Sunday, January 11, 2009
The destructive impact of those two little words can’t be overestimated. If anything argues for the termination of our contract with the House of Windsor, it’s Prince Harry’s use of the paki and raghead words. We’ve always suspected that racism is rife in our armed forces and this incident proves it. If our trainee officers have these words in their everyday parlance, you can be pretty sure they’re endemic throughout the ranks. Indeed, in the unlikely event that the Ministry of Defence wants to demonstrate a genuine commitment to eradicating racism, it would sack Harry immediately. But apart from leaving us with yet another redundant royal, that wouldn’t really be getting at the heart of the problem, which apparently lies behind the front door of the army’s commander-in-chief. Harry can be sacked from the army, but not from his role as a member of our monarchy.
For the last 24 hours, royal commentators have been trying to placate us with the justification that “this happened three years ago; Harry was naïve and innocent; it was just young lads in the army; he intended no malice”.
They’re absolutely right. There was no malice; he was young; the words just came out. But isn’t that what makes it all the more unacceptable? It’s the fact that the language was just sitting there in Harry’s everyday vocabulary that renders the situation so deplorable.
This young man, educated in an absurdly expensive school, was born into the most privileged family in the world; a family with a publicly funded lifestyle and wealth derived from prior centuries of taxation, yet which remains accountable to no one. So if youth and inexperience are to be used as excuses, point the accusatory finger instead at a school and family culture that apparently tolerate such language as normal. Blame either Eton, or the castle opposite the school’s gates on the other side of the Thames. Either way, it’s a sign of institutional racism at the heart of our privileged classes, and something you’d have thought a civilised democracy would have rooted out by 2009.
If I’d discovered one of my children using words like these, I’d have been the one to apologise first. I’d also be demanding a refund from their costly private school. Instead, this incident will probably be swept under the carpet as just another embarrassing royal gaffe, like the numerous snobbish and racist comments of his grandfather and great grandmother. The responsibility of parenthood doesn’t end when children get sent off to school or to university. Our children are what we make them, and if anyone should apologise to our Asian communities, it’s the monarchy itself.
Which brings me to my own children. In last week's blog I wrote the fateful words: “I’m determined things will run a little smoother” when referring to the imminent birth of Izzy, my fifth child. She was due to arrive on the 26th but, having recounted the story of how my firstborn scared the wits out of me by trying to arrive in the back of a campervan stuck in gridlock on the way to the hospital, Izzy decided she wasn’t to be outdone by her elder brother.
At 4am on Monday, just after I'd published the blog, Jo’s waters suddenly broke. This event coincided with a blizzard and a curious decision by the council not to grit the A696 or the A1. As a result the ambulance took an hour to arrive, and even longer to convey us, blue lights flashing, to hospital. I’m delighted to say Mother and baby are doing well and I have a thousand thanks to convey to Duncan Irons, who was roused from his bed to do the deed, and to all the amazing staff at North Durham University Hospital, who together make up the best maternity team I have ever encountered.