For many years now, Prince Charles has been writing to politicians in government expressing his views and wishes regarding government policies. Until yesterday, these letters were secret, not available to the public. Now though, following the eventual approval of a Freedom of Information request, these letters are in the public domain.
Many people are up in arms that the Prince should be expressing his opinions at all in this manner. It is worth making clear though that the politicians are under no pressure to act on these letters; they are not in any sense dictates from our future Monarch. (Though, of course, they do clearly carry more weight and receive more attention than anything, say, I was to write to a government minister.)
It is right, in my view, that these letters should be in the public domain, but I don’t have any problem with Prince Charles airing his views to politicians. It is quite clear, after glancing at just a few of these letters, that there is nothing sinister or manipulative a work.
These letters simply reflect the passions, interests, and concerns of our heir to the throne. He isn’t heavy handed. There is no expectation that those on the receiving end of his letters must act upon anything he writes. They are just letters that, frankly speaking, often to a good job of raising important questions.
There is no doubt that these letters would fit under the category of ‘lobbying’, but I think there are plenty more important things to be fretting about than the largely harmless opinionating of our next King.
Just to ensure a healthy understanding of the counterargument for why many people think Prince Charles, shouldn’t be airing his political opinions at all, this is from The Times editorial today:
It is constitutionally improper for the heir to the throne to exert pressure on the democratically elected government. By the simple fact of his position, a letter from the prince is not just a letter, but a form of pressure. It would be worrying if the prince did not recognise this. The notion, argued in court, that he is a private citizen writing a private letter to the government is misguided. He is the heir to the throne and, as such, his role in politics is purely ceremonial. That self-evidently excludes writing lobbying letters to politicians at a rate that comes perilously close to bombardment. It is also disappointing that £375,000 of public money has been spent on legal battles trying to keep their contents secret.