Three former Labour ministers have claimed that Prince Charles lobbied the last government on various issues such as complimentary medicine, education and the environment, according to the Sunday Times. David Blunkett, Peter Hain and Michael Meacher told the BBC that the Prince continually tried to raise issues close to his heart with ministers, although it is not clear to what extent he was listened to.
Speaking on a BBC documentary, “The Activist Prince”, David Blunkett, who served as Education Secretary from 1997 to 2001, said that Prince Charles wanted him to create more grammar schools.
These selective schools were credited with bringing high quality education to children who were bright but poor, helping them escape poverty and lead successful lives, but were largely abolished by Labour who saw them as divisive.
Blunkett said: “I would explain that our policy was not to expand grammar schools, and he didn’t like that.”
“He was very keen that we should go back to a different era where youngsters had what he would have seen as the opportunity to escape from their background, whereas I wanted to change their background.”
Asked whether he thought this could create constitutional problems, Mr Blunkett added: “I can see constitutionally that there’s an argument that the heir to the throne should not get involved in controversy; the honest truth is I didn’t mind.
“If you are waiting to be the king of the United Kingdom, and you’ve waited a very long time, you genuinely have to engage with something or you’d go spare.”
Also speaking to the programme was Peter Hain, who served in various government posts under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown:
Mr Hain said that he and the Prince shared an interest in complimentary medicine, which the Prince was keen to see introduced on the NHS, but was “constantly frustrated by his inability to persuade any health ministers anywhere that that was a good idea.”
Charles was interested in a complimentary health trial in Northern Ireland that had “spectacularly good results”.
“When he learnt about this he was really enthusiastic and tried to persuade the Welsh government to do the same thing and the government in Whitehall to do the same thing for England, but not successfully.”
Michael Meacher, who was Minister of State for the Environment from 1997 to 2003, also said that the Prince had tried to influence him, although in this case he needed little persuading.
“I knew that he largely agreed with me and he knew that I largely agreed with him. We were together in trying to persuade Tony Blair to change course.”
He said that he and Charles would “consort together quietly” about policy on climate change and genetically modified crops.
Asked whether this could cause a constitutional problem, Mr Meacher responded: “Well, over GM I suppose you could well say that. Maybe he was pushing it a bit. I was delighted, of course.”
Although some had criticised the heir to the throne for attempting to influence policy, there is little evidence he has succeeded in substantially altering the government’s agenda. Former Prime Minister Sir John Major also defended the prince:
“I think it is encouraging that the Prince of Wales is entirely free, from his unique perspective, to write to ministers or the prime minister in a way that is invariably intended to be helpful, and I think to cut that off, or to make sure those letters are much more bland than they otherwise might be, would be a loss.”