Prince Charles 'tried to influence government decisions'

 
Prince Charles with David Blunkett Mr Blunkett, right, did not mind Prince Charles commenting on schools policy

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The Prince of Wales tried to persuade Tony Blair's government to expand grammar schools, former education secretary David Blunkett has said.

In a BBC Radio 4 documentary examining the constitutional role of the prince, Mr Blunkett said Prince Charles "didn't like" it when his request was refused.

He discussed complementary medicine and climate with other Labour ministers.

A spokeswoman for Prince Charles said he seeks to help people and communities here and abroad in whatever way he can.

Asked about remarks by Mr Blunkett and two other former cabinet ministers in the documentary, The Royal Activist, the spokeswoman said he "would not comment on private conversations".

Former prime minister Sir John Major also told the documentary that he changed policies after discussing them with the Queen.

Start Quote

If you are waiting to be the king of the United Kingdom... you genuinely have to engage with something or you'd go spare”

End Quote David Blunkett
'Unacceptable'

Recalling his conversations with Prince Charles, Mr Blunkett, who was education secretary between 1997 and 2001, said: "I would explain that our policy was not to expand grammar schools, and he didn't like that.

"He was very keen that we should go back to a different era where youngsters had what he would have seen as the opportunity to escape from their background, whereas I wanted to change their background."

"I can see constitutionally that there's an argument that the heir to the throne should not get involved in controversy; the honest truth is I didn't mind," added Mr Blunkett.

David Blunkett: "I would explain that our policy was not to expand grammar schools and he didn't like that"

"If you are waiting to be the king of the United Kingdom, and you've waited a very long time, you genuinely have to engage with something or you'd go spare."

But Graham Smith, chief executive of the group Republic which campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, said it was wrong for any member of the Royal Family to try to shape the decisions of the elected.

He said royals should "stay out of politics completely" and that the claims were "completely unacceptable in a democratic society".

The Prince of Wales with Peter Hain, then Welsh Minister The prince, pictured with then Welsh Minister Peter Hain, centre, has often made his views known

Former environment minister Michael Meacher recalled that he and the prince "would consort together quietly" to affect policy on climate change and genetically modified crops.

He said they worked together "to try and ensure that we increased our influence within government" and to "persuade Tony Blair to change course".

Asked if there might be a constitutional problem in the prince taking a political opinion, Mr Meacher replied: "Well, over GM I suppose you could well say that. Maybe he was pushing it a bit. I was delighted, of course."

line

A 'meddling' prince?

It is not the first time Prince Charles has attracted interest - and at times criticism - for his views.

Previously:

line

Prince Charles has been a well-known supporter of complementary medicine. According to another former Labour cabinet minister, Peter Hain, it was a topic they shared an interest in.

"He had been constantly frustrated at his inability to persuade any health ministers anywhere that that was a good idea, and so he, as he once described it to me, found me unique from this point of view, in being somebody that actually agreed with him on this, and might want to deliver it."

The Queen and John Major in 1999 Sir John Major said it would have been "very foolish" not to be influenced by the Queen

Start Quote

I can recall occasions where the Queen in discussion put a gloss upon something that made one think and reflect upon whether it was being done in the right fashion”

End Quote Sir John Major

Mr Hain said during his time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005-7 he was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS.

He said Prince Charles had been "really enthusiastic" and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the governments in England and Wales to do the same thing.

The prince's policy interventions have also been supported by Sir John Major, who revealed that he occasionally changed policy as a result of discussions with the Queen - although he would not be drawn on the specific times this took place.

Asked if he remembered being influenced by the Queen, Sir John said: "I think every prime minister can think that, and can think of occasions where that happened."

He said it would be "very foolish indeed" not to be influenced.

"I can recall occasions where the Queen in discussion put a gloss upon something that made one think and reflect upon whether it was being done in the right fashion at the right time," Sir John said.

The Royal Activist is available to listen to on BBC iPlayer Radio.

 

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  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 1147.

    This only becomes a problem if politicians have to agree with his views. Talk about blowing things out of all proportions.
    In fact on this one I'm inclined to agree with him and he would be a very strange person if he didn't any views at all.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 1051.

    In a democracy a constitutional monarch with honed leadership skills will of course have some strong opinions. What sort of national leader and figure head would they be if they didn't. It's perfectly in order for them to express those opinions in private to government minsters. Strong governments can always disagree politely and say no. Only those with an axe to grind would see it as a problem.

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 808.

    the point is not his pet peeves but the fact he uses his priviliged position to try and influence elected politicians. that is not the deal. the Queen doesn't, he shouldn't.

  • rate this
    -32

    Comment number 764.

    The right or wrong of his arguments is beside the point. A constitutional monarch has a role is as protector of our democratic system. It is an abuse of his position to be involved in specific issues. Particularly someone with such a weird upbringing who has disproportionate influence at the highest level. The Queen has been exemplary but I can't see the institution lasting the next reign.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 700.

    We have a notion in this country that we are all made equal. Unfortunately some are more equal than others. There is certain baby who will never have to a hard days work in his life and it appears will have his opinions listened to and acted upon even though no one elected him. This latest revelation clearly shows the royals are not remaining neutral as they should be.

 

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  74.  
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  75.  
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    "If there are deficiencies in the law, if it is difficult to bring these prosecutions then, of course, we should change the law," the chancellor adds. He says the government is looking at possible changes to the law, but points out that the National Audit Office, which regularly criticises the government, did look at HMRC and said it was doing a pretty good job of collecting the taxes that are required.

     
  76.  
    @tnewtondunn Tom Newton Dunn, political editor at the Sun

    tweets: Farage abandoning an immigration target has gifted the down and out Tories a way back into the debate. He may regret it.

     
  77.  
    @RobDotHutton Robert Hutton, political reporter for Bloomberg News

    tweets: The hope that politicians have when they go silent during a scandal is that it'll have gone away when they next emerge. Doesn't always work.

     
  78.  
    08:27: Immigration cap BBC Radio 4 Today

    Nigel Farage seems to be making his immigration policy up as he goes along, Mr Osborne says. He comes up with a policy one day then ditches it live on air the next. Asked if Theresa May was right to say the government would continue with its so far unsuccessful efforts to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, the chancellor replies "Yes absolutely."

     
  79.  
    @JBeattieMirror Jason Beattie, @DailyMirror political editor

    tweets: Osborne was enjoying Today interview, now squirming on whether he discussed HSBC tax affairs with Lord Green

     
  80.  
    @faisalislam Faisal Islam, @SkyNews political editor

    tweets: Osborne says "we're looking at changes in the law" as regards hmrc ability to collect an investigate taxes in wake of #swissfiles

     
  81.  
    @ChrisLeslieMP Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury

    tweets: Did Osborne really just say "we've got on top of our debts and deficits"??!

     
  82.  
    08:19: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4 Today

    Mr Osborne says the government was a minority shareholder in Eurostar. He adds the government got good value for its shareholding from "a very sensible sale" and that the money raised from selling assets [often to foreign companies or pensions funds] will allow the government to invest in the infrastructure in the future. "If we can get the Chinese to invest in building the nuclear power stations of the future it means the British taxpayer doesn't have to pay for it," he adds.

     
  83.  
    08:16: 'Work to do' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "We have been dealing with a particularly difficult financial crisis but we have grown faster than many western economies... and there are now more people in work, Mr Osborne says. He adds that incomes should be higher in 2015-16 than they were in 2010-11. "I'm the first to say a lot of damage was done to the economy and there is still a lot of work to be done," he adds.

     
  84.  
    08:14: 'Narrowing inequality' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Mr Osborne says the IFS report confirms the richest have paid the most in taxes and that "inequality has been narrowing". He says the UK economy is growing, the richest have paid the highest share and inequality has fallen. "Britain is in a fundamentally better place than it was five years ago."

     
  85.  
    08:12: Household incomes BBC Radio 4 Today

    So the IFS tells us average household incomes are back to the same level they were in 2007-08. But the recovery has been slow and poorer people aren't that much better off. Chancellor George Osborne tells Today the country has reached a milestone but "we have got to reach a truly national recovery and that can't be risked by abandoning the [long term economic?] plan".

     
  86.  
    @LSEge2015 London School of Economics, 2015 general election coverage

    tweets: "After #GE2010 we had 3 different 2-party systems: after #GE2015 we may have a much more complex electoral geography" Read more.

     
  87.  
    08:03: UKIP manifesto The Guardian

    Quick hat tip to the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow. He points out that Nigel Farage was wrong to say UKIP never said it would publish its manifesto at the spring conference during his Today interview. Suzanne Evans, UKIPs deputy chairman, said this in January, when she took over responsibility for the manifesto.

    "I relish the task of putting together the final details and presenting a sensible, radical and fully-costed manifesto at our spring conference in Margate."

     
  88.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian

    tweets: The UKIP migration target of 20,000 to 50,000 is billed by Farage as "Back to Normality", a fine broader election slogan for UKIP.

     
  89.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: How would quitting EU allow migration control as Ukip claims? Free trade would have to include free movement. Switz has migrant pop of 23%

     
  90.  
    07:54: After the riots BBC Radio 4 Today

    BBC Radio 4's Tom Bateman is in Tottenham for the Today programme. He's looking at how much - if anything - has changed in the area since the 2011 London riots.

    Despite a number of high-profile initiatives there are still not enough funds available to help young people into jobs in Haringey, Chris Hall, the head of a local school for children expelled from the mainstream system, says.

    He adds that lack of jobs remains the biggest problem in the borough, with unemployment levels well above the national average, At the same time the council has to find £70m of spending cuts.

     
  91.  
    07:50: UKIP manifesto BBC Radio 4 Today

    When will your manifesto come out Mr Farage? "It'll be coming out in April. I suspect it'll come out later than the other parties... Later so that what we say will have some impact." He says he would "never have contemplated" releasing it last week despite it being reported that, in fact, that was what was originally planned.

     
  92.  
    @sundersays Sunder Katwala, director of @britishfuture on identity and integration

    tweets: Ukip 5 year "immigration ban" was actually a moratorium on integration (settlement & citizenship). Glad if thats gone

     
  93.  
    07:44: Outside the EU BBC Radio 4 Today

    Pressed on the suggestion of a 50,000 limit made very recently by his immigration spokesman, Mr Farage replies, his ire rising a bit: "We're not having caps, we're getting rid of caps." He goes on: "I do not believe we would need up to 50,000 people a year. I think the figure would be substantially lower." He says the UK is currently discriminating against better skilled people from outside the EU in favour of low-skilled European workers.

     
  94.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator

    tweets: Chris Leslie's r4 slot showed programming your frontbenchers to chant "out of touch" isn't quite enough to deal with good economic news

     
  95.  
    07:36: Immigration 'normality' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "Back to normality - what we had from Windrush to the year 2000" - that's what Nigel Farage tells Today he wants to return the level of net migration to.

     
  96.  
    07:34: 'More flexibility' BBC Radio 4 Today

    "I'm not putting caps or targets," Mr Farage continues. "You need to have more flexibility than that." "What I want to talk about is how we'd be better off with an Australian-style points system."

     
  97.  
    @Peston Robert Peston BBC economics editor

    tweets: Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS

     
  98.  
    07:28: Eurostar sale
    Eurostar train

    In case you're wondering what Barry Sheerman was tweeting about, the government announced overnight it had sold its stake in Eurostar. The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager, who will buy shares for £585m. Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The government's stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  99.  
    'Who benefits?' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie is sure that people aren't feeling richer. "I don't think we can dispute there is a recovery, but the question is who benefits from that recovery," he tells Today. He certainly doesn't accept that the IFS report blows any holes in Labour's arguments about a cost of living crisis.

     
  100.  
    07:24: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One one measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     

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