Janet Street-Porter: What a silly way to train a prince

Click to follow
The Independent Online

What's the point of training? It doesn't seem to be a very sexy way of spending your time these days - the number of apprentices is declining, the leisure industry is bereft of skilled receptionists and chambermaids and the building industry is crying out for qualified builders and plumbers.

The British Royal Family has a strong sense of tradition and duty. They have a work ethic, albeit not one that many of us can readily identify with, and spend a lot of time agonising about their role in the 21st century.

Prince Charles has been very astute when it comes to running the Duchy of Cornwall as a modern business rather than a charity, employing highly skilled experts to make his organic food business a success

As the father of two young men, one of whom will one day sit on the throne and be designated Defender of the Faith and head of the Commonwealth, he must have thought long and hard about what sort of training they should have in order to prepare them for the responsibilities ahead. First of all, they are millionaires, and need to know exactly how to protect that cash they've inherited without ever having to do a day's work. Secondly, their blood means they are role models, constantly in the public eye whether they are running a farm or a palace. Thirdly, their mother died when they were at a very vulnerable age - and she was clearly not entirely well balanced.

They, who have too much of everything, have to learn humility, respect, dignity, and hard work. Charles's own education was unhappy, his training unplanned. Yesterday, the "firm" was out in force to congratulate Prince Harry at his passing out parade, as he graduated as an officer after completing 44 weeks training at Sandhurst military Academy, the top-drawer establishment chosen by the richest and most blue blooded in the land.

Now he will serve in the Household Cavalry, the regiment chosen by his mother's former lover, James Hewitt, and the pop star James Blunt. After a short break, Harry will spend five months at Bovington Camp in Dorset, and then he'll rejoin his regiment (handily based at Windsor) in charge of 11 soldiers and four reconnaissance vehicles. Not very impressive is it? Even more worrying when you consider our future king, Prince William, is also going through this charade.

Prince Charles has made some rum decisions as a parent, one of which was to make the first photocall after Diana's death a chance for the press to record William fox-hunting.

Why does he think that a military training is the right grounding for Harry, a naïve, not very bright millionaire? Why will William find it any use in running the country? In the future wars will be hi-tech affairs conducted by boffins and nerds hunched over keyboards - not muscle men who can cross ditches on ropes wearing warpaint. Depressingly, neither boy has shown any real burning need to get to know a wider circle than their rich chums - surely the basic requirement of a monarch.

Harry would have learnt more as a trainee with Rocco Forte or Richard Branson. William, who has spent a few days in the City, should have gone to Harvard Business School instead of an officer training college which just reinforces an out-of-date hierarchy. Once again Prince Charles demonstrates that his qualities as a parent are as lack-lustre as his potential as a king. His wife's children work in real jobs, and run their own businesses. He should have listened to her.

The ethics of shopping addiction

Marks and Spencer has been making much of its "sustainable" clothing range. Recently, it announced that its clothing, aided by a highly successful advertising campaign featuring everyone's favourite 50-plus mum, Twiggy, right, is showing a healthy profit. Sustainable clothing, made using workers who are paid a fair wage and fabrics which are ethically sound, is a great idea. Like Fairtrade food, it makes us feel our purchases are helping the Third World. But here's the conundrum. In the end, M&S, like other retailers, want us to shop. Keeping us addicted to consumerism is how the company gets profits to its shareholders. Though it dresses it up with all the buzz words such as "sustainable", "ethical" and "organic", all retailers are really interested in is keeping our addiction to purchasing as rampant as ever. How many knickers do you really need? How many T-shirts, skirts? Because we buy 20 times more stuff than we'll ever need. If we stop buying, do all these people in the Third World starve? Wouldn't it be easier to stop shopping and just send them the cash?

* With the hosepipe bans will surely come the first hosepipe Asbos. And I fully expect water companies to set up hot-lines so we can grass on our neighbours and win reductions in our water bills.

Thames Water has already received calls from about 90 informants - and this before the ban had been in place a week.

Meanwhile, gardener Monty Don reports that on allotments a kind of war-time ingenuity is under way in order to conserve water and keep those potential prize-winning vegetables growing.

He's even convinced that if every MP had an allotment the country would be far better governed. He could be right - but I can't see Mr Blair chatting to beetroots, can you?

Comments