Prince Charles tried to persuade government ‘to change course’

Former ministers have revealed the ‘influence’ the heir has had on past government policies

The Prince of Wales tried to influence Tony Blair’s government on issues such as grammar schools, alternative medicine and GM food.

Former education secretary David Blunkett has spoken about Prince Charles’ attempts to expand grammar schools, and how he “didn’t like” it when his suggestion was refused.

Mr Blunkett, along with ex-ministers Peter Hain and Michael Meacher, have all spoken about their interactions with Prince Charles during their time in Mr Blair’s government, while former Prime Minister Sir John Major has revealed the influence the Queen had on his own government policies, in a BBC Radio 4 documentary called The Royal Activist.

“I would explain that our policy was not to expand grammar schools, and he didn’t like that,” Mr Blunkett, who was education secretary from 1997 to 2001, told the programme.

Mr Blunkett added: “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.”

Despite not agreeing with the Prince’s views on education, Mr Blunkett said that he “didn’t mind” the interference.

“I can see constitutionally that there’s an argument that the heir to the throne should not get involved with controversy; the honest truth is I didn’t mind. 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.”

The programme airs at a time when the Guardian is locked in a legal battle with the government over its blocking of the release of Prince Charles’s “black spider memos”, which are his personal letters sent to government ministers, and which have gained their name due to the character of the Princes scrawled handwriting.

The release of the letters has been continually blocked for nine years, while ministers have claimed that revealing their contents to the public would be damaging for the Prince as it could undermine his “position of political neutrality as heir to the throne”.

Michael Meacher, the former environment minister who admitted he shared similar views with the Prince on subjects such as climate change and genetically modified crops, has told the BBC programme that he and the Prince “would consort together quietly” on policies and that they worked together “to try and ensure we increased our influence with the government”.

Mr Meacher said: “I knew that he largely agreed with me and he knew that I largely agreed with him.

“We were together in trying to persuade Tony Blair to change course,” he said.

The former environment minister said that he could see the argument for there being a constitutional problem with the Prince demonstrating political stances, but that even though the Prince may have been “pushing it a bit,” Meacher himself was “delighted, of course”.

But republicans have hit out at the revelations, claiming that the royal family should “stay out of politics completely”.

Campaign group Republic, which fights for the abolition of the monarchy, called any royal influence on public policy “unacceptable”.

Graham Smith, chief executive of the campaign group, told the BBC: “The deal with the monarchy is that the royals stay out of politics completely and these revelations just prove what we’ve been saying all along, which is that they are involving themselves, influencing public policy, and that is completely unacceptable in a democratic society.”

Prince Charles’s penchant for alternative medicine was also one of the areas of policy that felt his influence, which the former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain has described as an area that they both agreed on.

Mr Hain said: “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 to me, found me unique from this point of view, in being somebody who actually agreed with him on this, and might want to deliver it.”

He added: “When I was secretary of state for Northern Ireland in 2005-7, he was delighted when I told him that since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do. I was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS, and it had spectacularly good results, that people’s well-being and health was vastly improved.”

Sir John Major has defended the Prince’s tendency to write to ministers “in a way that is invariably intended to be helpful,” and that “to cut that off, or to make sure those letters are much more bland than they otherwise might be, would be a loss”.

He spoke of his own experiences of being influenced by the Queen, and said that while he expected every prime minister could think of a time when they had been impressed upon by the Queen, he said that “it would be very foolish indeed not to be influenced”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain