Leading article: Let Charles speak, but let us decide

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The Independent Online

To which the right response is not to express horror that the monarchy is getting involved in politics but to say: bring it on. But also: bring it out into the open. The protection against interference by the Prince in politics is openness. As long as we know what he is saying to ministers and officials, we can judge whether they have been unduly influenced. The Prince should engage far more in public debates. So should bishops - it was healthy and right that John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, should have been so forthright last week in defence of civil liberties at home and abroad.

One person who might benefit from speaking his mind less often, on the other hand, is Ken Livingstone. The Mayor of London brought his four-week suspension on himself by his arrogant refusal to apologise, either to the individual journalist whom he insulted, or to Jewish people generally. Yet his comparing Oliver Finegold, the London Evening Standard reporter, to a concentration camp guard, is far from the most offensive thing that Mr Livingstone has recently said. Two years ago, he announced: "I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from the lampposts." Weeks later, he welcomed to London Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spokesman for extreme political Islam who has described suicide bombers as "martyrs" and who thinks that homosexuals should be executed.

In all cases, it should be for the voters of London rather than an unelected quango to decide whether he has brought himself or his office into disrepute. The same principles apply to princes, bishops and mayors: opinions should be freely expressed and openly judged, but in the end the people should decide.