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The Constitution

The Rights of the People v The Privileges of the Prince
Government Takes Unlawful Action to Prop Up Monarchy

The kingdom has a freedom of information (foi) law. It also has, of course, a monarchy. The foi law is a product of democracy. The monarchy is a survival of feudalism.

In democratic Britain what happens when the two collide? The government, with little opposition from the loyal opposition in parliament, has been determined that monarchy should trump freedom of information (and therefore democracy). To achieve that it has ignored both the facts and the law to protect the Windsor monarchy.

We may complain about the uncertainties of an unwritten constitution. But this shows that even when rights are protected by statute, they are unsafe in this kingdom. This is not the charade of royal weddings and celebrity tours. It is the hard and ugly feudalism that locks up republicans to suppress free speech and lies and cheats to protect feudal privilege.

Windsor has "Strong belief that certain action on the part of government is needed"

Charles Windsor is a prince and a duke in the kingdom's feudal hierarchy. When his mother dies or retires he will become head of state.

Not unexpectedly for a prince and duke, Mr. Windsor likes to have his way. One way he tries to get it is by writing letters to the politicians who are responsible for governing the country, telling them what the future head of state would like the government to do.

And these are not like the letters that any citizen might write. Mr. Windsor is paid £20.5m a year for his services as a member of the monarchy. It's a lot of money and one of the conditions of his job is that he be politically neutral.

The Guardian newspaper believed that Windsor had been breaking the rules when he wrote the letters. Monarchists in the government knew that he was.

The Guardian believed that the freedom of information law gave citizens the same right to know what Windsor writes as they have to know what government ministers write. The government did its best to deny the people that right.

But in one nod to freedom of information it has been remarkably frank about why it wanted to stop publication of the letters. Publication would confirm that Windsor is breaking the rules, is not politically neutral and is interfering in government. The government believed that if this was put on record, support for the feudal swindle of monarchy would be undermined.

The case began in 2012 when an information tribunal ruled in favour of the Guardian that the letters should be published. The tribunal said that the letters expressed Windsor's "most deeply held personal views and beliefs" and were "particularly frank". They showed "Prince Charles' strong belief that certain action on the part of government is needed".

Attorney General Dominic Grieve promptly stepped in to veto the decision. The importance he saw in stopping publication is suggested by the fact that this was only the fifth time in ten years that the veto had been used. The Court of Appeal stated later that Grieve "could point to no error of law or fact in the [tribunal's] decision" to justify his veto.

Truth "Seriously damaging to his role as future monarch"

Greive said that it would be "seriously damaging to his role as future monarch" if the people knew what Windsor was up to.

The right wing Spectator magazine went further and defended the decision as necessary in the interests of national security. In a demonstration of the bizarre lengths monarchists will go to protect feudal institutions it accused republicans who wanted the letters disclosed of trying to hold “the entire political process to ransom”. The magazine argued that if Windsor’s letters were published intelligence agencies might be obliged to disclose sensitive intelligence.

Those who put the privileges of the monarchy above the rights of the people found support in the High Court. In July 2013 its lords upheld Grieve's veto by overruling the tribunal.

In its report of the decision the Financial Times said that the attorney-general had blocked publication of the letters because publication “would mean there was a risk the heir to the throne would not be seen to be politically neutral”.

Attorney-General Dominic Grieve was remarkably frank, telling the court that "This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy. Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne he cannot easily recover it when he is king".

In other words, Windsor is politically biased. But the people should not be allowed to know that. For the letters would be seen as showing Windsor "as disagreeing with government policy" only if he had expressed such disagreement.

The Guardian appealed the High Court decision to the Court of the Appeal. Counsel for the Guardian told the appeal court that Grieve's use of the veto had been unreasonable.

But the government's lawyers said that the people should not be allowed to know even the dates on which the £20.5m a year Windsor had written these letters or the name of the ministers he had tried to influence. Grieve argued that an apolitical monarch was a cornerstone of the unwritten British constitution. Therefore it was wrong to reveal that the next in line for monarch is not apolitical.

It seems clear that he was saying better that the constitution be breached and the people fooled than that the feudal institution be undermined. Monarchy first, all else second. It is hard to find a more egregious example of monarchist contempt for democratic principles. Or a franker admission of monarchist contempt for the rights of the people. When in danger of being caught in a lie, gag those who would tell the truth.

Court says Grive had “No good reason” for veto

In March 2014 the Appeal Court quashed as unlawful the government attempt to stop publication.

The Appeal Court was strongly critical of the government case. It said that Grieve "had no good reason for overriding the meticulous decision" of the tribunal that the letters should be published. It also called the original tribunal decision "an impressive piece of work".

Judge John Dyson said Grieve could not issue the veto "merely because he disagrees with the decision" of the tribunal. The judge also commented that the Attorney General "could point to no error of law or fact in the [tribunal's] decision”. None of the government departments affected had asked for an appeal against the tribunal ruling.

The British government, the loyal servants of the Windsor clan, promptly announced an appeal to the Supreme Court. Monarchy first. The law, truth and democratic principles of no account.

In March 2015 the Supreme Court disappointed the monarchist government. It upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that the government had acted unlawfully in quashing the decision of the freedom of information tribunal.

The court said that it was not "reasonable" for the publication veto to have been issued by the attorney general just because "he takes a different view from that adopted by a court of record after a full public oral hearing". In other words, the attorney general had acted as if his own opinion was superior to that of a court of law.

Previously it had been suggested that the government might appeal to a European court if the Supreme Court of its own country ruled against it. That was despite its usual suspicion of European institutions.

But if it had considered that option it had a change of mind and announced that it would release the letters and not appeal against the Supreme Court decision.

That is not to say that the government showed any regret for its attempt to protect Charlie Windsor from scrutiny. Prime Minister David Cameron said that he thought "most people would agree that this [allowing the Windsor's to secretly influence the government] is fair enough".

The Labour Party was not much better in its attitude. Former environment secretary Margaret Beckett said half-heartedly that "there is a certain amount of right for the public to know" when the Windsors are trying to manipulate the government of the country.

And MP Paul Flynn saw the court's decision as a reason for William Windsor to become king instead of Charlie rather than a reason to free the country from monarchy altogether.

The Letters

The letters revealed that Windsor lobbied against the Office of Fair Trading and the European Union. During an eight month period he lobbied the prime minister and ministers in six departments.

He tried to persuade the government on the deployment of military resources and on the encouragement of controversial herbal remedies. And he took the side of farmers and the promoters of herbal cures. Other subjects he lobbied on included the diet of school children and commercial fishing.

Windsor was even encouraged in this by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair asked Windsor to tell him what he wanted the government to do to encourage use of herbal remedies. Windsor replied that he would have an associate prepare a detailed briefing for the Prime Minister. Blair said that "quite a lot" could be done to help Windsor on this issue.

The government also responded positively to a letter asking that naval resources be used to stop illegal fishing.

Andy Burnham was then secretary for health and later a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party. He signed one reply to Windsor like this: "I have the honour to remain, Sir, your Royal Highness's most humble and obedient servant." The servant, not of the people, but of a piece of feudal detritus.

The Guardian has also reported that since 2010 Windsor has had 87 meetings with ministers, opposition party leaders and senior civil servants.

A Quiet Constitutional Revolution

The claim by Windsor's friend and prominent British establishment member David Dimbleby that Windsor's activities mean that "a quiet constitutional revolution is afoot" in preparation for Windsor becoming head of state, makes the government's action more sinister. David Dimbleby is the son of Richard Dimbleby who with his BBC broadcasts probably did more than any other individual to prolong the life of the feudal institution (see The Invention of Tradition).

Whoever is to become Britain's feudal head of state they will be still be able to manoeuvre in secret. That is because the government has already used a trick that is not available to the average citizen. When we break the law we can be punished. When the government is caught breaking the law it changes the law. In 2010 the law was changed to completely prohibit the release of any other letters from the monarch or monarch-to-be.

What's more, the Prime Minister declared that if necessary there would be legislation to put beyond doubt that the government could veto the release of any information under freedom of information laws if it chose to do so.

There is only so far that the judiciary can go to protect us from a monarchist government.

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