7 March 2016

Piers Morgan wrong, again. Leave Kate and William alone.


Okay, this is well beyond the usual remit of CapX. This is not about politics or economics or technology or books or wine or capitalism. It’s about Piers Morgan, and in that case I’ll be brief. But sometimes one reads a piece of such mind-bending imbecility that it deserves a response. The journalist Piers Morgan has delivered just such a piece of commentary for the Mail Online in which he says that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are getting too big for their snow boots. Apparently, they went off skiing and didn’t tell the newspapers (the rotters) and instead took one favoured photographer who let them see the pictures before a few were distributed to the rest of Fleet Street. Who cares about journalists moaning about someone else being given a picture? Not me or many people, I imagine, until you ponder what is really happening here. Kate and William have had a good press since they got married, deservedly so, and they are widely liked. After a while that gets journalistically boring, so hacks must pull at any loose threads until the story of bliss unravels, possibly. That Piers Morgan article can be read as a not too coded warning that the tabloids are grumpy and the young couple must play the game or there will be trouble.

Three quick points about this, and it is extraordinary to think that they have to be made less than 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and today with ISIS on the prowl.

1) It should not be a mystery to any sentient being why the trainee king Prince William doesn’t just distrust the press but actively hates it, after what happened to his mother. She was an unhappy person, and the collapse of her marriage was more than justifiably well documented, but it tipped after that into a creepy game in which that unhappy woman was hounded by photographers and reporters but seemed to need the attention of her tormentors to stay relevant. It was grim to watch and the pointlessly stupid ending cost two boys their mother. In the circumstances he and his brother have been astonishingly open to dealing with hacks at all, when one can imagine what they really think.

2) Morgan’s article jars most of all, however, because it misses the point that this is not the olden days, of the 1990s, when the tabloid press was in relation to the royals much more powerful than it is now. The tabloids retain immense clout, of course they do, but the punters are much more able to see the wiring now, and a bunch of hacks trying to get the public narked about royal behaviour is a manipulative game much less likely to work today considering the shift in the balance of power away from the media in the last few decades.

3) It is hardly a surprise that the young Royals value an extra level of privacy right now. They have a young family. Meanwhile, Britain faces a terror threat that is as bad, and possibly worse, than anything ever contemplated in this country (outside wartime). Hacks should not need reminding that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are prime targets. They should be able to slope off for a week without it becoming chattered about in every newsroom in London. All that is at stake is a picture of people skiing. Give them a break, for goodness sake.

I should add that although I am a constitutional monarchist I was by no means a fan of Diana, Princess of Wales. I couldn’t stand the move in Britain in the 1990s to emoting on demand, during which “caring” became the supposedly defining quality until it had results that were not only vulgar but deeply uncaring in their impact. All that nonsense – “show us you care!” – led to two young boys being paraded in front of the mob at Kensington Palace on their rushed return from Scotland, when they would have surely been much better left until the funeral to grieve with their grandparents at Balmoral, well away from photographers.

Next up, tomorrow, normal service resumes from me, with a piece on how in the UK quite a few people in the Westminster/media bubble are making the mistake of applying normal election rules to referendum politics…

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX