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The Queen in her knit-your-own-monarch role

The marketing men at the palace, the ones who have been engaged to re-package the royals, have struck again. And the latest evidence is that they are deadly serious about reaching out to the right audience - for the new target is that vast amorphous mass: the grey market.

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The Queen has clearly been taking tips from her last Prime Minister but one. Perhaps she has even joined what they themselves describe as ''the discerning band of readers of the magazine that scooped the world with the Margaret Thatcher exclusive interview''. She has not exactly given an interview to Saga magazine, but the palace did invite them to join the Queen on a royal away-day. ''It was an unprecedented occasion for any magazine,'' reports Saga, somewhat breathlessly, above the account written by the royal biographer Douglas Keay who had been sent to follow her around. ''Saga was honoured and delighted to accept.'' Well, yes. And one would imagine also that the palace was delighted with the result. In one journalistic swoop they reached a readership of which the red-top tabloids would be proud with six pages of ''positive'' reporting and full colour pictures. Let us not forget: the grey market is big business. Saga magazine is said to have a readership of millions, second only to the Reader's Digest. The article presented the Queen in her new accessible knit-your-own-monarch role and managed to avoid Hello! magazine's obsequiousness. The bit I liked best was when they went to a power station. The local big cheese asked nervously if it was her first visit to a power station. ''No,'' she said. Then he asked Prince Philip if it was his. ''No,'' he said. There was apparently an awkward silence. ''It's very difficult to have a first visit to anything when you've been Queen for almost 50 years . . .'' said the prince, by way of explanation. He didn't mention that it was only the other day that she visited her first public house and her first burger bar.

There was a discernible difference, too, in the language of the Queen's Speech (with a capital ''S'') as she enunciated her government's plans. I hate to think that it might have been polished - or ''put through the typewriter'' as we still say in my trade - by my distinguished successor as political editor of the Daily Mirror, Alastair Campbell, because, if so, he departed from the best house stylebook ever written for a newspaper. Keith Waterhouse wrote a brilliant little book for Daily Mirror journalists, years ago when he was the star columnist and the Mirror was a newspaper. The Queen's words this week were, however, a little loose on the syntax, as more than one of my colleagues observed. For example, while repeatedly delineating the plans of ''my government'', she then went on several times to refer to other things that ''they'' had in mind for the forthcoming parliamentary session thus rendering her government into the plural. This is a syntactical problem with which political journalists have long been familiar: is the Government singular, or made up of many members? Most of the pedants among us have usually resolved this in the singular. And so, normally, has the Queen in the Speech. Mais nous avons change tout cela aussi.

There is something invidious about the way in which ''new'' Labour seeks both to manipulate the media and then later to rub our noses in the way in which we, the press, have been unwillingly or even unknowingly used. There has already been some comment about the Prime Minister's use of the phrase ''stability is a sexy thing'' - with reference to the state of the economy - in his speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guildhall. It was a pretty dull speech and attaching the word ''sexy'' to a dull concept succeeded in attracting exactly the publicity that was sought. It was less attractive to learn that Alastair Campbell had afterwards been sneering at journalists for having successfully fallen for his invented hype.

Someone else who is re-writing history is Sir Edward Heath in his book of memoirs which the political world is slowly plodding through, like walking in gumboots through porridge. One of my colleagues distinctly recalls covering a rally in the 1970 election - in the days when we still had political rallies and journalists actually left the press gallery to report them - and being present when Heath was told of an appalling poll rating for his party just before he addressed a huge crowd in Manchester. Despite the grim news, he put in a barnstormer. The episode is recounted in the book but Heath gets it quite the wrong way round and relates that he only hears the bad news later. Could it be that he has merely forgotten? Or is this the problem with writing your memoirs 25 years late?

There was one literally blood- chilling phrase used by the Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, when he was attempting to be reassuring about the current state of play on avoiding infection with new-variant CJD. He revealed in an interview that four blood donors have been identified among those who have been victims of the disease and who have since died. He then said that their blood had been withdrawn ''where it had not been used''. The other unlucky recipients will presumably find out in due course.

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