STEPHEN GLOVER: If Harry wants to ban Press, he'll have to ban himself

STEPHEN GLOVER: If Prince Harry wants to ban the Press, he’ll have to ban himself… he’s been infinitely ruder and less respectful of his family’s privacy than any newspaper

The true object of Prince Harry’s anger is the Press and in particular the tabloid Press. In his ITV interview with Tom Bradby on Sunday evening, he called it the ‘devil’.

That is a very disturbing way to describe newspapers in a free society. In some cultures, devils are thought of as phenomena that must be hunted down and extirpated.

Harry may not actually want to kill off the Press, but he told Bradby that he wants to ‘change’ and ‘police’ it. He claimed the media are ‘at the epicentre of so many of the problems across the UK where people are suffering [and] I’m going to try and make a difference’.

Should we be worried? Does a somewhat confused and intellectually undistinguished 38-year-old man living 6,000 miles away in California really present a threat to a free Press?

The true object of Prince Harry’s anger is the Press and in particular the tabloid Press. In his ITV interview with Tom Bradby on Sunday evening, he called it the ‘devil’ 

It hardly seems likely.

Yet I believe that Harry’s attitude towards newspapers illuminates him. His narcissistic outpourings may have served to reduce his band of supporters, but there are still some young people who revere him as a progressive force.

They see him and Meghan as rebels eager to take on vested interests and the Establishment, and to champion important causes close to their hearts, such as climate change or anti-racism.

I see him differently. For me, Prince Harry is an entitled and exceptionally privileged person, some of whose views would have been regarded as standard by the most odious 18th-century aristocrat. His attacks on a free Press fall into this category.

In his visceral hatred of newspapers which speak their own minds, and his desire to curb them, he reveals himself as a deeply illiberal figure. These are views one associates with tyrants who can’t bear freedom.

Do I overstate the case? Perhaps, but only slightly. Prince Harry does not, of course, carry the ideological baggage of your average despot. Nor do I suggest that he yearns to lock up thousands of people. Nevertheless, his attitudes towards the media are profoundly undemocratic.

What amazes me is how utterly misguided his analysis (if that is not too elevated a word to describe his venomous ramblings) of the media really is. One might at least respect him as an iconoclast if he hadn’t so spectacularly grasped the wrong end of the stick.

For his theory as unveiled to Bradby, and elaborated in his book, is that the Royal Family and the tabloid Press are symbiotic. He informed Bradby that some royals have decided to ‘get in the bed with the devil’.

According to Harry, they and newspapers have concocted a ‘distorted narrative’ about him and Meghan, whom they have literally driven from our shores. During the ITV interview, he didn’t supply a single example of this allegedly abominable behaviour, and an emollient Tom Bradby only pressed him weakly.

Harry may not actually want to kill off the Press, but he told Bradby that he wants to ‘change’ and ‘police’ it

Prince Harry did disclose that, in his mind, the chief conspirator with the tabloids has been Queen Consort Camilla. In an interview with the American journalist Anderson Cooper, he outrageously described Camilla as a ‘villain’ who has ‘traded information’ in an attempt to rehabilitate her image.

It is true that for several years following the death of Harry’s mother, Diana, in 1997, Camilla often got unfavourable coverage in many newspapers, which reflected public opinion at the time. She was depicted as the mistress who had undermined Charles’s marriage to Diana.

Yet after a few years, Camilla’s treatment by most titles gradually improved. Harry puts this down to a relationship that she was supposedly cultivating with the Press.

He told Bradby: ‘Stories began to appear everywhere, in all the papers, about her private conversation with Willie, stories that contained pinpoint accurate details, none of which had come from Willie, of course.

‘They could only have been leaked by the one other person present.’ Namely, Camilla.

It doesn’t occur to Prince Harry that newspapers became more sympathetic to Camilla Parker-Bowles, as she then was, mainly because they recognised her as a good sport who didn’t attempt to justify her past misbehaviour, and was moreover plainly in love with Charles.

As for Harry’s allegation that Camilla leaked stories to the Press, in one instance it can be disproved. A story of her first amicable meeting with Prince William appeared in the Sun newspaper after a personal assistant had told her husband, who unwisely gossiped with someone connected to the Murdoch empire. The assistant resigned.

I daresay some members of the Royal Family have passed stories to the Press through their courtiers over the years, but it is absurd and naïve to infer that this was part of an orchestrated attempt to destabilise Harry and Meghan.

Royals are not puppets of the Press, since — if they have any sense — they realise they can be biffed as well as praised. The wise ones know how to take the rough with the smooth. If only the over-touchy Harry and Meghan had learned something from Camilla’s pragmatism.

Harry claimed the media are ‘at the epicentre of so many of the problems across the UK where people are suffering [and] I’m going to try and make a difference’. Pictured: Prince Harry’s memoir Spare

As for the newspapers, it is ludicrous to suppose that they enter a collective pact not to criticise their supposed collaborators within the Royal Family. On any day, one paper will have praised Prince Charles, as he was, while another criticised him. The same newspaper may pat him on the back one month, and chastise him the next.

Prince Harry and Meghan have produced an outlandish theory about the alleged connivance of royals to explain what they regard as unfavourable treatment by the Press — though, in fact, before their 2018 wedding, and for many months afterwards, they enjoyed almost ecstatic coverage.

Whether as a result of paranoia or straightforward wrong-headedness, Harry has demonised members of his family and misrepresented the Press, and on the basis of his cockeyed theories he wants newspapers to be made to conform to his values. That smacks of tyranny.

Naturally, I don’t dispute that newspapers may have occasionally been unfair to the over-sensitive couple. A recent example was Jeremy Clarkson’s stupid fantasy in the Sun about Meghan being ‘made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain’. That was terrible, and the paper has rightly apologised.

But this was an aberration in the mainstream Press, which Harry conveniently conflates with social media, often a sewer of nastiness. He claims, without offering any evidence, that such unpleasantness is inspired by newspapers.

If only Harry and Meghan had learned, as most royals have, to enjoy the praise, and disregard the barbs. As King Charles told Harry, if you don’t like newspapers, you don’t have to read them.

Intermittent disapproval is the inescapable lot of every public figure. The politician Enoch Powell (who was right about some things) once wisely said that ‘politicians complaining about the Press are like sailors complaining about the sea’. So it is with royals.

Harry and Meghan can’t understand this. Like the vainest type of celebrity, they want to be depicted entirely on their own terms, and cannot bear any interference with an image of perfection.

So Prince Harry would like to muzzle the Press. His is the illiberal voice of power.

I doubt it has occurred to him that if he bans the Press, he will have to ban himself, since he is infinitely ruder, and less respectful of his family’s privacy, than any newspaper has ever been.

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