This was from Factiva newspapers article search. I thought it was interesting and funny. Here it is :
Loose lips and black spiders.
1 October 2002
New Zealand Herald
(c) 2002 The New Zealand Herald
THE Bentley purrs gently along the gravelled drive. A muffled bell rings, alerting staff that their employer is home. A maid who has been plumping cushions in the drawing room slips swiftly below stairs.
Stepping from his car after 12 hours of public engagements, the Prince of Wales smiles wearily, pleased as always to return to his beloved country haven, Highgrove. He tells his equerry: "I shall be in my study."
Members of the royal family unwind in different ways after a day in front of the public. Princess Diana used to sing. Princess Margaret always poured herself a stiff drink. The Queen has a TV dinner.
For 20 years, post-public engagement therapy for Prince Charles has been writing to ministers, often late into the evening. He rarely dictates the letters, preferring to handwrite them with much underlining and many exclamation marks. If drafts are later typed up, they are often annotated with more postscripts, sometimes in red and curving around, and sometimes over, the page.
Whatever the style, the content of those letters - known by some weary New Labour recipients as "Black Spiders" - has stayed private. Till now.
Some veteran courtiers are fearing that five years' effort devoted to remodelling a man once lampooned as a plant-chatting adulterer may be unravelling after his outspoken views emerged in public through leaked letters.
But just how did the Prince's views - not only about rural pursuits, but about the strength of door-closers in the fire exits of old people's homes too - end up so embarrassingly in the public domain?
He first resolved to write to Prime Minister Tony Blair about hunting almost six months ago. He had - one of the few facts reported entirely accurately - been asked by a Cumbrian farmer if blacks and gays would ever be treated as "badly" as farmers.
The Prince is himself one of the richest rural landowners in the country. However, also highly influential on his views of the "awfulness" of rural life under New Labour has been his assistant private secretary, Elizabeth Buchanan, whose parents are farmers.
A first draft of the Prince's letter was penned late at night while he was staying at Birkhall, the Queen Mother's home in Scotland, in the weeks after his grandmother's funeral in April.
It was later circulated to senior staff. Three of them - including Colleen Harris, his highly regarded press secretary who is black herself, and even Buchanan - advised against the sentiments expressed and the reference to "black, ethnic and other minorities". Mark Bolland, the media adviser credited with helping to transform the Prince's reputation, also counselled against sending it.
"The language was just wrong, wrong, wrong," said a courtier. "It was inappropriate."
Subsequently, many of the Prince's staff thought the protest had been quietly shelved - until his press office received a call from the Mail on Sunday. The paper, clearly briefed by someone who had spoken to Charles, intended to publish his views as part of its campaign backing the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance's march through London.
The next day, Godric Smith, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, was called by Mail on Sunday political editor Simon Walters. Would Downing St care to comment on the letter? Smith immediately called Alastair Campbell, the Government's director of strategic communications.
It was the first inkling Campbell had that the letter, which had been received almost two months earlier, had gone into the public domain.
He was well aware that the recent "Black Rod affair" - the furore over a claim that Blair tried to muscle in on the Queen Mother's funeral - had set the Palace against the Government. The last thing he wanted was another row. He urged caution. Clearly any connection between the leak and the Government had to be denied.
When the Mail on Sunday article appeared 10 days ago, it also attributed to the Prince the view that "if the Labour Government ever gets round to banning foxhunting, I might as well leave this country and spend the rest of my life skiing".
"That was one of the most damaging things," said one Buckingham Palace official. "It confirmed exactly the unfair caricature of the monarchy which its detractors like people to have. However, the words certainly have the ring of truth about them, even if they might have been spoken after a couple of brandies."
At Buckingham Palace, aghast staff started to ask who had been responsible for the leak.
"We knew it wouldn't have been Elizabeth Buchanan," said the official. "She's devoted to hunting, but is also utterly devoted to the Prince. She goes gooey when he's around. Knowing the fallout from something like this, she just wouldn't risk it. She's too shrewd."
Even the Queen, an astute student of the newspapers when it suits her, was alarmed. Her political views have remained resolutely opaque during the 50 years of her reign. Still on holiday at Balmoral in Scotland, she discussed the story with Charles when he visited her there the day after it was published.
The Guardian - perhaps predictably - followed up with a piece inquiring exactly how many hundreds of millions of pounds in public subsidy the black and gay communities received, in stark contrast to the "downtrodden" farmers. And it published a gleeful letter from left-wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner announcing that the Prince's promise to leave the country gave him one more reason for backing the abolition of hunting.
But other papers were mixing it in their own ways, too.
"We became well aware very early on that the press, particularly the Daily Mail, were itching for us to come out all guns blazing, saying it was nothing to do with us," said a Downing St official close to the week's events. "They would then have said we were blaming the leak on people connected to the royal family, and that would have been another row."
Walters himself had been careful not to reveal his source. But Mail colleagues were less reticent.
"To many, it will sound suspiciously like a crude piece of Labour news management," the paper said on the Wednesday, at the same time as it revealed two more letters from Prince Charles, this time to Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine. The paper insisted that they had come from a "left-wing political source" and were planted to discredit Charles.
Jonathan Dimbleby, a longtime Charles ally, also started doing a round of interviews, backing the Prince to the hilt.
"All the Prince's allies were turning the spotlight on us," complained one Downing St official.
The argument was simple enough. Labour wanted to focus attention on the "toff element" of the countryside march. It also wanted to stem the flow of letters from Charles which arrive on various ministers' desks about once a fortnight.
The two latest letters were lengthy expositions - the less kind might say rambles - about human rights laws, the "compensation culture" and political correctness. Those who have seen other letters penned by the Prince agree that they are typical.
A former Cabinet minister said: "The awful thing about so many of Charles' letters is simply that they are so meretricious. It's upmarket saloon bar stuff. He appears to take the view that he's the only person who ever meets the public. I'd love to see him deal with a twice-weekly surgery where he had to help sort out people's problems rather than just agree things ain't what they used to be."
Even an old friend of the Prince says: "He is charming company, but we always try to entertain him with eight or 10 people present or the whole evening turns into a fiesta of whingeing. The media, the traffic and the cost of everything nowadays are his favourite gripes. One of the Prince's less agreeable attributes is that he's used to sounding off without anyone answering back."
But the most curious reaction, according to some close observers of the royal family, came from St James's Palace itself. Prince Charles' new private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, authorised the issue of a statement on Wednesday afternoon defending the Prince's right to correspond with ministers. This duly ensured that, rather than being damped down, the story ended up on Thursday's front pages.
But not all of the Prince's staff are relaxed about the publicity.
"There's a view that all this makes him look like the common man and people will be glad to know these are his thoughts," said one senior courtier. "However, that's a high-risk strategy."
And the courtier suggested, most controversially of all, that the "conduit" for the Prince's views about hunting was not a Downing St insider at all, but "might well be" Edward Heathcoat-Amory, a Daily Mail columnist who has recently joined the small circle of traditionalist figures who advise the Prince.
They include Melanie Phillips, another Daily Mail commentator, former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead and author William Shawcross.
Charles has dined more than once with Heathcoat-Amory, brother of former Tory minister David. And he is known to particularly admire the journalist's wife, Daily Telegraph associate editor Alice Thomson, who is said to remind him of a young Camilla Parker Bowles.
"There's no doubt," said the courtier, "that anyone who repeated the Prince's comments or passed on details of draft correspondence they might have received would have been doing it with the very best motives. They may not have had the foresight to see where it would all lead."
Heathcoat-Amory could not be contacted at the weekend. If he was the source of the Mail story, it explains only too starkly why a spokeswoman for St James's Palace was adamant yesterday that there is "no leak inquiry under way".
The row may die down, overshadowed by the Labour Party's annual conference, plans for war with Iraq and news of former Conservative minister Edwina Currie's affair with former Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
But its implications will be felt for years. Charles feels that, as he is not monarch, he is free to speak out. It is a stark contrast to his counterparts abroad, such as Crown Prince Felipe of Spain, who operate with a tiny staff and stay out of politics altogether.
However, even Charles' public utterances in the past have either been restrained - witness his two anodyne speeches to the House of Lords as a young man - or upon subjects which are not overtly party political, such as architecture. Hunting, human rights legislation and fair treatment for black and gay people are current, contentious issues.
The Prince also values his hitherto good relations with Blair, whose support he will need if he is to one day negotiate the constitutional minefield of remarriage. Blair insists publicly that the Prince is welcome to air his views. But Downing St officials now say privately that Charles is viewed as too much of a loose cannon, firing off salvos on any subject that takes his fancy.
"A period of silence would be welcome," said one well-placed source close to the Prime Minister.
"There's no real appetite for republicanism either in Downing St or in the country," a former adviser to Blair said. "However, there's a persuasive argument that you just let things wither gently, cutting down the size of the active royal family, curtailing some of the excesses of influence and expenditure and reminding the public from time to time that a number of the Windsors are one canape short of a banquet.
"Charles is turning out to be rather good at making that case himself." - GUARDIAN.
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