Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s ‘wonderful’ election speeches show ‘civic duty’

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The Duchess of Sussex in particular has been speaking out about the election, encouraging people ‒ especially women ‒ to have their voice heard. She even claimed those who do not vote are “complicit” during a virtual event from her Montecito home. However, she and Harry have been criticised for breaking the convention that members of the Royal Family should not speak about political matters.

A key aspect of a constitutional monarchy is that they remain politically neutral and the Queen and her family make sure they never come across as overtly political.

However, Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior royals at the end of March and are in uncharted territory as to what they will and should be allowed to speak about.

Australian historian Professor Jenny Hocking suggested that it is “wonderful” that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are encouraging people to vote, arguing that voting is a “civic duty” and not one that is partisan.

She even compared it to the work that the late Princess of Wales was involved in, issues that were “above politics”.

When asked about how the royal couple are reported in Australia, she told Express.co.uk: “There was quite an interesting coverage of Meghan Markle’s recent speeches encouraging people to vote, which I happen to think is a wonderful thing.

“Because it’s an expression of a civic duty, not partisan, political duty as some people seem to suggest it was, but actually it’s a civic duty and responsibility and a good thing to vote.

“It’s a broader inference, it’s more like the sort of things that I think Princess Diana was involved in, matters that were above politics in that sense, but actually were about broader, international and national concerns rather than party political concerns.”

In Australia, there is mandatory voting and so turnout is around 91 percent compared to the US where it is usually between 50 and 60 percent.

By comparison, the UK has had a voter turnout of between 60 and 70 percent since 2005.

Prof Hocking was referring to certain criticisms of Meghan and Harry’s decision to speak up about the election, whereby some have claimed they are clearly supporting one side over the other.

While the couple have not explicitly expressed who they are personally supporting in the election, many believe they prefer Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

This is in part due to Meghan’s previous comments about Mr Trump, calling him “divisive” and “misogynistic” in 2016, and in part because their values appear to line up more closely with the Democratic campaign.

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What’s more, Harry has a personal friendship with Joe and Jill Biden, who have attended the Invictus Games on several occasions.

They even appeared to take a jab at Mr Trump’s campaign, with Harry saying on one of their Time100 videos: “As we approach this November, it is vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”

However, neither Meghan or Harry have come out in support for Mr Biden or against Mr Trump and so, according to Prof Hocking, they are taking a civic, not a partisan stance.

She compared it to some of the work that Princess Diana did that went above party politics ‒ tackling issues like HIV/AIDs, homelessness and land mine clearance.

Indeed, some of the issues being discussed by Royal Family members today, such as the environment, could be viewed as more party political than merely encouraging people to exercise their democratic rights.

For example, there is an actual Green Party whose flagship policy is fighting climate change.

Prof Hocking also argued that other members of the Royal Family have been known to overstep the mark on speaking about political matters.

She referred to Prince Charles’ infamous black spider memos, in which he wrote to Tony Blair and members of his Cabinet about issues close to his heart.

She even claimed the Queen has been involved in a similar scandal regarding the Palace Letters.

The Palace Letters, which were released this year, were 45-year-old correspondence between the Queen, her former private secretary Sir Martin Charteris and the former Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr in the lead up to the Dismissal.

The Dismissal is a famous event in Australian political history, whereby the Governor-General dismissed the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 after he failed to get his budget through, and had the Leader of the Opposition come in as caretaker Prime Minister.

According to Prof Hocking, the Palace Letters revealed a “deeply disturbing” level of political engagement between the Queen’s private secretary and the Governor-General in the lead up to this constitutional crisis.

The Palace Letters: The Queen, the Governor-General, and the plot to dismiss Gough Whitlam’ by Jenny Hocking will be released on December 10. It is available here.

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