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28th April 2011
Part 2: The Whys and Wherefores as to the failure to invite Blair and Brown to William and Kate’s wedding
ORDER OF THE GARTER. SOMETHING BLUE?
SOMETHING NOT BLUE – A PRICKLY PROBLEM?
The official explanation for omitting the two previous prime ministers from the guest list for William and Kate’s wedding is that neither holds the Order of the Garter. This is a shoddy excuse in more than one way.
Being Scots-born both Blair [Edinburgh] and Brown [Glasgow] would be eligible for the Order of the Thistle, not the Order of the Garter. If Palace officials cannot get that little detail right, can we expect them to understand why it was SO wrong to exclude Messrs Blair & Brown from the
family, sorry, national wedding of the decade/century/millennium?
Slighting the Labour party is dangerous enough from a supposedly non-political monarchy.
Slighting the Scots is asking for trouble!
THE BLAIR STORY
Before we try to get to the bottom of this garter/thistle, a little background political history.
To many of the Labour party faithful Tony Blair was never one of them. They put up with him because he was a winner. Three times a winner. And it took THIRTY THREE years for Labour to find one. He was historically unique in their party. They just failed to understand WHY he was a winner. It was not a quirk of the voting system but the fact that Blair had changed perceptions of the ‘People’s Party’. Voters who had always steered clear of the collectivist party of the Trades Unions felt more comfortable from the day in 1995 when the New Labour leader Blair consigned Clause IV – COMMON OWNERSHIP (nationalisation) of the means and fruits of production – to history.
Adopted in 1918 by the Labour party: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”
Clause IV was abolished in 1995. Tony Blair, Labour party manifesto, 1997:
‘Our case is simple: that Britain can and must be better’
‘The vision is one of national renewal, a country with drive, purpose and energy’
‘In each area of policy a new and distinctive approach has been mapped out, one that differs from the old left and the Conservative right. This is why new Labour is new’
‘New Labour is a party of ideas and ideals but not of outdated ideology. What counts is what works. The objectives are radical. The means will be modern’
‘ This is our contract with the people’
From 1994 Blair’s Labour party was to become what history will show to be the most progressive and reforming party for decades. I believe that is so even in its first term, contrary to much widespread opinion of a “slow start” . Devolution to Scotland and Wales, an elected Mayor for London, as well as working flat-out on the Northern Ireland issues (for 10 years) would be enough for most. But there was also the minimum wage, handing interest rate control to the Bank of England, and huge spending on Education and the Health Service.
It is questionable as to whether most of this, for good or ill, would have happened without Tony Blair. Now all of it is accepted and even developed by Cameron’s Conservative party.
Wintour & Watt in The Guardian often refer to Blair’s legacy. For instance here today –
‘The rule book was written by Tony Blair, regarded by Cameron as the “Master”, who said that public service reforms are always opposed when they are launched but end up being accepted.
Michael Gove, the education secretary who is close to Cameron, showed the influence of Blair when he interrupted an interview with myself and Patrick Wintour last year to read out the key passage on page 481 of Blair’s memoirs, A Journey. Blair wrote:
It is an object lesson in the progress of reform: the change is proposed; it is denounced as a disaster; it proceeds with vast chipping away and opposition; it is unpopular; it comes about; within a short space of time, it is as if it had always been so.
Cameron obviously believes the Blair approach is right. But there is one key difference between Cameron and Blair which Downing Street appears not to appreciate. Blair was a Labour prime minister. This meant that while he faced intense opposition from within the Labour movement to his health and schools reforms, the wider electorate never believed he was dismantling the NHS.’
Enough of the obvious. Blair was the changemaker. But was this “change ” too much for the royals?
WHO WEARS THE GARTER?
Most retired Prime Ministers have this order (or its Scots equivalent) bestowed on them by the Monarch. Usually some years after they retire, seldom less than 5 years afterwards. Blair will have been out of office for 4 years in June. Besides the reigning monarch and the Prince of Wales there are only ever permitted to be 24 Knights of the Garter. Right now there is only one vacancy. [According to John Rentoul here the Express says there are three vacancies.] Whichever is accurate, neither Mr Blair nor Mr Brown was knighted on Saturday, St George’s Day, the usual day for bestowing such honours. Perhaps it’ll be St Andrew’s Day instead, several months too late for the wedding.
SO IS THERE ANY TRUTH IN THIS ‘NO GARTER’ STORY?
Being as generous as I can, let’s just take as read the Palace’s explanation. Put aside for a moment that there is actually no particular written or practical protocol for this marriage, a non-official-state occasion. Put aside that to some of us Brown and Blair’s omission seems unusually rude, inconsiderate and not the best public relations from the Palace or Clarence House, Charles’s residence. Put all that aside. It is always possible that the Garter argument has some merit.
It is always possible that the Royal family were not put out by Labour’s ending of most hereditary peers in the Lords. It is always possible that Charles wasn’t upset by Blair’s high praise of the deceased People’s Princess. It is always possible that no-one minded when Britannia was decommissioned or when the Queen’s Flight was no more. It is always possible that none of the royal family ever felt threatened by Blair’s popularity, which eventually waned, and did not worry about the “president Blair” tag the press liked to hang on him.
If all of those possibilities are accurate what other reasons would the monarchy have for excluding Blair and Brown? Blair, for one, was and still is , unless he’s recently changed his mind, a strong monarchist.
Well, it could be that Prince William himself did not want them there. Perhaps he doesn’t like either, though I somehow find that hard to accept. Nor do I believe that William would have had his doubts about the Iraq war, even though friends were killed in battle there. Our once non-politicised monarchy, unlike such as Saudi Arabia (whose Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz will be at the wedding) does not permit political opinions to influence such decisions. Or at least it didn’t.
William and his brother Harry have also served in the forces in Afghanistan or Iraq. They know that the people there are largely grateful for allied help. That’s not something you read about much in our press, of course, but it’s true nonetheless.
THE ORDER OF THE BOOT
I am trying, I really am, but I have to conclude that this is an error of enormous proportions, even though many do not presently give a hoot. My own feeling, and that’s all that it can be, is that it is Charles’ doing, and primarily against Tony Blair. Clearly it would have been too obvious to have invited Brown while leaving Blair out of it.
Today it is Blair and Brown who have been given the Order of the Boot. Tomorrow, this precedent set, it could be David Cameron and his Tory successors.
Others’ thought on this –
- Silver Surfer Today
- New York Times
- Labour party complains of “vindictiveness” and even blame Number 10. Surely not, David?
India Times – Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist leaders invited but no Blair or Brown.
“Leaders of Hindu, Muslim, Jain and Sikh religions in Britain are among nearly 2,000 people on Friday’s royal wedding guest list that has already generated controversy over the presence and absence on it of some individuals.
Among those invited to attend the high-profile wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton are Anil Bhanot, one of the founding members of Hindu Council UK; Natubhai Shah, President of the Jain Academy; and Indarjit Singh, Director of the Network Sikh Organisations (UK).
Other religious leaders invited include Imam Mohammad Raza, the Chief Rabbi (Lord Sacks); Bogoda Seelawimala, Acting Head Monk of the London Buddhist Vihara; and Maulana Syed Raza Shabbarm of the Muhammadi Trust.
Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have not been invited to the royal wedding, while Margaret Thatcher and John Major figure prominently on the guest list.
However, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his partner Justine Thornton have been invited.
Human rights activists had pledged to disrupt Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa’s stay in Britain with a series of protests, alleging that he was the chief architect of the Saudi-backed security forces’ violent response to the demonstrators.
The Bahrain prince wrote to the Prince of Wales apologising for withdrawing, which he described as a matter of “deep regret”.
He said he had left the decision “for as long as possible in the sincere hope that ongoing events – resulting from recent unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain – might have improved, leaving me able to join the celebrations without being overshadowed by issues in Bahrain.”
The royal wedding event is likely to see some protests because of the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz; Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UK Gabriel Machinga; and the King of Swaziland Mswati III over human rights abuses in their countries.”
You’d think they’d want to fill the empty spaces left by the Bahrain Prince and Dame Thatcher. The latter is not attending due to ill-health. If so, I have a couple of suggestions.
Part 3 to follow: A right royal turnaround from which British newspaper?
Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here
I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)
The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
Blair was the greatest Labour Prime Minister. It is a disgrace that the party has turned away from his legacy. Shame on Ed Miliband and his so-called ‘new generation’.
Tags: a right royal spin, excluded, Gordon Brown, Kate Middleton, missing garter, not invited, Prince William, Royal wedding, snubbed by the monarchy, something blue, something red, The Royals, Tony Blair