The British monarchy is a constitutional monarchy, where the Queen is head of state and her role is largely symbolic, representing the nation, promoting national unity and the like. Wisely Elizabeth has stayed above party politics. Spider memo to her son: possibly that is why she is so loved and admired.

Giving politicians a piece of his mind, which is what Charles seems to be proposing (and may already be doing), is a different matter entirely.

That is not to say his opinions are worthless or that he doesn't occasionally make some good points. But he's the future king. Not Russell Brand.

Firing off memos to ministers does have an impact - whether or not the ministers disregard entirely the royal witterings. It has an impact at the very least on public perception. Will people come to believe that the minister took a particular decision because he was swayed by what Chas wrote?

There is no danger that, as with his unfortunate predecessor and namesake, Charles might lose his head literally.

But he does seem to be in danger of ... well ... losing his head, losing the run of himself, getting carried away with his sense of his own importance.

His mother has set a faultless example. She will be a hard act to follow. And Charles, we know, is only too aware of the popularity of his own young heir.

Is this what motivates him? The fear of falling between two thrones? If his intention is indeed to reshape the monarchy and redefine its role he is hardly doing so from a position of power. And he should be warned, in this particular game of thrones a king does not trump democracy.

Food advice that's starting to bug me

Which came first ... the chicken or the bug? According to food safety experts, a large percentage of the chicken sold in supermarkets carries the bacteria campylobacter which can kill. We're variously advised to freeze chicken as soon as we buy it (why buy fresh in the first place?), not to wash it in case we spread germs and now to double bag it as soon as we get it home.

How long before we're being advised to wear a hazmat suit and protective mask before even touching a drumstick? And wouldn't it make things simpler if the focus was on ensuring that the chicken being sent to market didn't have the bug in the first place?

Glad to park my driving licence

Good news. From January the paper part of the driving licence (which accompanies the plastic photo card) is to go the way of the car tax disc. The government, we learn, plans to axe it.

Which is good news for me anyway, since my handbag has already axed mine. At one point I did have a wee plastic holder for it. But that has long since been shredded, too. What I'm left with looks a bit like an off-cut of a Dead Sea Scroll. No great loss then. But no eBay profit either if, like the car tax disc, it turns out there is a market in such useless documentation.

Still a small price to pay, if you ask me. As Elsa from Frozen advises, 'let it go'.

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