Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: You can't absolve William and Harry

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The Independent Online

The calamitous carry-on over Diana's memorial service carries on. The guest list alters daily as blacklisted invitees (close allies of Diana who knew too much) speak out. Camilla was, we were told, going to attend. The obstinate, mulish future king willed it, his sons acquiesced, and his lowly subjects had no choice. Who did they think they were anyway to raise objections to a majestic edict? But they did, and loudly until Camilla belatedly announced her withdrawal, saying it would not be appropriate for her to distract attention away from her beautiful and damned dead rival.

Ten years ago, the people forced the Royal Family to recognise what Diana meant to the nation. They have done it again. The fire of protest has subsided, but the mood is like the black ash over Greece.

The royals and the Spencers blame the media for destroying the princess and now her commemoration. Prince William even says it was not her treacherous husband but us lot – the hacks – who brought his mother down. The divisive memorial service is also apparently our fault. The media, in turn, blames Prince Charles and his Clarence House courtiers for their crass insensitivity and arrogance. Charles is probably sulking, pacing up and down and blaming everyone but himself again. Millions of Britons blame Camilla, who invaded the marriage and then brazenly tried to intrude on the posthumous celebration of the woman they adored and she wronged.

Note that nobody dares to impugn the two princes. An unwritten injunction, followed assiduously by newspapers and television, means that you do not hold the young men to account. Awe and pity protect them. I shall never forget those boyish, innocent faces trying not to cry, surrounded by the dour Royal Family and a sea of flowers and tributes. That doesn't mean that the children of Diana are therefore free to make staggeringly poor judgements in perpetuity. For they are partly to blame for the current fiasco.

If this was to be their faithful tribute to an exceptional mother, they have done everything she would have hated. They have drained the moment of the spirit, values and life that they are meant to be honouring. They stamped on Diana's buried heart when they asked Camilla to the ceremony; the people they have invited do not reflect the emotional openness that defined their mother. My late mother rued before she died that Diana's boys had been turned into blue Windsors. How true. Just look at William now: he is a male version of Princess Anne. They have also become as removed and insensate as the other royals, unable to understand the country they rule over.

If they really meant the ceremony to honour their mother, they would have invited the sick, poor and disenfranchised – the blind man who tried to see her beauty by touching her face; limbless victims of land mines; bulimics; lepers,; Aids patients; black people who knew she never flinched away from them; her Muslim surgeon lover; the confidantes resented by the palace; the cleaners and bus drivers who wept so when her coffin went by.

This service isn't about what Diana was. It capitalises again on the undying power of her name and image. Her sisters, parents, the Queen and Prince Charles used her before she died; her brother, a number of trusted allies after she passed away. But I never thought her sons, who knew and loved her more than anyone else, would one day use her death as part of the PR strategy to rehabilitate Charles and Camilla.

This book deserves its fate

Maybe it's (im)pure envy, but I couldn't stand it that Alastair Campbell's political memoir became a bestseller. The malevolent man who tried to cut down press and broadcast freedom was lauded by old foes as he re-jigged history and spun straw into gold. Now a review by the Travelodge hotel chain finds that this diary is top of their charts for the books most often left behind by customers. The hardback they all rushed to buy is abandoned in hotel rooms, a guilty secret. The appeal and effect of his book is that of junk food – you feel a rush, and then a heave of shame. Campbell will be peeved, but not for long. Punters, he knows, will not resist the next volume, the next fix, and the money will roll in again.

* I have just returned from Tanzania where we went for our summer vacation and wonderful it was too, especially Zanzibar – sensuous, lovely, culturally complex, multifarious and multilingual, and with the best food you could ever hope to eat. But sadly, cigarettes and cigars smoke you out of excellent places and events. The country is a smoker's paradise. Billboards feature seductive ciggie adverts, cigarette manufacturers are, er, making a killing, and the population is addicted.

My local friends were either incensed when I objected to their smoke, or laughed off my earnest entreaties. Imagine the health cost to individuals, families and the nation – one with some of the poorest people on earth – I said to a Zanzibari pharmacist. He looked bemused and said: "But my dear, there is always a trade-off. Think of the investments coming in from the cigarette companies. Tanzania needs these investors and we have so many donor countries taking care of the health side. It works out, don't you see?" No, not really.

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