Diana the do-gooder versus the bad guys

Her stand against land-mine `experts' proves a princess's place is not just in Harvey Nicks
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The Independent Online
Prince Charles must be kicking himself. In the week that he decides to relaunch himself in a last-ditch attempt to make himself acceptable to the British public, Diana roams around Angola in her new Born Free outfit, grabbing every front page, undermining his every move. I don't know how much he pays for his PR advice, but one of the many sadnesses of this failed marriage is that he has had to go and pay for what he could once have got at home for free. He used to live with one of the world's greatest living self-publicists. Surely his wife could have had a word in his ear, given him a few hints on how to appeal to his subjects, even helped him with his wardrobe. Perhaps she tried. Perhaps he didn't take her seriously.

Perhaps, like those charming men whose patronising views we have heard over the last few days, he dismissed her as naive, self-serving and ill- informed. Diana has yet again involved herself in an argument that she is deemed to be too stupid to understand. It is not enough, apparently, to condemn land-mines and have your photograph taken next to amputees. It is not enough to look compassionate or express a desire to help. It is not enough to use the power of celebrity to make people aware of a campaign that has been building for some years. Certainly it is not enough simply to "feel" your way through issues when the correct political response is always one of prevarication.

So Diana is not up to understanding "an important, sophisticated argument" (Mr Peter Viggers MP). She is a faux Brigitte Bardot extending sympathy for wounded animals. The junior defence minister Earl Howe describes her as uninformed and "a loose cannon". Peter Hitchens paints a picture of her supporters as "bewitched", and her espousal of the Red Cross campaign against mines as comparable to "the Greenham Common women's half-witted campaign against the forces of democracy". Simon Heffer, meanwhile, reminds us that land-mines are not the issue, anyway. "The main issue is that she is the mother of the future king and an ex-wife of another."

To summarise, then, Diana is stupid, over-emotional , something of a witch, woolly-minded and dangerously subversive. The only thing that separates her from the Greenham Common women is her superior dress sense. We need reminding, and so does she, that whatever goes on in her pretty little head, what she is and always will be is an adjunct to men far more significant than herself. Rarely is misogyny so acutely catalogued. Whatever one may think of Diana, or land-mines, come to that, the establishment forces that conspire against her, no longer a figment of her paranoid imagination, are truly repulsive, and more self-serving than she will ever be.

On this particular issue Diana has the moral high ground. She asked and received the permission of the Queen to visit Angola. Such "doves" as the American and British Gulf commanders Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter de la Billiere support a ban on land-mines. Despite this there are those who argue that it is strategically necessary to retain a number of land- mines, and that we need to maintain a defence industry that employs thousands of people. The ethical question over the manufacture and sales of arms is one that we are told is "intensely political", which means that only politicians have the right to talk about it.

We can all accept that there are certain areas that require expertise before one is permitted to have an opinion on them: monetary union, for instance. Equally, though, there are issues that appear to the vast majority of us to have fairly black or white implications. Land-mines happen to be one of them. They are the napalm of the Nineties, and they don't in fact win wars. Aid agencies have for some time been trying to bring all this into the public eye, as they have found that one of the main difficulties in getting refugees to return home rather than staying in camps is their justified fear of returning to heavily mined territory.

For all Diana's supposed naivety, her genius lies in picking causes in which human compassion is paramount, in which displays of kindness can have a tangible impact. While Charles's new PR team wants to stress his public achievements to stop us lingering on his private life, Diana effortlessly dissolves the artificial boundary between what is public and what is private. This not only confuses the Establishment, it infuriates them; and because they have so much invested in maintaining the public/private split they feel threatened by it.

Yet, while Charles attempts to enlist popular opinion in favour of organic farming or against modern architecture, his grand public gestures have come to nothing. Diana is a proponent of touchy-feely politics; she hugs, she touches, she connects - while he grows ever more distant. She is, we are repeatedly told, not a political animal; yet of the two, who has done more for the greater good, Diana demonstrating that you can touch a person with Aids, or Charles ranting on about model villages?

It is interesting that the insults that have been levelled at her this week are the same criticisms that are levelled at all extra-parliamentary politics. Environmentalism, protests about veal calves and roads, campaigns around racism, homelessness, vegetarianism, gay activism and feminism are all dismissed as not real politics, as fundamentally naive. These politics also blur the line between the personal and the global: they are no great respecters of national boundaries, of tradition, of keeping one's emotions out of it, but they all know a good photo-opportunity when it arises.

Diana, because of her pulling power, has embarrassed the Government, not because she supports the Labour Party but because she supports those such as the Red Cross who deal with the horrific after-effects of land- mines. "I only want to help" may be the unsophisticated remark of the do-gooder everywhere. But isn't it also, in its infantile form, a primary political impulse? Would we have preferred it if she had said, "Actually I only want to hinder, to muddy a fairly clear-cut issue until no one is prepared to do anything about it"? Would we then be rushing to congratulate her on her new-found political sophistication?

Those who have lined up against Diana, those who persuade themselves that smart land-mines are better than dumb ones, those who believe that rational argument is all, are engaged in even dumber macho posturing that has no time for what they see as a politics driven by emotion and gut response. Its all far too feminine for them. These same relics will presumably guide Charles on to his next PR disaster as he tries to save the planet in some far more mature and manly way.

They also think a princess's place is in Harvey Nicks, certainly not in Angola drawing attention to their own political cowardice. Dismayed at her lack of qualifications for a roving ambassadorial post, they do not consider her ability to connect with other human beings to be a qualification at all. "It doesn't help simply to point at the amputees and say how terrible it is", according to Peter Viggers. Really? Then perhaps I can help by pointing to him and his cronies and say how terrible that they should have ended up as emotional amputees themselves. But who will campaign for their rehabilitation?