The BBC scrapped all regular programming to cover Prince Phillip’s death. The complaints roared in from viewers, listeners and online followers who complained that it was all too much and they wanted their regular programs back.
An indication of the fervour of media monarchists the BBC was immediately attacked for making it too easy to complain.
Back in Australia the ABC morning – yes morning – presenters were dressed in black as the wall-to-wall coverage began. They had probably learnt the bitter lessons from the UK furore when a long-ago BBC newsreader reporting on a Royal death failed to wear a black tie on set.
The coverage started with an interruption to a Vera episode and then went on and on.
The ABC not only wore funereal black but also genuflected suitably until someone who didn’t get the loyal subject briefing posted online that Prince Phillip “was called rude, racist, sexist and plain insensitive.”
It trimmed a bit in the first paragraph saying he “became well known for his long record of inappropriate or awkward gaffes.”
These “inappropriate and awkward gaffes” included: asking an Indigenous Australian welcoming party whether they still chuck spears at each other; asking a Scottish driving instructor how he kept his students off the booze for long enough to pass the test; insulting the Nigerian President; warned British students about not staying in China and becoming ‘slitty-eyed’; and, offending a Black peer along with blind and wheel chair bound people.
The ABC did miss the dangerous driving by Phillip, who as a decrepit old man in a four wheel drive, went crashing into other cars.
The ABC, probably conscious of the inevitable backlash against it for disloyalty and disrespect for the dead, trimmed with the words: “Whether he genuinely thought he was funny or simply lacked tact, the Duke of Edinburgh managed to cause offence, embarrassment or mirth at many public occasions — something of which he himself was aware.”
Needless to say they also took the precaution of quoting John Howard’s praise for him.
In case anyone was silly enough to believe Scott Morrison was the master of making political points in all situations Howard showed why he was the real master.
“He had a great sense of humour. He gave short shrift to political correctness when he encountered it, and that endeared him to millions of people,” he said.
For further protection the ABC went to prolific biographer and writer AN Wilson – he has an AI computer application which churns out his books – who said he believed Prince Philip was misunderstood and was in fact very funny.
“They are the kind of jokes a naval officer of a certain age might make. I think [they are] made rather wonderfully,” he said.
But as a novelist observer of British society, who prefaced comments from his fictional PM, could have said about Phillip and the British navy: You might say but I wouldn’t – let’s bring back the lash, rum and buggery and all have a good laugh.
Whether the provisos will be enough to avoid another all-in hit job on the ABC by the usual suspects is doubtful.
Even The Guardian got a bit carried away with the idea with: “It’s a stretch to call him a feminist icon but the Duke of Edinburgh allowed his wife the spotlight as husbands of public figures rarely did.”
And then proceeded to compare him to Denis Thatcher – which given Denis’s background in trade would have prompted snorts from the Prince and a frown from the monarch who was never that keen on Maggie. Presumably because Maggie tried to be monarchical in her audiences with the Queen.
But oddly the comparison with Denis Thatcher is not entirely a bad one. Denis provided the money and stood loyally by Maggie. In a sort of reverse situation Phillip, thanks to Mountbatten, ended up standing loyal as the Prince Consort rather than just an obscure Greek royal.
However, given this background and his approach to the job he was never a Prince Albert whose performance in the Royal bed (we don’t know the details of this in Phillip’s case despite odd rumours about extra marital activities) ended up giving him huge political influence.
Needless to say Scott Morrison – with that faux sincerity he exhibits when he’s not sneering – spoke with deep feeling about the loss, ordered a 41 gun salute and had flags sent to half-mast.
Whether the half- mast was for Phillip or the vaccination roll-out is still unclear.
Last words have to go to Mark Latham. When President George W. Bush, who must wake up every morning thanking his god for Donald Trump, visited Australia Mark Latham referred to the politicians welcoming him as a ‘conga-line of suck holes’.
Latham – even if mad, bad and dangerous to know – had a wonderful way with words from time to time and a reprise of the sentiment might be in order on this sombre occasion.