‘Spiderman’ and political lobbying

Becci Heagney

The Guardian newspaper recently won its ten year legal battle to publish the “black spider memos” – letters written in spidery writing between Prince Charles and government ministers under Tony Blair. The letters are wide ranging and show excessive political lobbying by the heir to the throne.

The media impression that Charles is just a passionate old man, concerned with the future of the albatross is a false one. From the letters that have been published it’s clear that he was lobbying about the UK’s involvement in Iraq and pushing for policies that would benefit himself and those around him.

For example, one letter to the then health secretary John Reid demanded redevelopment of a hospital in Sunderland in which Charles’ architecture company was involved.

Since 2010, Charles has had 87 meetings with government ministers, leaders of opposition parties and government officials.

We are unlikely to hear what has been discussed, since the government has now changed the rules on the Freedom of Inform-ation Act, allowing an “absolute exemption” on requests relating to the monarchy.

The concern of those opposed to the letters being published is that they will “damage perceptions of political neutrality” of Prince Charles. Surely the problem is not the perception but the fact that he is not politically neutral?

This is not something unique to Charles – the monarchy plays a significant political role in British life. It has to be consulted in detail on any bills which, if they became law, would affect their personal property or interests – these can then be vetoed before parliament discusses them.

In 1999, the government attempted to shift the power of authorising military action in Iraq from the Queen to Parliament but this was vetoed by the Queen.

It highlights again the undemocratic nature of the monarchy – an unelected head of state which has the power to veto laws by a democratically elected government.

This may not appear to be a problem now – the Tories are unlikely to put forward any radical policies which threaten the interests of the monarchy. But it will be in the future.

A left-wing, socialist government which attempts to carry out political reform, such as nationalising the banks, would be a different story. That shows the need for the monarchy to be abolished.