Well, kind of. I’m not entirely convinced the latest episode should be taken at face value. Given recent PR problems the Royals have an obvious interest in capturing the general public opinion. But I can’t recall any similar incident in her reign during my lifetime, so let’s be charitable and just call a leak a leak.
The sympathy, then, flows from the fact that if this purely symbolic figure is to be able to express her own views as an individual without violating the nature of her public role, there clearly needs to be a consensus amongst the media that anything she says in private doesn’t make it into the press with the authority of her office colouring the reports. So I can happily tolerate a situation in which she speaks but we don’t know about it.
That’s the principle, anyway. Why this particular case is a little different is the disclosure that she spoke to Whitehall about the Abu Hamza issue, expressing her distaste at our failure to extradite him. And that’s precisely the type of access unavailable to any other individual in this country which, if she was on board with the logic in the previous paragraph, she’d categorically refuse to utilise. You can’t on the one hand call for the ability to say stuff without investing it with the power of the monarchy, whilst simultaneously saying stuff in a way that only the monarch could. So I think that’s the public interest defence available for this particular leak. If she stops calling Cameron, the press can keep quiet about her beliefs.
On a related note, a word on Andrew ‘Pleb’ Mitchell, the Cabinet minister in political and legal trouble for ‘disrespecting’ a police officer. Look, I get why this doesn’t look good for the government. It’s far from a virtue for a man in the top ranks of the executive branch of government to openly show such contempt for law enforcement over an issue as farcical as cycling through the Downing Street gates. So the political debate is at least one worth having. But the legal trouble? I’m disturbed a police record even exists that Mitchell said the alleged words in an officer’s direction. I just don’t see how we can trust anyone to determine what constitutes verbal ‘disrespect’ for the police, and I don’t see what’s so good about unanimous deference to law enforcement anyway. Resisting arrest and related offences are, of course, offences. But insults don’t render officers powerless, and they look to me like they fall on the other side of the line as things the law must let go.