Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: The Prince of Petulance needs to realise that the media are entitled to call out double standards

Prince Harry and wife Meghan during a visit to Johannesburg this week
Prince Harry and wife Meghan during a visit to Johannesburg this week

By Lindy McDowell

It was, as Meghan herself would say, a game changer. Having accrued considerable positive publicity over their successful tour of southern Africa, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex should be winding up this week revelling in the warm glow of all those flattering accounts of their speeches, their highlighting of good causes, Archie's unveiling and Meghan's canny choice of shirt dresses.

Instead Harry, Prince of Petulance, seems to have decided he'll be having none of that oul' nonsense.

In a blistering statement which entirely eclipsed the triumph of the couple's tour, he laid into the British tabloid media, which he accused of waging a "ruthless campaign" against his wife.

His statement's release came as it was revealed that the Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail on Sunday over the publication of an artistically scribed letter she'd sent her father - and which the da had then passed on to the paper after her friends made comments about him in glossy US mags of similar extensive circulation.

This week, however, Harry widened his gunsights.

He accused the entire British tabloid media of "relentless propaganda". It was "knowingly false and malicious". He'd lost his mother, he said, and now he was watching his wife "fall victim to the same powerful forces".

He'd seen what happened when someone was "commoditised" (an unusual choice of word for a man, who along with his wife, is seen as eager to promote Brand Sussex). "Put simply," he said, it was "bullying".

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In the aftermath of this salvo a report in The Times (is The Times a tabloid?) claimed Harry did not inform either Prince Charles or Prince William that he was going to let loose the dogs of war.

Presumably because they might order him to hold fire.

For good reason. What the Sussexes do impacts on the rest of the royal firm. Royal advisers will not have missed that a recurring theme in online comment about Harry and Meghan can be summed up as follows: "I'm so fed up with this pampered pair. Why do we even need a monarchy?"

It's entirely understandable that Harry would despise the European paparazzi who pursued his mother's car into the Alma tunnel that night (presumably he also feels some antipathy towards drunken chauffeurs).

But, as has been pointed out many, many times this week, Diana's relationship with the British tabloid media was a mutually beneficial one. As someone with an innate understanding of the PR game, Diana worked hand in glove with them.

If anyone was getting a hard time from the British tabloid media back in that era it was her ex Charles and his then mistress Camilla, who at one point was pelted with bread rolls by outraged shoppers.

Camilla just got on with it, adhering to the old royal rule: "Never explain, never complain."

It might be going a bit far to say she's since become a national treasure, but at least she is no longer in danger of attack from flying baked goods.

The duke and duchess could learn from that.

Yes, the media do ask tough questions and point up double standards. That's their role.

Harry and his wife live lives of enormous privilege funded by the public purse.

It is not unconscionable then that the media should highlight, and the public should be riled by, examples of extravagance (the house refit, the baby shower, the couture clothes) and the "do as I say, not as I do" approach to eco issues.

Wearying, too, is the continuing attempted Di-ification of Meghan. She is not the new Diana. However, she could try to be a bit more Doria...

Discreet and graceful, Meghan's mother exudes a dignity that is counter to the moany martyrdom of Clan Markle.

It's fine that the duke and duchess might want to plough their own furrow as global humanitarians or whatever. It's not the titles that grate - it's the air of entitlement.

They need to wind their necks in a bit with the victimhood stuff.

People in palaces shouldn't throw strops.

We’re bordering on the ridiculous

Why have one border when you can have two? That's the novel suggestion this week on how to sort Brexit. Two borders. One described as being "in the Irish Sea" (tricky for customs officials) and the other at... well... the border. Or thereabouts. It's a sort of his and hers giveaway. One for Leo, one for Arlene . Also, we could be in the single market, but not in the customs union. We're in the Twilight Zone. Bordering on the ridiculous.

Acting silly sausage over Brexit

Another of those shortages which could hit hard post-no deal Brexit... wherever will we get future supplies of 'nduja sausage from? It would be hard to find a local menu which doesn't currently feature 'nduja this or 'nduja that. Could we cope if, say, Mr Varadkar were to refuse to allow vital 'nduja supplies to be carried up north? Could we ever go back to just plain old sausage? Of the variety that doesn't have the posh apostrophe.

Boris is on to a grinner with smiley Carrie

How does Carrie Symonds keep smiling? This week she cruised into the Tory party conference, where her beau Boris was due to speak, with a grin on her face as wide as that bridge between Larne and Scotland the PM is proposing to build.

She was the very picture of beaming happiness. The portrait of jollity. And she kept the smile going. In through the door past the cameras. And all the way as she strode down the long, long corridor to the main conference hall.

The young woman walking alongside cannot surely have been providing her with such sustained repartee that she couldn't keep that grin from her face.

But Carrie kept it going.

Most of us when we get a bit nervous appear somewhat rigid about the gills. But public figures seem to have acquired the knack of pasting on a happy face whatever the tension.

In fairness to Carrie, she didn't do that hideous thing of rushing on stage at the end of his speech to smother her man in kisses, gazing at him with undiluted adoration. Cherie Blair was a big one for that.

As Boris exited, though, she did clasp and cling to his arm like a toddler refusing to part with the teddy bear her mother wanted to chuck in the washing machine.

But she was still wreathed in smiles.

Carrie on upbeat...

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