Peter Rhodes on foreign reporting, a protesting MP and His Majesty's pen-malfunctions

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Clive Lewis took a pot-shot 
Clive Lewis took a pot-shot 

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP and former shadow cabinet minister, jumped the gun – and broke Keir Starmer's orders – by taking a pot-shot at the monarchy before the Queen was laid to rest.

Lewis raged that the arrest and condemnation of anti-monarchy protestors proved that the royal succession “is as much about coercion as consent”. Well, it's a point of view. But how many of those who defend free speech directed against the monarchy take the same relaxed view of those who gather outside abortion clinics to harangue patients and staff? Or do we only support the sort of free speech we happen to agree with?

How accurate an impression of the Queen's death and commemoration was gained by the citizens of other nations? One London-based correspondent for a German newspaper told his readers that “hardly any British media . . . dared comment on King Charles III’s rude gesture of impatience during the acclamation”. This is presumably a reference to His Majesty's pen-malfunctions, a couple of incidents which were entirely ignored by the British media – apart from the Daily Mail, Daily Express, I.News, Guardian, Financial Times, BBC TV, BBC Sounds, ITV, the Metro, the Spectator, the Daily Mirror, this newspaper and just about every other newspaper, broadcaster and news website in the land. Pens? Nah, we hardly mentioned them.

The pens incidents introduced us to a term I had never encountered before. On Radio 4 a royal expert (goodness, aren't there a lot of them?) referred casually to a feature of the Royal Family, as though we were all aware of it and prepared for more of it. He mentioned “the Windsor temper”. Fascinating.

By chance, Any Questions (R4) asked the panel what advice they would give King Charles. Strangely, none of them offered an obvious tip: Stop fannying around with fountain pens and buy yourself a decent biro.

Our changing language. There's a growing tendency among some writers, usually the young and sensitive, to avoid writing “he” or “she” and use the genderfluid “they” instead - even if it risks confusion. Thus, the Guardian tells us that after the disturbance in Westminster Hall, “the man darted out of the line . . . before they were swiftly detained”. Full marks for wokeness, no marks for clarity.

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