Ye old kingly PR power is undiminished post 1649
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Nov 19 02:32:41 GMT 2014
followed by In the public interest? The stories they didn't want us to know
Back off, Prince Charles... The countryside is
too vital to leave to its grasping owners
The Prince of Wales and his ilk ride roughshod
over legitimate concerns for preserving our landscape
Catherine Bennett The Observer, Sunday 16 November 2014
What to do for the best, regarding the countryside? Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
In the latest sermon he has entrusted to Country
Life magazine, the Prince of Wales returns to a
favourite theme: the inability of most of his
future subjects to connect with the countryside,
or land, as its owners generally call this
facility. It is not that town dwellers do not
treasure the country, he concedes, presumably
aware that every survey and the membership of the
National Trust tell us that; more that they do
not value the countryside in a special way
natural to those who know the soil. Urban
dwellers might want to picture, for example, Tess
of the dUrbervilles slicing turnips or feeding a
mechanical thresher: The perspiring ones at the
machine, including Tess, could not lighten their
duties by the exchange of many words. It was the
ceaselessness of the work which tried her so
severely, and began to make her wish that she had never come to Flintcomb-Ash.
One of the things that strikes me most
forcibly, the prince writes, is the majority of
the population has lost any real connection with
the land. The British are particularly
inadequate in this respect, he thinks, being now
four or five generations removed from anyone who
actually worked on the land and it shows in
their attitudes. Without accusing the
non-country bred of wilful damage, the prince
suggests that towny ignorance might easily
encourage neglect, or worse, of the rich natural
tapestry that is the countryside. For instance:
It would not only be a folly to lose
agricultural land, it would be equally foolish to
use it in ways that are not environmentally sustainable in the long term.
What is the answer? Somehow, says the prince,
we need to find a way to put a value on our countryside, with all its facets.
Assuming he is not a stranger to the sort of
countryside valuation readily available in the
pages of Country Life, but after something more
metaphysical, we can do no better than study the
princes own methods, as he nurtures large parts
of that rich natural tapestry. Many of us are
familiar with his rustic experiments at
Highgrove, for example, his milk in Waitrose, his
grants to hill farmers and his own contribution
to Hardy country, the fantasy Poundbury estate
once described by Stephen Bayley as fake,
heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute. An
anonymous opponent, against further expansion,
calls the prince that rapist of Dorset. The
countryside is full of surprises. Who, for
instance, knew that a deep and timeless
connection with the land can be compatible with a
desire to build executive homes over it?
In Truro, for example, Prince Charles, as current
proprietor of the Duchy of Cornwall, not long ago
defeated an army of protesters, including every
member of Truro council, to build, with his
partners at Waitrose, 100 houses, a supermarket
and a Cornish food hall on what was formerly
pasture. In one of several controversial Newquay
developments, he is providing 174 more new homes,
having reduced the proportion of affordable units
to 27.6%, or 48. One councillor told the Bureau
for Investigative Journalism: The bottom line
for me is that the Duchy of Cornwall acts like any other developer.
Earlier, outside Bath, the Duchy terrorised
natives with its determination to erect own-brand
carbuncles on sustainably farmed land and green
belt. In one of many objections to the plan,
before it was rejected, the local vicar, Dr
Catherine Sourbut, wrote : The Duchy is clearly
enthusiastic about the possibility of the huge
financial gain to themselves if the proposed
housing development goes ahead on this world
heritage site currently owned by them.
Yet country folk must find some way of living off
the rich natural tapestry, regardless of the
nonsense spouted by city-based ramblers and
conservationists, and Prince Charles is one of
many investing in housing estates, where solar
panels and wind farms are not a more appropriate
revenue-stream. The Country Landowners
Association recently issued a lobbying document,
Tackling the Housing Crisis in England, in which,
contrary to the pro-brownfield arguments
compellingly advanced by the CPRE and my
colleague, the Guardians Simon Jenkins , it
laments the lack of ability to bring land
forward for development as a key factor behind
historic, long-term housing undersupply.
Recommendations included building on the green
belt, as generously supplied by its members, and
ignoring spurious conservation area status
since good design will mitigate against the
visual impact of new housing. To assist in
greenfield building, the CLA urged a reduction in
disproportionate planning regulation.
The only practical objection, given the anarchic
construction that has been assiduously cultivated
by the coalition, is how much further the CLA
could extend its members right to disfigure the
landscape before the results drive yet more
spectators towards Ukip, thereby endangering
continuation of the most developer-friendly
government in recent history. Certainly, once
Cameron and Osborne are gone, there may never be
another Conservative administration so besotted
by sprawl and bungalows, to the point that one of
their own senior MPs, Nadhim Zahawi, questioned the planning reforms.
Could it really get any better for the CLA, in
the absence of any buddhas to blow up, than the
trashing of open land next to
Stratford-upon-Avon, courtesy of that one-man
Taliban, Eric Pickles? Supposing Prince Charles
were capable of consistency, his true allies
would surely be romantic townies, idealistic
about preserving unspoiled and historic
landscapes they will never inhabit; his enemies
the landowners in and around this government, who
are happy to vandalise any shared heritage they cant see.
Only the sustained opposition of Penshurst
villagers, ending in judicial review, prevented,
for instance, Viscount De Lisle, a direct
descendant of Sir Philip Sidney, from erecting
faux Tudor houses in an area of outstanding
natural beauty, though not in a spot where it
would have intruded on his own tapestry. Again,
only after protests and judicial review was the
Duke of Gloucester, Charless relation, prevented
from building a wind farm over Grade 1 listed Lyveden New Bield, c1604-5.
The Tory MP, Richard Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax,
with a deep countryside connection extending over
7,000 acres of Dorset, showed similar defiance
when he faced public opposition to a 175-acre
wind farm. The prime ministers cousin by
marriage, Philip Shirley, is still hoping for an
executive estate on land owned by his family
since the Domesday Book. In Somerset, another
ancestrally qualified countryman, the Marquess of
Bath, intends to run a cable car across the
Cheddar Gorge, complementing the landscape
celebrated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As much as
one regrets the ignorance of reed-bed sanitation
or organic cheesemaking afflicting most city
dwellers, most of us are, at a guess, innocent of comparable barbarism.
But how do we find a way to put a value on our
countryside? We could always learn from that most
connected of countrymen, Sir Reginald Sheffield,
8th baronet and David Camerons father-in-law,
whose hugely unpopular wind farms, on one of his
less favoured estates, earn him £1,000 a day.
Royal Family granted new right of secrecy
Special exemptions to be written into Freedom of Information Act
By Robert Verkaik, Home Affairs Editor
Saturday, 8 January 2011
The Royal Family is to be granted absolute
protection from public scrutiny in a
controversial legal reform designed to draw a
veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen,
Prince Charles and Prince William.
Letters, emails and documents relating to the
monarch, her heir and the second in line to the
throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest.
Sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information
Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone
a light on the royal finances including an
attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund
to heat Buckingham Palace and which had
threatened to force the disclosure of the Prince
of Wales's prolific correspondence with ministers.
Lobbying and correspondence from junior staff
working for the Royal Household and Prince
Charles will now be held back from disclosure.
Buckingham Palace confirmed that it had consulted
with the Coalition Government over the change in
the law. The Government buried the plan for
"added protection" for the Royal Family in the
small print of plans called "opening up public bodies to public scrutiny".
Maurice Frankel, head of the Campaign for Freedom
of Information, said that since the change
referred to communications written on behalf of
the Queen and Prince Charles it might be possible
for "park keepers working in the royal parks" to
be spared public scrutiny of their letters written to local authorities.
The decision to push through the changes also
raises questions about the sincerity of the
Liberal Democrats' commitment to government
transparency. In opposition, senior Liberal
Democrats frequently lined up to champion the
Freedom of Information Act after it came into force in 2005.
Ian Davidson, a former member of Parliament's
Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told The
Independent: "I'm astonished that the Government
should find time to seek to cover up royal
finances. When I was on the PAC what we wanted was more disclosure not less.
"Every time we examined royal finances we found
extravagance and indulgence as well as abuse of expenses by junior royals.
"Everywhere we looked, there were savings to be
made for the Government. This sends the wrong
message about public disclosure and accountability."
Paul Flynn, another member of the committee,
described the special protection for the Royals
as "indefensible". He said: "I don't think it
serves the interests of the public or the Royal Family very well."
Mr Frankel said he believed that Prince Charles
was the driving force behind the new law.
"The heir to the throne has written letters to
government departments in an attempt to influence policy," he said.
"He clearly does not want these to get into the public domain."
Later this month, lawyers for the Cabinet Office,
backed by Prince Charles, will go to court to
continue to resist Freedom of Information
requests of ministers to publish letters written
to them by the Prince of Wales.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said that the
change to the law was necessary because the
Freedom of Information Act had failed to protect
the constitutional position of the monarch and
the heir to the throne. He explained that the
sovereign has the right and duty to be consulted,
to encourage and warn the government, and by
extension, the heir to the throne had the
constitutional right and duty to prepare himself for the role of King.
"This constitutional position relies on
confidentiality, so that all such correspondence
remains confidential," he said.
But he said that change would also mean that
correspondence not covered by the absolute
exemption would be made public 10 years earlier
than under the current disclosure rules.
The Palace's position was backed by Professor
Vernon Bogdanor, research professor at King's College London.
He told The Independent: "The essence of
constitutional monarchy is that the Queen and
other members of the Royal Family remain
politically neutral. The Queen meets the Prime
Minister once a week, when both are in London, to discuss government policy.
"The heir to the throne has the right, and
perhaps the duty, to question ministers on policy
so as to prepare himself for the throne. Such
discussions are only possible if they remain
confidential. Otherwise the neutrality of the
Queen and of the Prince of Wales could be undermined.
"When the Queen meets the Prime Minister, no one
else is present not even the Queen's Private
Secretary. For this reason, it is right that the
Royal Family should be exempt from FOI."
The Government claimed that the thrust of the
changes announced yesterday would make it "easier
for people to use FOI to find and use information
about the public bodies they rely on and their taxes pay for".
The Ministry of Justice intends to increase the
number of organisations to which FOI requests can
be made, bringing in bodies such as the
Association of Chief Police Officers, the
Financial Services Ombudsman, and the higher
education admissions body UCAS, and also all
companies wholly owned by any number of public authorities.
In the public interest? The stories they didn't want us to know
*In 2004 the Queen asked ministers for a poverty
handout to help heat her palaces but was rebuffed
because they feared it would be a public
relations disaster. Royal aides were told that
the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed
at families on low incomes and if the money was
given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing
associations or hospitals it could lead to
"adverse publicity" for the Queen and the government.
*A "financial memorandum" formalising the
relationship between the sovereign and ministers
set out tough terms on how the Queen can spend
the £38.2m handed over by Parliament each year to
pay for her staff and occupied palaces.
*The Queen requested more public money to pay for
the upkeep of her crumbling palaces while
allowing minor royals and courtiers to live in rent-free accommodation.
*As early as 2004 Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of
the Privy Purse, had unsuccessfully put the case
to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
for a substantial increase in the £15m-a-year
grant to maintain royal buildings.
*The Palace planned to go ahead with refurbishing
and renting the apartment of Diana, Princess of
Wales at Kensington Palace after it had lain empty since her death in 1997.
*A letter exchange revealed a tussle over who has
control of £2.5m gained from the sale of
Kensington Palace land. Ministers said it
belonged to the state, while Buckingham Palace said it belonged to the Queen.
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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that
shall not be made known. What I tell you in
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27
Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.
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