Friday, August 31, 2007

Diana: Thoughts and Reminiscences

Where was I when I first found out?

At my mum's house, in Hitchin, Herts. I'd gone there for the weekend to help her with the garden, but the news from Paris put paid to that. By 11am the following morning I was at my desk in the Commons helping my paper, the Newcastle Journal, put together its Diana coverage. I ended up writing a piece about how the marriage turned sour, though I'm not sure what qualified me, as political editor, to do that one.

What was my initial reaction?

I'm afraid to say my very first reaction was that MI5 must have bumped her off. Diana had become increasingly outspoken over the previous 12 months and was on the verge of becoming a political embarrassment. Of course only Richard Desmond and Mohammed al-Fayed still think this way today, but it seemed to me a logical conclusion to draw at the time.

Was it really Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell's finest hour?

Even as a Campbell-hater, I have to admit the man was awesome that week. He appeared in complete charge of the situation, to the point where he almost gave us lobby correspondents the impression that he had personally drawn up the funeral arrangements. A tour-de-force.

Did I think the Monarchy would be overthrown?

A lot of very influential people - notably Will Hutton, then the editor of the Observer - were trying to push that line, and the initial reporting of Charles Spencer's speech has to be seen in that light. But I always took the view that Diana was held in such public affection more because of her royal status than in spite of it.

Did Britain fall victim to an outbreak of mass hysteria?

It was more the case that public displays of grief became socially acceptable for the first time, though that must have seemed like hysteria to more conservative types.

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Unknown said...

You were not alone in your initial suspicions. There are those who do still believe she was killed off - by the Royal family, not MI5.

I do think there was a little hysteria - whipped up by the media as usual. In this case, I think is was in proportion to the shock and loss.

There was an interesting interview with the Archbishop on TV last night. He said he thought the public misunderstood the Queen's role in relation to Lady Diana. I was struckby this: if several million believe one thing, and a handful believe something different .. who's right?

I guess Diana will be Britain's JFK: I remember where I was when I heard.

Anonymous said...

Just blogged about the "Diana Lie" - I can honestly say that not only have I not shed tears, openly grieved, signed a book of condolences etc etc but I have also never met anyone else who did.

And yet the media continues to tell us that the country was "united in grief". It's not true.

Why do they continue to put this pro-Royal spin on everything? Particularly the BBC.

Incidentally, spent two minutes watching Sky News today and a couple of watchers texted in to complain about the extent of the Diana coverage. The presenter admitted:"We've had rather a lot of those.."

I am absolutely convinced that at least 90% of the British public are entirely ambivalent over Diana's death.

It was sad, yes. But how can you grieve for someone you have never met?

Anonymous said...

The only person I heard speak about it (other than my then wife who is even more republican than me) was a Pakistani lady who I met on a train (she was on a world tour visiting her children in UK, Canada and USA as I recall). She said that the people in Pakistan were all very sad about it and were quite sure that Diana had been bumped off because she was planning to marry a Muslim ...

Jen said...

I met Diana, briefly, at Great Ormond Street hospital when she visited and thought her a touch awkward and not quite worth the hyateria. But I was very sad for the loss of her life, both the manner in which she died and because as a mother myself I was desperately sorry for her sons. I think I was beginning to be aware of the manipulation of the public by the mass media and the subsequent hysteria made me think very differently about tv and newspapers and politicians. There's a conspiracy theory addict in me that does find it a tad convenient that she died when she did but the realist says it probably was an accident. Probably ;)