When Gordon Brown was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer he decided
that the Conservative government's plans to spend pounds 60m on a new
Royal Yacht were a waste of taxpayers' money. I was sent to brief the
Mail on Sunday.
I told them that a Labour government would not go ahead with this
expenditure, therefore effectively sinking the new boat.
We had not bothered to tell the leader's office of our little scam so
when Blair read this story the next day he spluttered over his muesli in
fury. He realised that the Queen would be furious but also thought that
the 'punters' liked the idea of a new Royal Yacht.
It was only when The Sun revealed that 80 per cent of its readers
thought a new boat was a complete waste of money that Blair risked
upsetting the Royal Family and backed Brown's decision to veto the Tory
The Prime Minister's support for royalty has never been based on any
principle but on the belief that they are popular with the people. When
Mo Mowlam uttered a few disloyal statements about this disaffected
family, the Number 10 machine jumped on her from a great height.
They did not want to undermine all the good work they had put in by
saving the monarchy after Diana's death. I well remember Alastair
Campbell boasting to me how he had helped write the Queen's live
election broadcast and delighted in reading out passages to me.
The Countess of Wessex has changed all that and Blair's pet poodle
Stephen Byers was actually put up to criticise Sophie. With the
Government still reeling from the foot-and-mouth crisis and Blair's
indecision over the election date, the Sophie story could not have come
at a better time.
Labour can afford to join in the ridicule of this insignificant minor
royal because the party's biggest backer in the media, Rupert Murdoch,
is a republican. His favourite paper, The Sun, sounded more like the old
Daily Worker this week.
Why on earth should elected Labour politicians - many of whom knew real
poverty in their youth - bow and scrape to this bunch? Sophie has
prostituted the British crown. It makes my blood boil that Edward and
his ambitious missus were sent abroad to represent the people of this
country. Fortunately, the fact that Sophie bought the whole PR industry
into disrepute will soon be forgotten as the media battalions line up on
either side of the republican wall. The Daily Mail, which has given as
much space as anyone to the Sophie story, has come out clearly on the
side of the monarchy claiming that 'Britain now has the most republican
government since Oliver Cromwell.' This one will run and run.
Bernard Ingham is on holiday.