OPINION: Queen Mum has got us all flummoxed

August may wrongly be known as a quiet news month, but one big

filler for the whole media is the Birthday of the Queen Mum. This year's

big event had the added value of a Queen Mum health scare just days


This sent the BBC into a spin as she is a 'Category 1' Royal and every

time she sneezes the obit' unit and the whole top management have to be

notified - this being August most of them are on holiday.

The Queen Mum's 'heat exhaustion' was an added bonus for the tabloid

editors getting bored with endless stories about Big Brother contestants

whom every one will have forgotten about in a few weeks' time. There is

no chance of interest in the Queen Mum waning, however, as following the

death of Diana she is the last Royal for whom the public feel any

genuine affection. The death of the Queen Mum would be a devastating

loss to 'The Firm' as she is easily their biggest 'PR' asset.

The media give her more good publicity than anyone else in the


The coverage of her 101st birthday was typical. Jenny Bond swooned and

Nicholas Whitchell purred as children queued up to give Britain's

favourite great granny flowers. It was left to Channel 4 news to point

out that nearly all the crowd outside Clarence House were actually

foreign tourists, a fact conveniently glossed over by the rest of the


Criticism of the Queen Mum or even implied criticism is simply not seen

as good form. There again, it is difficult to be critical of someone who

unlike most 'celebs' has, as far as I know, never been interviewed. The

public simply doesn't know what she thinks about anything and, as a

result, can't really think much bad about her. She is just a lovely old


No other 'famous' person in the country could stay 'famous' without

appearing on Parkinson or doing the occasional 'soft' interview in the

Mail on Sunday magazine.

Another BBC 'Category 1' Royal is Prince Philip though why he is rated

above William and Harry is not clear. He has, of course, opened his big

mouth regularly and as a result has been accused of being a dotty racist

bigot. What I hear from those who know these things is that the Queen

Mum apparently thinks Prince Philip is something of a 'pinko.'

The problem we have in establishing exactly what the Royals think is

that people who meet them are told that they are not allowed to repeat

what has been said to them by a Royal. When my friend Paul Routledge was

Labour editor at The Times during the miners' strike, he was told by the

Queen, who was visiting the paper, that the strike was 'all about one

man'. Paul repeated this to the BBC man covering the visit and by the

next day the papers splashed 'Queen blames Scargill for strike'. I bet

her Mum thought the same.

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