Politics Magazine

Our Right to Know

Posted on the 13 March 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Our Right to Know

Posted: 13/03/2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: democracy, freedom of information, monarchy, news, Politics, Prince Charles, republic, royal family, the Guardian, Transparency, UK |Leave a comment

The Court of Appeal has overturned a decision by the Attorney General to keep secret the contents of letters written by Prince Charles to ministers. The government seems eager to block publication of the letters, written to several Labour ministers in 2004-5. It is understood that the letters are related to government policy- in other words, they constitute lobbying.

The government says that publication will undermine public “confidence” in the ability of Charles to become a “neutral” monarch, as he is preparing for now. I don’t see the logic of this argument: simply by saying that publishing the letters make Charles look like a partisan figure, the Government makes Charles look like a partisan figure anyway. And in the meantime, we the people are being denied the right to know how our future head of state has been seeking to influence our representatives in government. I know that Britain is not exactly democratic (how can it be, with an unelected monarchy and an appointed second legislative chamber?), but the de facto democratic system we have falls apart when government takes place in secret.

I may be a republican (that’s with a lower case ‘r’, folks!) but I am a fair-minded one. Prince Charles is entitled to his opinions, and I happen to be broadly sympathetic to them- those that we are allowed to know about, anyway. Yet Charles, already the Duke of Cornwall and therefore a public opinion, must surely accept the British public are entitled to be informed about his political activities. If he wants the privacy to which an ordinary citizen is entitled, he can always abdicate. Otherwise he accepts the responsibility to be transparent as well as the immense wealth and status as the Prince of Wales.

It’s noteworthy that the royal family themselves have kept out of the legal row between the Guardian and the Attorney General. Unless they’ve intervened in secret, of course! The Guardian should be applauded for its commitment to freedom of information, which it has maintained despite government bullying. Indeed, the Attorney General sought to block publication of the letters without even being asked by the seven government departments (seven!) to which letters are sent. If we weren’t concerned before, we have plenty of reason to worry about what is being hidden from us.

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