DOMINIC LAWSON: Indulged Charles must stop morally vain lectures

DOMINIC LAWSON: Indulged Charles must stop morally vain lectures

DOMINIC LAWSON: Indulged Charles must stop giving us morally vain lectures from his ivory tower

Boris Johnson’s most appealing characteristic — however inappropriate it can sometimes seem — is that he sees the funny side of everything. Including, as I cannot now resist revealing, the task of recording his views on the demise of the Prince of Wales.

This was not long into his term of office: the BBC wanted to film a eulogy by the new Prime Minister for broadcast in the unlikely event of the heir to the throne dying suddenly.

Instead of sticking to the agreed Downing Street script, Johnson could not help making fun of the heir to the throne: ‘I liked his Duchy Originals biscuits and we must all hope he hasn’t taken the secret recipe with him to the grave.’

So I was not surprised by a report in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday that Charles’s courtiers felt the PM did not show the Prince ‘the respect he deserves’ in their meetings.

That may, indeed, be because Boris Johnson doesn’t take the heir to the throne entirely seriously. But compared with the glutinous sycophancy with which Prince Charles is usually treated, there is something to be said for the Johnsonian irreverence.

DOMINIC LAWSON: ‘I was not surprised by a report in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday that Charles’s courtiers felt the PM did not show the Prince ”the respect he deserves” in their meetings’ (Charles pictured in May 2022)

DOMINIC LAWSON: ‘Boris Johnson’s most appealing characteristic — however inappropriate it can sometimes seem — is that he sees the funny side of everything’ (Johnson pictured in May 2022)

Intolerable

I was also told, by someone in Downing Street with reason to know, that the Prince had been enraged by Mr Johnson’s call on the Queen to prorogue Parliament in August 2019, as the highly controversial nature of the request had put the monarch in a difficult position. But the same person added that the Queen herself had not been bothered at all.

And for the record, Boris Johnson did not ‘lie to the Queen’ as is persistently claimed: a Prime Minister does not give the monarch ‘reasons’ — disingenuous or not — for requesting a prorogation. He just tells her his advice is that Parliament must be prorogued, and she is obliged to give her assent.

As the Supreme Court admitted in its judgment ruling the prorogation illegal: ‘We do not know what the Queen was told.’ But, to repeat: the Prince was not at all happy about Boris Johnson’s behaviour in this matter.

Now we learn of another Prime Ministerial initiative which Charles finds intolerable: the scheme to transfer to Rwanda those trafficked illegally across the Channel to our shores by gangsters.

DOMINIC LAWSON: ‘I was told, by someone in Downing Street with reason to know, that the Prince had been enraged by Mr Johnson’s call on the Queen to prorogue Parliament in August 2019’

DOMINIC LAWSON: ‘Lectures are what Charles has been giving us aplenty down the decades. They have been motivated by his own sincere sense of where his duty lies, but they have gone well beyond his pay grade’ 

The Prince is reported to have been expressing his vehement opposition to the plan, to several people.

‘He said he was more than disappointed at the policy,’ one claimed. ‘He said he thinks the Government’s whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the Government’s direction of travel.’

The Prince’s own direction of travel next week, funnily enough, will be to Rwanda — for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the country’s capital, Kigali, on June 24.

Last Thursday, the office of the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall put out a statement which began: ‘My wife and I much look forward to… for the first time, being able to visit Rwanda.’

He appears to think it’s an ‘appalling’ thing for the Government to choose the same country as a venue for those who have been entering the UK illegally in dinghies. Yet Rwanda has been praised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for offering a safe haven for people fleeing war-torn Libya.

We should note that these reported remarks of the Prince of Wales — which have not been denied by his office — were made privately.

We can have no idea if he wanted his views on the matter to become widely known: but if he has indeed made them repeatedly, he was not being careful about sharing his opinion on an intensely controversial matter of public policy.

This is most unwise. It is crucial to the maintenance of respect for the institution of the monarchy that it is seen not only to be above politics, but to take no side in political debate.

This is something that the Queen has managed, to the extent that no one knows what her views are on matters that divide the nation.

As a result, she can aspire to unite us — a unity that was highlighted by the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Demonstrators protest outside of an airport perimeter fence ahead of a planned deportation of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda, at Gatwick Airport

Minefield

Yet the effect of the publication of the Prince’s views on the Rwanda scheme is entirely the opposite. Commentators of the Left have hailed him; and those on the other side have, to use the Prince’s own favourite word, been ‘appalled’.

But it is not just about the pundits (we matter little). This matter is now going through the courts.

Last week, a High Court judge rejected an attempted injunction against the first flights of the ‘dinghy people’ to Rwanda, bought by the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Mr Justice Swift declared: ‘It is important for the secretary of state [Priti Patel] to be able to implement immigration control measures, and preventing that would be prejudicial to the public interest.’

But the judge gave the PCSU leave to appeal, which will be heard today.

Boris Johnson tries to open his umbrella next to Prince Charles at the dedication ceremony of the new national UK Police Memorial last year

The Prince has stepped into a legal as well as a political minefield. And the Rwanda scheme, intended to deter those who spend thousands of pounds on being smuggled here from France (an entirely safe place, let’s not forget), seems to have the greatest support from those in this country who themselves are not that well-off, and who worry about the effect of uncontrolled migration on the queues for services such as public housing and the NHS.

From that perspective, the moral strictures against the Rwanda scheme issued by those who live in palaces — the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, inveighed against the policy in his Easter sermon — sound like morally vain lectures from an ivory tower.

Lectures are what Charles has been giving us aplenty down the decades. They have been motivated by his own sincere sense of where his duty lies, but they have gone well beyond his pay grade.

In a documentary on the Prince to mark his 70th birthday in 2018, the Duchess of Cornwall said: ‘He’s driven by a passion … he really would like to save the world.’

But just keeping an eye on his (future) realm of the UK is his royal duty.

His biggest domestic campaign — persuading us all to convert to ‘organic’ food production and consumption — is also oblivious to the daily concerns of the least well-off.

‘Artificial’ fertilisers and man-made pesticides have been the single biggest element in the ability of the planet to feed itself even as the population has soared. They have not just prevented the global starvation widely predicted, but have given the people of this country the chance to eat daily what our forebears would have regarded as a rare luxury.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Platinum Party at the Palace in front of Buckingham Palace

Pressures

It is a little known fact, in all the propaganda, but just 1.8 per cent of food sales in this country are ‘organic’. For the overwhelming majority of people, Duchy Originals are inconceivably expensive.

As a team of researchers from the Universities of Reading and Cranfield, along with the Royal Agricultural Society, declared in 2019: ‘We predict a drop in total [UK] food production of 40 per cent under a fully organic farming regime, compared to conventional farming.

‘At present we use somewhere in the region of 2 million hectares of land to supplement our national diets. Were organic farming to be adopted wholesale, we would need nearly 6 million more hectares of land — much of which would need to come from Europe.’

Because events in Ukraine have sent food prices shooting up in this country, as elsewhere, we are able to see with especial clarity just how much Prince Charles’s beliefs are those of a very wealthy man with inadequate understanding of the pressures on the poorest of his future subjects.

They might be even less impressed if they realised that his own great estate of the Duchy of Cornwall is unique in having no obligation to pay corporation or capital gains tax.

Reports in yesterday’s Sunday Times that Johnson is preparing to ‘cut the green c**p’ from new farming policies show that, on this matter too, he is more in touch with the country’s concerns than the man who will become its King. However good his biscuits may be.

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