Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why is The Queen above criticism?

There was an interesting piece on LabourList the other day. Not for what it was trying to say, but for what it inadvertently said.

The story was essentially that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tried to make a light-hearted comment to Her Majesty at some function. It wasn't a massively funny comment (something about the Emperor of Japan not being brave enough to jump out of a helicopter) but it was an attempt to make a reference to her "jumping out of a helicopter" during the Olympics. Nothing wrong with that. The polite thing to do would be to laugh and say something like "yes I expect he wouldn't!" or similar. Instead HM apparently smiled, shrugged and walked on past Hunt.

Then her husband blundered along demanding to know who Hunt was.

LabourList describe Hunt's attempt at humour as a "tumbleweed" moment. I'm no fan of the Health Secretary (I think he should have been sacked after the News International fiasco) but this is very unfair on him. He simply tried to say something interesting and/or funny. Most recipients of said attempt in a formal situation would not have treated him like this. The Queen was impolite to walk off without comment and the Duke of Edinburgh was rude for demanding to know who he was. He should have made sure he was briefed beforehand. None of this is Hunt's fault and yet he is somehow made to seem like he is to blame for his rather shabby treatment.

This is part of a pattern of behaviour by the media in general when it comes to the Royals, especially The Queen. Her behaviour is never questioned, instead it is those peripherally involved with the story who are automatically assumed to be in the wrong.

There was the incident last month when the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner inadvertently revealed that The Queen had tried to influence the government regarding how long it was taking for Abu Hamza to be extradited back in 2004. All hell broke loose and it wasn't long before the BBC issued a grovelling apology on Gardner's behalf for having breached this confidence.

But according to our constitution Her Majesty is not supposed to lobby government on policy in this way! It is her who was in the wrong in this story. The BBC had nothing to apologise for. One of its correspondents had reported an attempt by our head of state to interfere in politics which she is not supposed to do. There is a public interest in this story and how it relates to our constitutional arrangements being breached. This was not how the story was reported.

I do wonder if we will ever see the day when the Royal Family and their actions are reported in a fair and balanced way without an inbuilt assumption that they are always in the right.

Because at the moment that is certainly not happening.

This post was first published on Dale & Co.

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