Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

How I’ll remember Shirley Williams

[Getty Images]

Shortly after the news of Prince Philip’s death was announced by Buckingham Palace, a woman called Karen Geier tweeted the following: ‘Deeply saddened to hear it was peaceful. He deserved so much more (pain).’ Ms Geier is a writer who has been published by, among others, the Guardian and the Huffington Post. That’s the kinder, gentler left for you. Meanwhile, the BBC received 100,000 complaints (a record) for its relentless coverage, the entire schedule having been ripped up on 9 April so that a succession of people could explain to us how nice the Prince was. I suspect it wasn’t only carping lefties phoning in to moan — I grew a little tired of it all by lunchtime.

It is hard — in this instance — not to feel sorry for the BBC: damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The poor buggers will have been through countless rehearsals on how to cover the Duke’s death, the same ones I endured when I worked for the BBC back in the last century (except then it was largely for the Queen Mum, who in our reconstructions always expired with a whole trout sticking out of her mouth). There is a strict protocol which has to be followed and years’ worth of pre-recorded material to shove on air. It is a kind of anti-journalism, in that it never tells you anything you didn’t know already and the story itself, while undoubtedly sad, is journalistically unremarkable: ‘Very old man with heart condition dies.’

‘It’s to protect me from frostbite.’

It is always the same. I recall being bored to death when Nelson Mandela corked it. ‘Famous nice black man dies,’ I wrote at the time, causing the left to erupt in fury and call me a racist, as per usual. They failed to spot that I had made very similar comments when Margaret Thatcher died and we were treated to reruns of the miners’ strike, the Falklands War etc.

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