Press Gang: Do it for the money, Burrell

Submitted by Anon on 25 November, 2003 - 5:44

By Lucy Clement

In Paul Burrell's position, let's face it, most people would do the same thing. Cash in. And why not? There's not much respect left for the British Royal Family to destroy, now the Queen Mum's dead and with her all that Blitz-heroine mythology.
It's a shame that Burrell's sticking to the tired old line of 'doing it for Diana', but after all those years as a flunkey it's probably too much to expect him suddenly to come out and declare yes, the Royals are a bunch of parasites and here's the inside story.

Much-trailed in the press has been the 'nuclear' secret that could 'rock the foundations of the monarchy'. Burrell says he won't tell... but he can't be the only person who knows and there must be a question-mark over how long his loyalty will hold out in the presence of Piers Morgan's (or anyone else's) chequebook.

But getting beyond the sillier questions of whether Diana foresaw her own death or Prince Philip thought Charles was mad to leave her for Camilla the latest Royal muck-raking does raise some interesting issues.

For a start, there's been a political change in the position of the Royal Family over the past 20 years. And the press has been a big part of that. Every tabloid revelation - every affair, every scandal - has chipped away at the political position and privileges of the Queen.

Yes, she still holds the formal constitutional powers to call upon one party leader or another to form a government, to assent to acts of Parliament, and so on. But could her representative these days really get away with sacking the Prime Minister of Australia as Governor-General John Kerr did in 1975? It's very unlikely.

That's not to say that socialists shouldn't still say "abolish the monarchy": the Royal Family's an outdated, offensive, expensive irrelevance and of course it should be ditched. And it's not to deny that the Royals still have influence: the ease with which injunctions have been obtained to stop newspapers publishing the latest allegations is testament to that.

But, still, we should understand that the political significance of the monarchy has declined in the past 20 years. And even though that decline has been at the hands of the newspaper barons - rarely friends of the left - few will mourn if the decline is terminal.

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