Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vetoing transparency to protect hypocrisy

One of the ground rules underlying the UK's constitution (and our own) is that the monarchy is "politically neutral". They don't get involved in politics, and Parliament doesn't cut their heads off. The UK's Freedom of Information Act has already exposed that as something of a sham, revealing extensive lobbying by Prince Charles on everything from architecture to education policy - but the actual "black spider memos" he writes to Ministers have been kept secret. That looked like it would change last month, when the Guardian finally won a seven-year battle in the Information Tribunal for their release. But now, the release has been vetoed by the Attorney-General. His reason?

"Much of the correspondence does indeed reflect the Prince of Wales's most deeply held personal views and beliefs. The letters in this case are in many cases particularly frank.

"They also contain remarks about public affairs which would in my view, if revealed, have had a material effect upon the willingness of the government to engage in correspondence with the Prince of Wales, and would potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality."

In other words, by exposing the fact that he was not behaving neutrally, people might think he wasn't neutral. And so transparency is vetoed to protect hypocrisy, to allow a member of the royal family to deny in public what he is doing in private.

Only in Britain would such deference to an unelected inbred trump basic constitutional principles. Bring on the republic!