No respect for the royals: The Blairs show their boredom at the Highland GamesIn a provocative and important new book, the Mail's political commentator Peter Oborne paints a devastating portrait of Britain's new ruling class – an arrogant, out-of-touch alliance of MPs and other insiders who ruthlessly pursue their own interests, ignoring the public good.
Yesterday, he revealed the brutal attempt to destroy the ethics watchdog Elizabeth Filkin.
Today, in the final part, he reveals the insidious and relentless campaign New Labour waged against the Royal Family…For a modern monarch to rebuke a serving Prime Minister is extremely rare.The Queen has done it only once in her reign – and the object of her disfavour was Tony Blair. The telling-off came in the early days of the Blair premiershipThe occasion was the State Opening of Parliament which followed a few days after the 1997 election.
In a massive challenge to the authority of the British monarchy, Tony and Cherie Blair sought to capture the event for themselves.
They made the unprecedented decision to walk from Downing Street to Parliament while the Queen arrived in her royal coach.
This decision mattered deeply because the drama of the state opening is all about the Queen: her departure by stagecoach from Buckingham Palace, her arrival in Parliament through the Sovereign's Entrance under the Royal Tower, the putting on of the crown and robes of state before the final entrance to the House of Lords' chamber.
Although the famous ritual of the state opening theoretically celebrates the authority of the Queen in Parliament, in practice it is about something else.
When the monarch reads the Queen's Speech before all parties and both Houses of Parliament she is showing that the power of the British state has been thrown behind the ruling party.
She is demonstrating that the elected government has more than a factional programme and has a national legitimacy.
The Blairs' attempt to seize the limelight upset and disturbed the monarch, and in a rare and potentially dangerous rebuff the Prime Minister was asked not to do it again – an injunction that was reluctantly obeyed.
Later, friends of the Prime Minister presented the walk to Parliament as a chance decision made on the spur of the moment.
But by taking their walk from Downing Street to Parliament, soaking up the cheers of the crowds as they went, Tony and Cherie Blair were doing a great deal more than challenging the public role of the Crown: they were converting the state opening of Parliament into a partisan political occasion.
And although they obeyed the gentle request from the Palace, they continued to challenge the monarch both privately and publicly.
An air of understated but definite menace at all times lay behind New Labour's dealing with the monarchy.
In 1997 the New Labour manifesto gave an assurance that "we have no plans to replace the monarchy".
This undertaking – as the more intelligent courtiers grasped – would not have been made had an attack on the British monarchy not been on the agenda.
Plans to get rid of the Royal Yacht were at the heart of the election campaign, sending out what pollsters called a "dog whistle" message – not heard by everyone – that the party was opposed to the Royal Family.
In private briefings with allies in the Press, New Labour in government was openly hostile, with senior figures inside Downing Street freely attacking the Royal Family.
In private the Blairs and their official entourage showed a startling lack of respect.
For the first time since the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952, relations between senior members of the Royal Family and the Prime Minister became actively unpleasant.
This reflected a new attitude from the Prime Minister and those around him. His aides were capable of great impatience with royal procedures, often going beyond rudeness.
The worst offenders were Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, and his adviser Alastair Campbell. She would refuse to curtsy when she met the Queen, and was capable of blanking out senior members of the Royal Family when she encountered them.
She made no pretence at all that she enjoyed royal occasions, and often, through physical and other signals, made it clear that she would rather be elsewhere.
This private lack of respect towards the Royal Family came to be reciprocated. Once Cherie Blair told Princess Anne to "call me Cherie". "Mrs Blair will do," replied the Princess Royal.
This widespread private discourtesy was matched by a public failure to acknowledge the role and duties of the monarch.
Shortly after he was appointed Foreign Secretary in 2002, Jack Straw gave an interview to the Guardian in which he referred twice to Tony Blair as "head of state".
At one stage the Downing Street website described how the Queen enjoyed audiences with Tony Blair, and not the other way around.
The Treasury moved fast to remove the royal coat of arms from its logo and drop the initials HM from its official title. The change was said to "reflect a modern image under Gordon Brown's stewardship".
During a visit to Kosovo Tony Blair referred to "my" armed forces, oblivious to the important constitutional fact that British troops owe their allegiance to the monarch as head of state.
Meanwhile the Government set out to write the monarchy out of British public life, an audacious task involving the unravelling of 1,000 years of history.
The most important example of this was the very serious attempt by the Labour government to create a new national identity.
This involved disregarding the institutions of the state that had historically been at the heart of Britain, and replacing them by others, such as a new national day.
In a series of public statements Labour ministers argued that Britain should be defined by abstract values such as fairness. They never mentioned the monarchy.
A series of speeches by Gordon Brown about "Britishness" – an ugly and artificial word – systematically excluded the British monarchy, even though the Queen is head of state and the monarchy encapsulated Britain's long history better than any other institution, including Parliament.
As recently as June this year a pamphlet by the ministers Ruth Kelly and Liam Byrne explored ways of creating a new British identity.
The pamphlet cited local branches of the Sure Start child welfare initiative as important institutional statements of Britishness, but made only a cursory and passing mention of the monarchy.
The pamphlet showed how the new Political Class refused to recognise that the head of state could represent the nation with all its traditional pomp and splendour, while the head of government appeared in a more workaday role.
This very separation of pomp from politics has persuaded even some radical critics of the merits of the monarchy.
"It is at any rate possible," wrote George Orwell in 1944, "that while this division of functions exists, a Hitler or a Stalin cannot come to power."
Orwell's point was that the existence of the Royal Family prevented totalitarian movements from appropriating the symbolism of the state – a key factor in the rise of fascism and communism in the 1930s.
This symbolic role occupied by the monarchy was, however, an affront to the Political Class and in particular the New Labour government which came to power in 1997.
It swiftly sought to occupy the public space that had long been the proper preserve of the British monarchy. Attempts to intrude on the territory of the monarch were to become a repeated feature of the Blair period in office.
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997 gave a massive opportunity for the Prime Minister.
The words he uttered on the morning after the tragedy, in which he expressed his devastation at the death of Princess Diana, were brilliantly chosen and widely praised for expressing the mood of the nation.
Members of the Royal Family had been trained from birth to suppress their emotions, exercise restraint and show dignity.
The political philosopher David Marquand noted that when Diana died "the royals behaved as they had been taught to do: as symbols of the state, quintessential inhabitants of the public domain, with all its emotional austerity and self-control".
Previous generations of politicians, had shown comparable restraint (and the Tory leader William Hague was criticised for an inadequate expression of grief when he made his statement about the Princess's death).
Tony Blair, in his response, was at his most formidable as a politician. By showing open grief, and by using the phrase "people's princess", he was opening up new ground and massively extending the territory of the Political Class.
Five years later, following the death of the Queen Mother, the Prime Minister sought to intrude once again into the public domain occupied by the British Royal Family.
Within 24 hours of the Queen Mother's death on March 30, 2002, Tony Blair was seeking to enlarge his public role in the funeral.
Downing Street officials persistently rang Lt-General Sir Michael Willcocks, known as "Black Rod", putting pressure on him for the Prime Minister to play a more prominent part than had originally been planned, including the astonishing proposal that Tony Blair should break with precedent and walk from Downing Street to Westminister Hall in order to meet the Queen Mother's coffin. This pressure was rejected.
Sir Michael also faced intimidation in the wake of the funeral. He refused to endorse the false Downing Street claim that Tony Blair had not tried to muscle in.
After he withstood constant pressure, Tony Blair's press secretary Alastair Campbell vowed that "we'll get him one day".
The problem for Tony Blair and New Labour is simple to explain. The ten-day remembrance period for the Queen Mother left him without a central role.
At state events such as the Queen Mother's funeral, the Prime Minister of the day ranked lower than politically far less significant figures such as the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons.
This was not, of course, a threat to the Government: the funeral of the Queen Mother had nothing at all to do with politics as it had conventionally been practised.
But it was a challenge specifically to New Labour, because the commemoration period for the Queen Mother claimed back a part of British public life, normally outside politics, that New Labour has asserted as its own.
This meant that the queues for the lying-in-state were almost as disconcerting for New Labour as the grief for Princess Diana had been for the Royal Family five years previously.
The great celebration of the Queen Mother's life was an affront to the Political Class because it was a reminder of the existence of a Britain whose loyalties and allegiances went far deeper than party, but had everything to do with the love of Queen, country, village, school, town and family.
These allegiances were wholly compatible with voting Labour, Liberal Democrat, Tory or any number of other political parties.
They are not, however, compatible with totalitarian politics, which lays claim to space that lies well outside party politics as it has always been practised in Britain.
There is little doubt that New Labour in power yearned to make a full-frontal and lethal attack on the British monarchy. There is little doubt that only the sustained popularity of the Queen prevented it from doing so.
Had Prince Charles become king ten years ago, New Labour and the Political Class would have taken advantage of any weakness to strip the Royal Family of its remaining public role, and given a much fuller expression to its private republicanism.
Extracted from THE TRIUMPH OF THE POLITICAL CLASS by Peter Oborne, published by Simon & Schuster on September 17 at £18.99. & Peter Oborne 2007. To order a copy at £17.10 (p&p free), call 0845 606 4213.
Brave men who stood up to bullies
The key Political Class tactic in its battle to undermine and to destroy British institutions was to seek out apologists and collaborators in important positions.
The tactic worked again and again. The head of the Army, General Mike Jackson, for example, was won over as a vital ally, giving the Political Class cover and support as it carried out its aim of abolishing the 300-year-old British regimental tradition.
Only a handful of individuals had the moral courage and integrity to stand up to the mixture of charm, bribery and intimidation deployed by the Political Class.
An interesting case study is the attempt by ministers to suborn Lord Bingham, head of the judiciary.
He received a quiet approach from the Government in early 2005, just after Law Lords had ruled that government anti-terrorism measures were unlawful, when a private meeting with the Home Secretary Charles Clarke was suggested.
Bingham was instantly suspicious. "What is the purpose of this meeting?" he asked.
The reply came back that Clarke simply wanted to meet Bingham socially. But he refused, convinced a different agenda lay behind the approach.
"I can't believe," he said, "that this is intended to be purely social meeting." So Bingham sent Charles Clarke away with a flea in his ear.
Later he told legal colleagues at Gray's Inn of this sinister approach, which threatened to undermine the distinction between the executive and the judiciary which lies at the heart of the British system of government.
"So far as I am aware, only once has there ever been a suggestion that the Law Lords should meet with a group including the Home Secretary," said Bingham.
"I took the view, having discussed it with at least one of my colleagues, that it was very unwise for such a meeting to take place at that juncture." This refusal baffled and infuriated ministers, who launched a series of vicious public attacks on judges in the wake of judicial rebuffs.
Bingham remained in post, but others who stood up to Political Class intimidation fared less well.
One example is Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the committee on standards in public life. He criticised ministers for constant breaches of ethical guidelines, and he was not given another term in his job.