When will William and Kate admit that the Harry and Meghan hoo-ha has been great for them? As the dust storms continue to billow from the Oprah Winfrey interview, presumably the Sussexes are exactly where they want to be, generating big-bucks deals (Netflix/Spotify/“wellness”) from their £11m property in Montecito, Santa Barbara. However, hasn’t it also been rather good for the Cambridges? They appear to have morphed from a rather drab, stiff, prematurely middle-aged couple into a veritable beacon of royal decorum cum quasi-middle-class decency. There’s a palpable feeling that the media/public – leastways, the royalist media/public – is behind them like never before, applauding their every move. Sure, it was always so, but, post-Oprah, there’s been a tangible turbo-boosting of the Cambridges’ profile. Call it what it is: a pushback.
Cue last week’s video celebrating their 10th anniversary. Any other couple forcing others to celebrate their decade-long tru luv would have you demanding a bucket to retch into. The snarky Brit temperament being what it is, some might even ask: “What’s with all the PDA – are you guys getting a divorce?” But this was no public display of affection, it was marketing and the Cambridges are suddenly getting very good at it. Maybe even better than You Know Who.
Devoted smiles. Frolicking children in wellingtons. Marshmallows toasting on an open fire… In one way, it came across like a really weird Shirley Hughes children’s story (“Daddy is cross today because Uncle Harry has behaved badly”). In another, a John Lewis advert selling nothing, though, in truth, the Cambridges were hard-selling themselves.
And why shouldn’t they? This year has been grim. William spoke out against the serious racism claims in the Oprah interview, but the Cambridges suffered other indignities in silence (the story about Catherine making Meghan weep over bridesmaid dresses; the resurrection of “Waity Katie”). Though even at an occasion as sombre as Prince Philip’s funeral, a photo of Catherine peering over her mask had some combusting in excitement over “our future queen!”, while a brief chat with Harry sparked obsequious overdrive about the Cambridges’ innate refinement.
So, yes, it’s been rough but, ultimately, have the Cambridges had a good Megxit? The recurring theme post-Oprah has been worship of the Cambridges (“the future of the monarchy”) even beyond the usual sycophancy. Their popularity hasn’t only gone nuclear, it’s turned binary: choose a side, cheer on your favoured couple as if they were a football team. No more griping from the cheap seats about how Harry would have been a more “fun” king. For their part, the Cambridges appear to be actively colluding, offering themselves up as a fragrant, homegrown alternative to the Sussexes. Would that video have happened in normal times or could it be counted as a royal finger to Harry and Meghan?
So, perhaps Megxit did them a favour – it was the thunderclap that woke them up. Every strong brand needs a rival and the Cambridges appear to have found theirs.
Haven’t you heard, Tony? The nation’s barbers have reopened
Is there such a thing as a bad hair day on a sociohistorical scale? I’m in no position to mock former prime minister Tony Blair’s flowing grey mullet as seen on ITV News – I’ve spent lockdown resembling Alice Cooper after a budget blow-dry. But, Christ, what was that? Ageing Rocker is a classic look (and Blair did have that university stint in Ugly Rumours) but you can’t just rock up with lustrous silver tresses. You have to strike a pose, give it swagger. Am I right, Jimmy Page? Lucius Malfoy?
Likewise, the nod to Game of Thrones/The Lord of the Rings is all very well, but is it wise for Blair to make a bid for the fantasy-genre vote (the little-known “Frodo pound”) at this stage of his post-political career? Or were darker forces at play? As revealed by her unnecessarily candid memoirs, wife, Cherie, is a warm-blooded, passionate woman. Did she encourage this hair atrocity (“Tony, I need you to be more Fabio”) to deter other women?
Verdict: longer hair makes Blair resemble something you might encounter staring out of a haunted mirror on a ghost train. It’s hair so bad it could have changed history. Let’s face it, if Blair had had this hair in 1997, he might not have won general elections.
Never forget the innocent mother jailed again in Iran
When is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe coming home? Having served a five-year sentence for spying (which she has always denied), the British-Iranian dual national has been found guilty on the charge of spreading propaganda (at a 2009 demonstration at the Iranian embassy, for speaking to a BBC Persian journalist). She has been sentenced to a year in jail and reportedly banned from leaving Iran for a year after she is released.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been living a nightmare since 2016. Wife of Richard Ratcliffe (who tirelessly campaigns for her release) and mother of Gabriella (now six), she’s widely believed to be, as her MP, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq put it, a political “bargaining chip” in Iran’s dispute with the UK over the latter’s failure to deliver tanks in 1979. In 2017, the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, made things worse by saying she was “simply teaching people journalism”. There are disputes over foreign policy between the Iranian foreign ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. There are also reports that the nuclear talks due to recommence in Vienna made the Foreign Office balk at raising human rights issues, such as Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s account of torture and mental cruelty.
She is lodging an appeal, Dominic Raab called her treatment “inhumane” and Johnson said the government would “redouble its efforts” to achieve her release. They need to get on with it. The way things are going, who’s to say that two years will be the end of it?
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has become a powerful symbol in Britain – an innocent mother cruelly separated from her young child. Unfortunately, she also appears to have become a scapegoat in Iran, who looks increasingly unlikely to be released until Iran gets what it wants. Sometimes, it feels as if Zaghari-Ratcliffe will never make it home, but she must. Don’t forget her.
• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist
Source: Thanks msn.com