DAILY MIRROR 31st Jan 2014
The BBC’s decision to shelve a documentary about the royals after pressure from Prince Charles’s lawyers was last night condemned by MPs and campaigners.
The national broadcaster axed two-part documentary Reinventing The Royals from its prime-time 9pm slot this Sunday.
It was due to feature claims that PR expert Mark Bolland was employed to make Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles more appealing to the public after Diana was killed in 1997 – a campaign dubbed “Operation Mrs PB”.
The programme had been cleared by BBC lawyers and included in schedules, but was put on hold at the last minute by BBC news chief James Harding after lawyers acting on behalf of the royals wrote of their concerns to the BBC.
Labour MP Paul Flynn said: “The BBC should have held firm. We are not being treated like adults when it comes to the royals.
“The BBC has no right to censor the truth about what is one of the most sophisticated PR operations in the country – and one we are paying for.”
Prince Charles’ advisers are understood to have been concerned that they had no input into the programme.
The documentary is presented by Steve Hewlett, the editor of Panorama during its infamous interview with Diana in 1995 in which she referred to Charles’s affair with Camilla, saying: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Following the interview the public turned against Camilla. She was viewed as a home wrecker, the most hated woman in England, aka “the rottweiler” – Diana’s name for her.
But Camilla’s patience has been slowly rewarded. She has become accepted, even admired by the public.
However, Prince Charles’s intervention could backfire, said Mr Flynn.
He explained: “All this will do is whet the public’s appetite. This will greatly increase the amount of interest and coverage this story will get.”
Graham Smith, of pressure group Republic, which is campaigning for an elected head of state, added: “The BBC cannot be negotiating its news coverage with the royals.”
The filmmakers were invited along to Sydney during Prince William and Kate’s visit to Australia in April, but it is understood royal aides became increasingly concerned about the film’s content which led to the lawyers’ letter being sent.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “The BBC is delaying broadcast of Reinventing The Royals, due to be shown on BBC2 on January 4, until later in the New Year while a number of issues including the use of archive footage are resolved.”
A spokeswoman for Clarence House said that scheduling was a matter for the broadcaster.
Guardian 31st 12 2014
Prime minister criticised for appointing Tory peer as lobbying watchdog chair
Former Conservative minister Angela Browning will head Acoba, as Labour attacks failure to overhaul ‘toothless’ system
Rowena Mason, political correspondent
David Cameron has been accused of encouraging the revolving door between Westminster and the private sector by appointing a former Conservative minister, who earns up to £800 a day from a political consultancy firm, to chair the government’s lobbying watchdog for a five-year term.
The prime minister named Tory peer Angela Browning as chairman of the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), which recommends whether ministers, senior civil servants, and top aides can take up private sector jobs on leaving their government posts.
The installation of a party insider to such a sensitive role is likely to reignite concerns about the effectiveness of Acoba, which has been criticised by Labour for being toothless when it comes to stopping former ministers taking up lucrative lobbying jobs.
Her appointment was announced on the last day before the Christmas recess.
Browning has promised to be “absolutely” independent in the role.
She was a minister in the Home Office until 2011 and is now paid between £300 and £800 a day for occasional work for a political consultancy firm, Cumberlege Eden. The firm trains people in the health industry on topics such as “how to influence the political agenda” and how to “gain experience of influencing the local MP over a topical health issue”, according to its website.
Lady Browning, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, will take up the role four months before the general election, after which it is possible a raft of her colleagues will want to take up private sector jobs, and will need approval.
A senior Tory source said Browning had been through the usual process for public appointments including applying for an advertised role and having a panel interview, while a spokesman for Acoba stressed that her private sector job was fully declared to the committee, of which she is already a member.
Her appointment was also accepted by the House of Commons public administration committee, chaired by Tory backbencher Bernard Jenkin. However, not all members of the committee were happy with the choice, with opponents including Paul Flynn, a Labour MP, and Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP.
Flynn said the appointment was a sign of Cameron’s failure to overhaul the system that scrutinises lobbying, which the prime minister once warned would be the next big political scandal.
“I have known Baroness Browning for a long time. She was a very good backbencher. But she sees nothing wrong with the way the committee currently operates,” Flynn said. “The revolving door is deeply corrupting not just when ministers leave government but when they look for these jobs while still in government. It’s not theoretical, it’s actually happened.”
He added: “You’ve got the great and the good who think it’s normal to pick up huge sums for a few days’ work and are actually presiding as judge and jury over what people like themselves do. In no way is it a watchdog. In no way is it a body in the public interest. It is a body to protect their own over-awarded jobs in retirement years. It ... goes to the heart of what is wrong with the political system.”
At the public administration committee hearing Browning stressed that she would be neutral, pointing to her work as an electoral commissioner and on the standards committee as an example of where she had to “balance sometimes quite delicate facts and issues in a very non-partisan way”.
The appointment is one of several instances in which Cameron has allowed political figures to run independent watchdogs.
He was criticised earlier this year for allowing Tony Caplin, a former Tory chief operating officer, to chair the £60bn Public Works Loans Board. Caplin was forced to resign after it emerged he was made bankrupt in 2012.
Cameron put Laura Wyld, a PR consultant and former Conservative campaigns officer, in charge of his public appointments unit, a politically impartial role.
Browning was a Conservative MP for Tiverton from 1992 until 2010, during which time she was an agriculture minister, sat on the shadow front bench and was a deputy chairman of the party. After being made a peer in 2010, she was made a minister for crime prevention in 2011 before stepping down for health reasons.
A former teacher and then management consultant, Browning will receive around £8,000-a-year in public money for the role, which will be two to three days a month of work.
Labour has already accused the advisory committee of being “toothless”, even before the appointment of a Tory peer to run it, because the body has never recommended any outright ban on a former minister taking up a private sector job.
Ed Miliband’s party has said it will shake up Acoba and give it proper powers to curb lobbying.
The series was due to have documented a PR plan to make Charles and Camilla more popular after Diana's death in 1997 in a campaign called 'Operation Mrs PB'.
Informed sources close to the Royal Family said its makers said it would be a 'general look' at the relationship between the media and the monarchy but 'appears to have become a hatchet job'.
Welsh Labour MP Paul Flynn told MailOnline: 'It seems to be gross interference with the BBC in their role to tell their paymasters, the British public, the truth.
'The Royals have used their expensive PR operation to influence the BBC.
'People are right to believe this is sinister censorship. This is not Moscow - the BBC should be fearless and free to broadcast.
'But the BBC should have held firm. We are being infantilised by broadcasters who are keeping the truth from us about the Royals.
'All this will do is increase pressure to have it shown and increase the number of people who will watch it when it is'.