The King has never kept his quasi-political views secret, much to the disproval of many royalists who believe the monarch should stay out of politics.
There’s nothing quite like a royal splash to sell a newspaper. Editors, especially editors of the papers that bang the whole Brexit / patriotism drum the loudest, seize the opportunity to reap the rewards of a royal story.
Remember Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018? The newspapers couldn’t get enough of it. The Sunday Times described it as a ‘great British occasion.’ The Sunday Telegraph hailed it as a ‘day of happiness, for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and for the nation,’ while the Mail on Sunday went for a 47-page wedding bonanza. “Harry ever after,” read the frontpage splash.
These are the same newspapers which have consistently hounded the couple, having spent years meticulously detailing the ways in which Meghan has apparently dissed the monarchy and offended the British public. The latest snipe… she won’t be attending the King’s coronation.
“The King was there for you… So sad you can’t make it for him,” splashed an emotionally charged Sun, alongside an image of Charles walking Meghan down the aisle.
She really is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t.
Well, it seems that history is repeating itself, as similar levels of hypocrisy are being showered over King Charles and his coronation by the same right-wing forces.
For weeks, the conservative newspapers and commentators have gushed about the coronation, printing ‘procession detail’ specials, and ‘how to throw a party fit for a king.’
And as for the invitation for us “all” to swear allegiance to the King… An ‘historic break with centuries of tradition, that will turn Charles’ big day into the People’s Coronation,’ enthused the Mail on Sunday.
‘Pledge allegiance to the King from your sofa,’ suggested the Sunday Telegraph. ‘Nation to join chant for Charles,’ rhapsodised the Sunday People’s headline.
Of course, the condemnation of the public allegiance pledge by anti-monarchy campaigners as ‘ridiculous’, didn’t make it into the headlines.
No doubt the pro-Establishment newspapers are nervous about criticising His Majesty in the run-up to the lavish ceremony that can be traced back more than 1,000 years in Britain, is rooted in Christian symbolism, and is all but guaranteed to cause a huge spike in circulation figures.
Such adulation comes even though many right-wing royalists have long suspected that Charles would break with the Queen’s habit of political ‘discretion.’ They must be bursting with frustration, under strict instructions to ‘keep it zipped,’ at least until the Union Jack flag bunting has been taken down and the Charles and Camilla coronation face masks thrown in the dustbins.
Unlike the late Queen Elizabeth II, whose steadfast apolitical diplomacy meant she could do no wrong in the eyes of Conservative monarchists and their media allies, King Charles has never kept his quasi-political views secret, much to the disproval of many royalists who believe the monarch should stay out of politics.
Years before it had captured the public imagination, Charles was advocating concepts like natural capital and the circular economy. “We are faced at this moment with the horrifying effects of pollution in all its cancerous forms,” he had said in a speech in 1970. He had later reflected that his green activism at the time meant people had thought he was “completely potty.” But his principles have stayed with him over the decades. During a green awards speech at Buckingham Palace in 2014, he described climate change sceptics as the “headless chickens brigade.”
Shortly after becoming King on the death of his mother in September, it was reported by the Times that the then prime minister Liz Truss – who let’s not forget appointed multiple advisors with a record in opposing climate action, including a key aid from a think-tank funded by oil giant BP – had objected to the environmentalist monarch attending the COP27 climate change summit. Several weeks later, it emerged that the new prime minister Rishi Sunak had decided to uphold his predecessor’s decision to prevent Charles from attending the conference. Naturally, the right-wing, climate-sceptic press leapt all over the story. ‘King Charles blocked from attending COP27 by Sunak despite ‘champing at the bit’ to go,’ sensationalised the Express.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that the King will still champion the environment, choosing to ‘highlight,’ rather than ‘campaign’ for protecting the natural world, as a concession to his neutral role.
But Charles’ non-attendance raised questions, not only about the King being restrained from making his own views about the environment known, but also about the government seeing COP27 as a political issue and dialling back on efforts to tackle climate change. Let’s not forget that Rishi Sunak initially planned not to attend the summit before public pressure forced him to change course. Additionally, the new PM removed Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit, from the cabinet.
But what especially grated on the nerves of the right-wingers, was Charles’ comments on the government’s Rwanda policy. As heir to the throne in June 2022, he had privately criticised the scheme, labelling it “appalling.” The comments were leaked to the Times and the Daily Mail, which flew into anti-Charles overkill.
Mail columnist Dan Wootton led the charge. ‘As a royalist I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to doubt that Prince Charles has the capacity to become King Charles III without threatening the future of the British monarchy,’ headlined the column.
“How much longer are we going to turn a collective blind eye to the improper behaviour of Prince Charles that isn’t fit for a king?” wrote Wootton, referring to Charles’ intervention into the government’s, in his view, “sensible and humane plan to transfer some illegal Channel migrants to Rwanda,” as “outrageous.”
Like many a royalist right-winger, Wootton regularly spouts his contempt of Harry and Meghan. He was quick to criticise the couple for being photographed at a war memorial in Los Angeles. But his words came back to haunt the GB News presenter in the wake of the Queen’s death, when he was accused of ‘hypocrisy’ after posting a video of himself laying flowers outside Buckingham Palace.
“The shameless, narcistic cactus that is Dan Wootton. Sooner these grifting, self-righteous hypocrites disappear, the better,” someone posted on Twitter.
Nigel Farage was accused of similar double standards, having said Charles ‘had better shut up fast’ unless he wants ‘to destroy the monarchy’ after the Rwanda criticism one minute, and tweeting ‘long live the King’ the next.
That said, the former UKIP leader wasn’t able to restrain his fury over King Charles’s recent ‘Remainer appointments.’ The GB News host took aim at the King’s new Knights of the Garter appointments, describing each as an ‘establishment left-winger.’ As the Express keenly reported, “Farage appeared furious that the King’s first two appointments to the senior position in the British nobility are both former European Commissioners.”
The King also attracted criticism from Conservative and Unionist groups, for what they labelled as Charles’ ‘constitutionally unwise’ tea with EU bosses on the day Sunak agreed a new Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. Brexit ultra Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was wrong to involve the monarch in the ‘immediate political controversy.’ Former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster said the meeting in Windsor Castle was “crass and will go down very badly.”
The right-wing media predictably joined in the chorus of contempt. The Spectator published a piece on ‘Why King Charles shouldn’t meet Ursula von der Leyen,’ claiming the move is ‘dangerous territory.’
The same media hasn’t held back in presenting the King as some kind of woke radical. ‘The King is becoming so woke, he is in danger of abolishing himself,’ wrote Telegraph commentator Petronella Wyatt. The author’s beef? His support of a study into the monarchy’s historic links to slavery and failure to rule out any reparations.
TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer scorned Charles for being ‘green and woke,’ after the King reportedly turned down the offer of having Heathrow Terminal 5 named after him. But sigh, coming from a columnist/presenter whose tendency to say things to garner reaction, included siding with professional misogynist Andrew Tate in the Greta Thunberg spat on Twitter, Hartley-Brewer’s ‘woke Charles’ rant is almost to be expected.
Camilla Tominey, the Telegraph’s associate editor, barked up the same woke-weaponising tree, insisting the royals will only thrive if they are anti-woke.
But it was GB News Patrick Christys who launched the most vicious attack. Talking to Sky News Australia, he said King Charles is “obsessed and infected” with the “woke poison” which has been spreading through to so many others in society. “He’s given in to the eco mob left, right, and centre,” adding that the King has been doing things that he believes are “ridiculously woke and needless.”
Following the death of the Queen, the media fretted over whether Charles would be able to maintain Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States. Would Charles be able to offer the same polite smiles as his mother did, “through awkward visits with nearly every US president going back to Dwight D Eisenhower,” as the New York Intelligencer put it?
In the run-up to the coronation, Fox News, obviously also eager to capitalise on the circulation boost a royal story inevitably commands, has been jumping on the same gushing bandwagon as its right-wing media counterparts in the UK. Its ‘Buckingham Palace releases new portraits of King Charles, Camilla ahead of coronation’ article quickly earned a trending status. But unlike much of the Tory media in Britain, which has been relatively restrained in its criticism, notably more so the closer we got to the coronation, Fox News has been less circumspect. The rebukes have flowed at every opportunity.
‘Prince Harry snubbed at King Charles’ coronation’ barked one headline, in reference to Prince William being the only family member to have a speaking role. ‘Kings Charles’ coronation intimate guest list includes notable snubs’ gushed another emotionally charged headline.
Back in Britain, where the populist Conservative media is no stranger to hypocritical coverage, it seems that the right-wing commentators are being forced to put their outrage-courting antics on hold, at least until after the coronation weekend.
The polls say it all
The newspapers’ coverage of polls on British public support for the monarchy reveals the extent of the hypocrisy. Just last week, a poll suggested that public support was at an historic low. Another, published several days earlier, said almost four in 10 young people want an elected UK head of state. But in the week leading up to the coronation, the polls circulated in the right-wing media claim to have discovered a reignited loyalty and love for the monarchy. ‘Rock solid’ support for the Royal Family, and ‘little appetite for Republicanism’ a major poll reveals, splashed the Daily Mail on May 1.
Love or loathe the coronation celebrations, the acres of exalted headlines that have dominated the media all week, means we haven’t really been able to escape it. What will be more interesting perhaps, will be the coverage after this weekend, when the Dan Woottons and the Julia Hartley-Brewers are let off the leash again. Circulation motives and hypocrisy aside, it’s been quite satisfying that the viciously tongued right-wingers have been forced to keep shtum. If only for a short while.
Right-Wing Media Watch – Daily Mail forgets its own antisemitic roots
Staying on the theme of the hypocritical right-wing media, this takes some digesting, even by the Mail’s standards.
‘Leading Jewish organisation demands urgent meeting with The Guardian’s editor after newspaper is engulfed in anti-Semitism storm over ‘sickening’ cartoon of ex-BBC chairman.’
What the rambling headline is referring to is the Board of Deputies of British Jews calling for a meeting with the editor of The Guardian over the use of ‘antisemitic tropes’ in a cartoon that depicted Sharp, who is Jewish, with exaggerated features and carrying a puppet of Rishi Sunak. The newspaper removed the drawing of the former BBC chair from its website and apologised to the Jewish community and to Sharp.
As well as being littered with deliberately aggressive language, the Mail seized the opportunity to drag Diane Abbott into the story, noting – in the prelude underneath the headline – how calls for the Guardian editor to resign come after The Observer published Diane Abbott’s ‘racist’ letter.
Now let’s be clear here, in offending the Jewish community at a time when antisemitism remains a live and pressing problem, the Guardian was wrong to publish the offending cartoon and was right to remove it. Let’s also be clear, a right-wing newspaper with a low rating for factual reporting – even Wikipedia does not accept citations from the Mail – leaping all over the story to deride a renowned liberal newspaper, is by no way surprising.
But what is spectacular, is the Mail’s level of hypocrisy in relation to antisemitism.
In the 1930s, the Daily Mail, which was Britain’s highest-selling newspaper at the time, adopted what has been described as an ‘overly tolerant attitude towards Hitler.’ The newspaper’s proprietor, Harold Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere, was a staunch admirer of Hitler and Mussolini. He was also the most powerful press baron in the interwar years.
In an article in the Mail entitled “What Europe Owes to Mussolini,” published shortly after Mussolini came into power, Rothermere expressed his “profound admiration” for Italy’s new leader.
The Times of Israel reports that Rothermere met Hitler for the first time in 1933 and “they met several more times and struck up a warm correspondence.”
In 1934, the newspaper ran with the headline: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts.” Written by Lord Rothermere, the article celebrated Oswald Moseley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Praising Moseley and the Blackshirts, the author saw them as the correct party to “take over responsibility for [British] national affairs.”
Of course, there are some who think we shouldn’t to dig up old wounds and that it is wrong to imply that the Mail’s former support of Nazis means the newspaper’s modern form is tainted. This might be true to some extent, except for the fact racism and xenophobia features in the Mail’s journalism today.
One particularly memorable example of this was in 2014, when the newspaper published a cartoon likening migrants to rats. As Global Justice Now rightly informs in a piece about the horrible history of the Daily Mail, not only is the cartoon racist in its representation of Muslims, but the choice of animal used harks back to Hitler’s Germany in 1939 when cartoons in newspapers often depicted Jews as rats – vermin that had to be got rid of.
More recently still, in 2021 the Daily Mail was slammed for claiming there are areas in Britain that are ‘no-go areas for white people.’ The article was criticised as being ‘racist’, with others noting how the towns and cities in mentioned were actually more populated by white people.
Unlike the Guardian, which recently issued an apology for the role the newspaper’s founders had in transatlantic slavery and announced a decade-long programme of restorative justice, the Daily Mail makes no acknowledgement or apology for its past celebrations of fascism.
Instead, it continues pontificating with hypocritical righteousness, while stirring up hatred and division.
Woke-bashing of the week – Ron DeSantis hails Kemi Badenoch for opposition to ‘woke ideology’
The governor of Florida and US presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis has thrown his support behind the business secretary’s ‘war on woke.’
DeSantis, who has led the ‘anti-woke’ pack by upending the liberties of the people of Florida through authoritarian book bans and other regressive policies, complimented Badenoch’s efforts to stop woke culture from “corrupting British society.”
The business secretary, who, as the ‘darling of the right’ became the surprise hopeful in the 2022 Tory leadership contest, has floated changing parts of the Equality Act to enable organisations to ban trans women from single-sex spaces and events.
During his recent economic trade mission visit to London, DeSantis met with Badenoch and the foreign secretary James Cleverly. Talking to the Telegraph, the White House hopeful praised the Tory minister for her policy.
“She complimented what we are doing in Florida,” he said, adding, “She committed that it is what they are trying to do in Britain.
“She pointed out, and I think it’s true, that some of the woke has been exported from the United States.”
Following the meeting, Bryan Griffin, Ron DeSantis’s press secretary tweeted: “Today @GovRonDeSantis met with @KemiBadenoch, who has been branded by British media as the ‘anti-woke darling of the right’ (a badge of honor!) Two great conservative fighters on a mission.”
‘Horrendous, low wattage, like the end of an overseas trip’
Bringing great satisfaction to those who don’t have an unhealthy obsession against ‘wokeness’ – in other words those who are committed to inclusivity and equality – DeSantis’s trip to the UK received brutal reviews. The Florida governor, who is expected to announce his bid to challenge Trump as the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential race, failed to make a favourable impression among Britain’s business bosses. His appearance at the high-profile event in London was described variously as “horrendous,” “low-wattage” and “like the end of an overseas trip.”
As his lacklustre effort to build Florida’s economic relationships with the UK meant DeSantis did himself little favours in his attempt to be seen as a statesman on the world stage, leading the ‘anti-woke’ crusade could also backfire for the White House optimist, and for others who aggressively attack ‘identity politics’, like Kemi Badenoch.
In Britain, the majority of people want gender identity taught in schools, a recent poll found. The US shares similar identity embracing views, with a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll showing the majority of Americans think being ‘woke’ is a good thing.
So, it seems that despite the efforts of high-profile Conservative politicians both sides of the Atlantic, and the overwhelmingly hostile coverage of ‘wokeism’ in the media, culture war stoking efforts are not paying off.
The belligerent message might work for US Republicans and factions of Conservatives in Britain, but not for people outside these right-wing circles.
Their belief that there is extensive support of their right-wing doctrines, shows just how out of touch they are.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is author of Right-Wing Watch