`Dumbed-down' culture puts the posh set in a rage

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The Independent Online
SHE WAS the People's Princess. Gordon Brown thinks that he is the People's Chancellor. And now he wants to create a People's Memorial Garden. The only problem? Er, the people - of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that is.

"I don't think it's a good idea. I mean it's not going to bring Diana back, is it?" asked Cale Wolf, a fashion designer whose beige jacket perfectly matched the tipped ears of Benji, her beagle-jack russell cross. "Besides which I don't think she was too keen on this house," she says, waving Benji's leash towards Kensington Palace. "You know she was planning to move. Plus, if the conspiracy theory about MI6 killing her turns out to be true it would be a terribly hypocritical act."

Wow. Until then I had thought the main objection was too much traffic. That's what the local politicians of this poshest of London boroughs say. "The idea of the People's Princess has gone too far - this is appeasing the great British public's appetite at the expense of the whole borough," said Janet Mayhew of the Kensington Society.

And the Member of Parliament isn't keen either. "The proposal to annex a large area of Kensington Gardens and transmogrify it into a commemorative garden in memory of Diana contains all the ingredients of the new dumbed- down millennium culture," spluttered Alan Clark.

Audrey Fill, who has lived in the borough for years, has a more practical objection. Not much is known about the gardens - the People evidently don't deserve details until the public consultation next month - but the cost is said to be at least pounds 9m. "Nine million pounds! I think that is ridiculous!" she says, waving at a field of rather longish grass shaded by trees on which, sadly, money did not appear to be growing.

Her cousin, Patricia Lawson, nodded vigorously. "I"m quite sure that Diana would have wanted that spent on something more useful. I mean the National Health Service is very short."

And then there were style objections too. "Have you heard about the fountain?" sniffed one woman with no less than five dogs. I had. It's 300ft which is not small. "And I doubt whether the children she loved so much would get to play in it."

People have a habit of referring to Diana in this way. In fact, most people yesterday in Kensington Gardens talked as if the princess popped round for a cup of tea on a fairly regular basis. "She was really more one of us, wasn't she?" asked one woman in a leopard-print top. "She wasn't aloof. I feel quite towards Diana myself. Because of her marriage."

Her companion nodded. "Yes. Her marriage was almost arranged wasn't it?"

They believe that the memorial garden was a good idea but then, as they said, they didn't come from the borough. They weren't, you know, high- faluting. Or snobs even.

But not everyone is against the plan. Lee Hunnisett de Beer says he thinks the garden will be growing soon. "It would be great for the stores. Every single store along this road tripled their sales when people came here after she died," he said. "There was all this terrible sadness and then everybody went off shopping and spent an absolute fortune." And that, it must be said, is something that the People's Princess would definitely understand.