Queen's Private Opinion Goes Public

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is it possible to lead a country without disclosing your political allegiance?

Granted, some of the world's rulers back in the day might have been a little difficult to read. But in the 21st century, the idea that any head of state could keep his or her views about the world private is, frankly, ridiculous. Unless, of course, you're the Queen of England. Part of her mystique is the fact that, in all her years, no one has let slip what she might have said behind the closed doors of the palace.

That is, until now. The BBC was forced to apologize this week after revealing the Queen Elizabeth's views on the radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, which were disclosed off the record in a private conversation. 

Paddy O'Connell, host of the BBC's Broadcasting House, explains that although this breach might not seem like such a big deal on this side of the pond, in the UK, it is thought to be essential that the royal family remain impartial political - or at the very least, keep their views to themselves. "The issue here is that the Queen's views are meant to be private, and when expressed on the air on the radio, they cause shock, because the last time we've ever seen this sort of view portrayed was probably in that film with Helen Mirren."

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect the royals not to have views at all. It is widely known that Prince Charles writes letters to ministers in order to attempt to influence their positions and actions. There is a push by the press in the UK to have these letters made public, the argument being that the electorate has a right to know what is being said by their nominal leaders.

Paddy O'Connell thinks that complete openness of the kings and queens would lead to "madness" - but whether the support of a royal would help or hurt a candidate or a cause, it is difficult to say.

Guests:

Paddy O'Connell

Produced by:

Maggie Penman

Comments [3]

unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

Seems simple enough. "Off the record" means off the record.

If you as a media outlet can't live with that, don't ask.

If they tell you "off the record" and you don't abide by that,
don't expect too much inside information when you demonstrate
that you're not to be trusted.

And, if you think that's their problem not yours, then expect
to be considerably less well informed. Sometimes it's more
important to have the information, know that it has been corroborated,
verified, than it is to know the source.

The value of the information provided by a "free" press is in part
based on the ability of journalists to keep their sources confidential.
It's often a quid pro quo in exchange for information.

Here it's just as binding, valuable for the media from the ("extreme", "fringe") right as it is for ("biased" "liberal") media on the left.

I would think journalism in England is comparable in that regard.

And I would think they value credible, well sourced stories as much as
we do.

Hopefully lesson learned.

Granted, we're talking about the Queen's opinion, but, it is, after all
the "Queen's" opinion.

Unless that means less than it has.

Judging by the public apology, I would think that hasn't changed either.

Sep. 27 2012 05:25 AM
brian_in_brooklyn from Brooklyn

As Bagehot said, "To state the matter shortly, the sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights--the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn."

The Queen seemed to be well within her constitutional limits.

Sep. 26 2012 03:47 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I've always loved British humor.

Sep. 26 2012 10:28 AM

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