by RAY FLEMING
OVER the years that I have been writing for this newspaper, Prince Charles has quite regularly been the target of my criticism. My concerns have not been with his private life but with his insistence on taking a public position over politically controversial issues and also on seeking to influence government decisions by private lobbying. It is true that there have been occasions when the Prince's intervention has been beneficial; his public description of a proposed extension to the National Gallery as remembling “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of an elegant and much-loved friend” probably saved Trafalgar Square from a modern architectural monstrosity. Architectural taste is one thing but genetically modified foods and Britain's diplomatic relations with China are others of much greater importance. It emerged yesterday in evidence given in the High Court in London that Prince Charles has deliberately taken positions on issues such as these in the belief that his role as heir to the throne is to be “a dissident working against the prevailing political consensus”. There is, of course, no constitutional justification for this idea; indeed, established 20th century practice has been the very opposite. The objection to Prince Charles' involvement in issues of the day is twofold: first, in scientific and environmental subjects his opinions cannot be robustly challenged by experts in the field and therefore may carry more weight than they deserve; second, in diplomatic matters his judgement is provenly faulty, as in the snub he deliberately inflicted on the President of China in 1999 by refusing to attend a state banquet in his honour, and then deliberately seeking media publicity for this boycott. Prince Charles is currently engaged in a legal case against The Mail On Sunday in which he claims that the newspaper breached his confidentiality and copyright when it published extracts from a journal he wrote and circulated to friends and acquaintances after he attended the ceremonies that ended British rule in Hong Kong. Whatever the legal outcome of the case, Prince Charles will be the loser because the evidence already given in court shows that he is a foolish prince with exaggerated ideas of his importance and a disinclination to listen to advice from those with his best interests at heart. Indeed, this legal action provides further support for the idea that Britain would be best served if Prince Charles were to relinquish his right to the throne and let it pass to Prince William.