As the whole Leveson wrangle approaches its climax (or anti-climax), one collateral, innocent victim of it all is the Queen. The government ruse to make its proposed system of statutory regulation seem less objectionable was to burble on about a Royal Charter and the Privy Council. By doing so, it hoped to put the matter beyond politics.
But the implication that the enterprise is sanctioned by monarchical neutrality is a) untrue and b) embarrassing for the monarch. Untrue because in royal charters, as in legislation, the Sovereign acts solely on the advice of her ministers, making no personal contribution; embarrassing because, by seeking royal cover for its actions, the government drops the monarch into a very tricky issue, giving her no means to defend herself.
Like Tony Blair’s attempt to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor over a weekend, or Gordon Brown’s pretence that Downing Street would no longer have anything to do with ecclesiastical appointments, this is inconsiderate. The machine did not protect the Palace enough, despite polite protests. Government on one side and the press on the other are making the Crown piggy in the middle.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator’s Notes in this week’s magazine, available in print and online from tomorrow. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.