Charles told to stay quiet after grammar school revelation
Labour MP says Prince should follow the example of the Queen 'who has kept her mouth bandaged for 60 years'
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Sunday 29 June 2014
Prince Charles is again facing criticism for involving himself in politics beyond his constitutional remit, after it emerged that he had tried to influence several Labour ministers over policies.
David Blunkett was among those who disclosed they had been contacted by the Prince of Wales, with the former Education Secretary revealing the heir to the throne wanted to bring back grammar schools.
Labour MP Paul Flynn, for Newport West, warned on Sunday that the Prince could cause a constitutional crisis if he continued to interfere, saying he should follow the example of the Queen “who has kept her mouth bandaged for 60 years”.
Republic, an anti-monarchy pressure group, said Prince Charles had been having “numerous meetings” with ministers since the Coalition took over from Labour in 2010. Graham Smith, its chief executive, said: “We know this lobbying is going on. What the public don’t know is how much policy is being shaped by Charles.”
Professor John Curtice, of Strathclude University, said it was reasonable for Charles to write to ministers on subjects when he had made his views known publicly. “If they are not known, it’s a bit more difficult,” he said. “I’m not quite sure we knew Charles was in favour of grammar schools.”
A BBC Radio 4 documentary revealed on Sunday that Prince Charles had urged Mr Blunkett to back grammar schools when the Labour MP was Education minister, would “consort together privately” with former Environment minister Michael Meacher to influence Prime Minister Tony Blair on climate change, and had shared an interest with former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain in promoting complementary medicines.
Mr Blunkett 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 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 is an argument that the heir to the throne should not get involved in controversy: the truth is I didn’t mind.”
Mr Meacher said on climate change and genetically modified crops: “I knew that he largely agreed with me and he knew I largely agreed with him. We were together in trying to persuade Tony Blair to change course.”
While some feared a crisis over the Prince’s interference in democracy, others took the opportunity to poke fun at him. Broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted: “Surprised that Prince Charles wanted more grammar schools. You’d think that selection based on ability and merit wasn’t really his thing.”
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