Independent on Sunday, 7 June 2015
His correspondence is full of straw men whose purpose is to portray their author as a radical thinker
When a batch of letters from Prince Charles to government ministers was published last month, I couldn’t help wondering why some of his pet subjects barely featured in the documents. Now the Cabinet Office has released a second tranche, confirming the extent of his lobbying on behalf of his charities – he’s always trying to get ministers to turn up at events – and his attempts to interfere in the NHS. Did someone hope we weren’t looking?
The second batch of correspondence shows him approaching the then health secretary, Alan Johnson, in 2007 on the subject of “complementary” medicine. He complains about a threat to close NHS homeopathic hospitals and presents himself as the victim of “waves of invective… from parts of the Medical and Scientific Establishments”. I wonder if that includes experts such as Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, who has dismissed homeopathy as “nonsense”?
The new letters also reveal the Prince complaining to the culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw, in 2009 about “unscrupulous owners” who don’t look after historic buildings. Perhaps the Prince should have a word with the people who run the royal household, castigated by the Public Accounts Committee in 2012 for “not looking after nationally important heritage properties adequately”. Charles likes to visit the Queen Mother’s Highland retreat, the Castle of Mey, which had to be bailed out by the Emir of Qatar’s cousin.
No less astonishing is his correspondence in 2007 with housing and planning minister Yvette Cooper on rural poverty. Charles says he has seen the problem for those on low incomes of finding an affordable home, without mentioning the grotesque inequality that people like himself, with several large houses, are happy to perpetuate.
The correspondence would be hilarious if it were not the case that Charles often seeks to influence government policy or extract public money for favourite projects. In letters released last month, he expresses dissatisfaction with the teaching of English and history and claims his summer schools for teachers are “challenging the fashionable view that teachers should not impart bodies of knowledge”. I have no idea who holds these views, but then his correspondence is full of straw men whose purpose is to portray their author as a radical thinker. “Perhaps I am now too dangerous to associate with!” he flatters himself in a 2004 letter to education secretary Charles Clarke.
However our Government tries to spin the Prince’s meddling, it is there for all to see in his densely written letters, full of poorly disguised self-regard; it’s as though he has unconsciously adapted his writing style to mimic Private Eye’s long-running parody, “Heir of Sorrows”. Sadly, this prolix pesterer of government departments is not a figment of anyone’s imagination.