This ignorant prince proves the idiocy of the hereditary principle

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The Independent Online

Poor old Harry Windsor. He's just not up to the job, is he, of being third in line to the throne. You can't, after all, allow yourself to be photographed in Nazi insignia when one day it may fall to you to stand before the Cenotaph, leading the nation in the solemn act of remembrance. It simply isn't appropriate.

Poor old Harry Windsor. He's just not up to the job, is he, of being third in line to the throne. You can't, after all, allow yourself to be photographed in Nazi insignia when one day it may fall to you to stand before the Cenotaph, leading the nation in the solemn act of remembrance. It simply isn't appropriate.

But rather than heaping opprobrium on the young man himself, whose supposed birthright has left him completely out of his depth, shouldn't we instead be questioning the system that elected him to the post?

Harry appears to be bereft of the qualities that would make his demanding yet ill-defined role more convivial to him. But it this surprising when he was granted the job under an entirely gratuitous system of recruitment that takes no account whatever of personal skills and talents before assigning roles?

And while it may be perfectly pertinent to ask why it is that an Eton education has left Harry with such an imperfect grasp of world history, it is pertinent too to ask why over the years his own relatives have not taken the time to sketch out a little of what the royal family is expected to signify for the people it represents.

Harry's great-grandmother certainly ought to have understood how much her own popularity depended on her family's public conduct during the Second World War. Both his father and grandmother have now had many opportunities to explain exactly what they are doing and why on Remembrance Sunday.

It's sad that no one appears to have attempted to instil Harry with an idea of what his duties may be, and what they stand for. But then perhaps it's inevitable when they too were recruited for their jobs without beforehand being obliged to display any aptitude for them.

The Queen, it is widely agreed, has done her job well. But her own methods are out of step with the temper of the times. A modern royal must do as she does, employing a strict and ruthless suppression of self, with any display of personality, belief or conviction avoided, unless it is entirely and uncontroversially laudable or one is absolutely certain that one is safely ensconced among ultra-loyal allies.

Yet at the same time a modern royal must embody the spirit of the times - which is anti-deference, pro-individualism, keen on meritocracy. This perfectly plausible public image must be constantly reflected by an amoral yet judgemental media eager always to catch out its prey.

In other words, one must be an empty vessel on to which the beliefs and aspirations of an extremely diverse population can be projected, while at the same time appearing relaxed, open and in touch with ordinary life. Perhaps it is possible for a human being to embody all this. But it would be quite a coincidence if such people were thrown up under the hereditary principle.

¿ Clearly, Prince Harry is not the only person who would be more comfortable in a rather less meritocratic, more rigid, society. While Her Majesty's Government frets about Africa as a scar on the conscience of the world, the two princes and their "set" appear to view the continent not only as a good supplier of party themes, but also as a useful purveyor of rich, white female friends.

There, clearly, a hermetically sealed life of private privilege, with clear blue water between the very rich and the very poor, and not much need to pretend otherwise, can be properly enjoyed.

No wonder they're all so keen.

A liberal quandary for a right-on Mayor

A rainbow alliance of Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, gays, lesbians and students is united in its condemnation of London Mayor Ken Livingstone's links with the Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The Mayor claims, with some justification, that al-Qaradawi is a highly educated, moderate cleric, and the sort of man the West should be nurturing dialogue with.

The trouble is that even moderate Islam seldom dovetails neatly with liberal secular Britain. To many people who see Livingstone as a champion and ally, therefore, stuff like al-Qaradawi's comment on the tsunami is hard to take.

"People must ask themselves why this earthquake occurred in this area and not in others. Whoever examines these areas discovers that they are tourism areas ... where the forbidden acts are widespread, as well as alcohol consumption, drug use and acts of abomination."

The forbidden acts of which the cleric speaks are homosexual acts, and Livingstone's defence of al-Qaradawi does not sit well with his impeccably right-on credentials. But the Mayor is finding it hard to admit this, and clings to his image as the only gay-rights supporter in the Westminster village.

Challenged last week by the Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnston, Livingstone caused a furore by insisting Johnston was a liar to suggest that his loyalties on the matter might be compromised. Johnston is now seeking a formal apology from an unrepentant Mayor.

An answer at last to the question why the left in the 1980s retreated into single-issue identity politics. It was simply much less difficult that way.

¿ Once again, a young woman has had to die under the most terrifying of circumstances for a dangerous pattern of offending to be revealed.

Yet the threat David Atkinson presented to women was so clear to all around him that, when Sally Geeson went missing over the New Year, Army personnel clicked right away that her disappearance was probably connected to his own.

Now, it is reported, dozens of women have come forward with evidence of assaults and attempted assaults by this man before. One woman's accusations of sexual assault were even rejected by a jury.

The need to allow the police to build pattern-of-evidence cases against sexual predators rather than waiting for a single conclusive case to come along has yet again been brutally demonstrated.

This time, poor Sally Geeson provided the conclusive case. Proper investigation and monitoring of this man could have saved her from him, and him from himself.