Diana, Princess of Wales, was the mother of a future king; Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne. For all the media balllyhoo and public interest (at least in some quarters), his and the Duchess of Sussex’s interview yesterday with Oprah Winfrey is of no political significance in Britain.
It will be otherwise, in an impressionistic kind of way, in the United States and elsewhere abroad, where people may find it harder to distinguish between real life and The Crown.
Since the Duke and Duchess have placed themselves in opposition to “the Firm” – and thereby to the Queen, whatever their intention may be – relations between the two can only get worse. That “firm”, in the sense of the network of family and courtiers that cluster around the monarchy, will hit back at the Sussexes – for example, via the inquiry into allegations of bullying by the Duchess. And the financial needs, or rather wants, of the latter point towards more views and claims to come.
As we say, that will make an impact in America, where Joe Biden has already pitched in. Or rather, it will make one in Democrat America, or at least the part of it in which the Duchess clearly aspires to be a player – namely, the cluster of stars and celebrities based loosely around Hollywood, some of whom perform at Democrat conventions and events, and are obsessed with race in a particular American way.
What impression it will make in Republican America, where well-heeled liberals like the Duchess are viewed far less favourably, is a different question (and to us a more interesting one). The most likely answer is: very little at all. And Republican America, outside the institution of the presidency, is in vigorous health, amidst a nation divided over politics and culture.
And that is just about all we would say on the matter (other than adding that Diana herself left no political legacy worth writing about, for all the convulsions of much of the country after her death, and for all her compulsive beauty and character) were it not for the intervention into this downlifting drama of Keir Starmer.
It’s best to look at the polling background before mulling what he said. According to YouGov’s snap survey, 29 per cent of those polled had either “a lot” or “sympathy” for the Duke and Duchess, while 56 per cent had either “not very much” or “none at all”. How will those voters break down?
It is safe to say that most of that 29 per cent, and in particular the 12 per cent who had “a lot” of sympathy for the pair, vote Labour already, at least in England. They will include the bulk of the 16 per who believe separately that there should be a republic after the Queen dies, again according to YouGov.
So Starmer was putting himself on the wrong side of majority opinion, and also of people whose votes he needs to win, by choosing to lean into a question on camera about the interview (rather than, as Boris Johnson did, lean away from it). “They need to be taken very seriously”, he said of a question about “allegations about race and mental health”.
For reference, the Duchess said that, according to the Duke, there were “several conversations” between him and “family” about their then unborn child’s skin colour. “Because they were concerned that if he were too brown, that that would be a problem?” asked Winfrey. “I wasn’t able to follow up with why, but…if that’s the assumption you’re making, I think that feels like a pretty safe one,” the Duchess replied.
Since the Duke and Duchess have apparently said, off the record, that neither the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh made any such remarks, it wouldn’t unfair to believe that they have first made the claim, then inflamed further speculation by narrowing down the range of suspects, and are now holding back the identity of the person or people concerned in order to deploy it later if they wish.
In sum: Starmer doesn’t know how many people said anything about the child’s future skin colour. We don’t know what was said. And we don’t know whether anything of any significance was actually said at all. But by dabbling a toe into these troubled waters, he has made it harder not to wade in further – since there will be no such inquiry, and may be further allegations.
The former barrister has thus chosen to go to court with a brief he hasn’t read. He has thereby placed himself on the wrong side of a potential future client (the Queen). And done so without increasing the likelihood of instruction from voters for what will be the most important case of his life – the next election. For all his skills as a lawyer, this doesn’t sound all that forensic to us.