Prince Harry has claimed that the UK government is at “rock bottom” in an extraordinary intervention into politics during his High Court case against a tabloid newspaper group.
The Duke of Sussex used a remarkable 55-page witness statement in his case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over alleged phone hacking to lash out at the standards of British government and democracy.
Accusing the government of being too “scared” of the press, he said: “Our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom.”
Harry said: “Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinise and hold the government accountable, and instead choose to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo.”
The royal added: “If they’re supposedly policing society, who on earth is policing them, when even the government is scared of alienating them because position is power. It is incredibly worrying for the entire UK.”
Furious Tory MPs fired back at Harry’s “unwise” comments – urging him to keep out of British politics, or renounce his title and “stand for election” if he wanted to be politician.
Former minister Andrea Jenkyns said: “If Harry has got such contempt for the British government and the British media then it’s a good job he lives in America. He shouldn’t be intervening in British politics – that’s not his role.”
Henry Smith, a member of the Tory Common Sense Group, said: “I feel sorry for hardworking royals that Harry continues to cause so much embarrassment,” adding: “Sussex is disappointed with its absent Duke.”
The MP told The Independent: “It’s very unwise of him to stray into British political comment – but if he wants to he should renounce his title and stand for election. Sussex is disappointed with its absent Duke.”
Another senior Tory MP said Harry had broken the “golden rule” of commenting on politics, saying royals “do not comment on politicians and politicians do not comment on royals”.
It comes as Harry’s explosive witness statement also claimed:
- Stories about rumours his father was James Hewitt were aimed at ousting him from the royal family
- Revealed he was worried Eton would kick him out after stories about drug-taking
- Claimed he was “only 5 per cent” funded by the taxpayer as a working royal
- Said he has never received a bill for a mobile phone – dealt with by the Royal Family
Harry said he felt “physically sick” over payments to private investigators related to his late mother Princess Diana, the High Court has been told as he began his evidence.
He blamed the tabloids for “inciting hatred and harassment” in his private life – claiming he was depicted as a “playboy prince”, a “thicko” and a “drug taker” when he was younger.
He is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles – including Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking, gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.
In his witness statement for the case, Harry said he was “shocked and appalled” by the number of payments made by MGN titles to private investigators.
He said he wanted to hold former Mirror editor Piers Morgan and others accountable for “their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour”. Mr Morgan has denied any knowledge of phone hacking, and has said he was “not going to take lectures on privacy invasion”
Harry alleges that about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 of these have been selected to be considered at the trial.
The duke said his “acute paranoia” of being constantly under surveillance was not misplaced after discovering private investigator payments related to Chelsy Davy, his ex-girlfriend.
“Had she not been in a relationship with me, she would never have had to endure such a horrific experience at the hands of MGN’s journalists,” he said.
Harry added: “There are even eight private investigator payments made in relation to my mother, which I have only learnt of since bringing my claim. This makes me feel physically sick.”
Duke of Sussex has suggested newspaper stories about rumours his father was Diana, Princess of Wales’ former lover James Hewitt were aimed at ousting him from the royal family.
Referring to an article in The People from 2002 with the headline ‘Plot to rob the DNA of Harry’, he said: “At the time, when I was 18 years old and had lost my mother just six years earlier, stories such as this felt very damaging and very real to me.”
He added: “They were hurtful, mean and cruel. I was always left questioning the motives behind the stories. Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”
Harry also said the media felt they “owned” him – but insisted that the state paid for only 5 per cent of his activities. “Despite the common misconception, I was no more than 5% funded by the taxpayer while I was a working royal in the UK, yet it felt as the tabloid press thought that they owned me absolutely.”
He also said a story published in 2002 about his smoked cannabis had a “huge impact” on his life. “Eton had a zero drugs policy in place, and I was extremely worried I was going to be expelled.”
The duke also told the court that he ended up “playing up to a lot of the headlines” about his playboy lifestyle as a teenager and in his early twenties.
“I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime’, so to speak.”
Referring to a story in The People in 2006 which said Ms Davy had gone “berserk” and slammed the phone down over a night out Spearmint Rhino club, the duke said: “I don’t think Chelsy did go mad about me going there.”
He said: “We did speak about it over the phone – but I promised her that I hadn’t had a lap dance and stayed with the three other cadets that had girlfriends.”
The duke said he “doubted the loyalty” of people around him, including his former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and former royal equerry Mark Dyer. “It’s only now, realising what the defendant’s journalists were doing … that I can see how much of my life was wasted on this paranoia.”
Prince Harry said he was never an account holder or received a bill for his mobile phone – saying it was handled “by the Institution, presumably for security purposes although that now seems rather ironic”.
Downing Street said it would not comment on Prince Harry’s remarks about the government as they were part of a live legal process.