Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Princess Diana - Goddess or Devious Moron?

Reading 'The Blair Year's- Extracts from Alastair Campbells Diaries' coincided with the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, in fact with regard to this in Campbells diaries there are entries which begin to make one wonder about the extent to which Campbell was always accurately in touch with reality. You can of course argue until your blue in the face about the politics of the diaries, which seem to be primarily concerned with the project to ensure the removal of the Tories from office in the UK in the late 1990's at all costs. Having been friendly in the early 1990's with formerly dependable lefties such as Alan Milburn and Steve Byers, who succumbed to this 'New Labour' mission to succeed at all costs, sacrificing every socialist principle in the process, to become convinced social democrats or ex-socialists. One of the defining features of the 'New Labour' protagonists was their pride in their grip on reality, Milburn would often exort his former left comrades to 'get real' . 'Gritty' and 'tough minded' former Fleet Street journo Alastair Campbell would be one of the most realist of this new breed, freed from romantic notions of actually believing in anything, apart from seeing 'Labour' once more in power. It makes somewhat cringe making and uncomfortable reading, with the reader feeling embarrassed for Campbell when he moves into full Mills and Boon mode on his meeting with the ultimate Sloane ranger, Princess Diana.... From his Diary for Tuesday January 21st 1997 he writes about meeting Diana ' She was already there and looking more beautiful than ever.She had a magical quality that was almost there in pictures, but strongly so in the flesh'.....Campbell gushes later on when he describes how he was transfixed by Princess Diana who he described as "absolutely spellbindingly drop dead gorgeous in a way that the millions of photos didn’t quite get it."He began flirting with her after he claims she asked Blair to meet him in May 1995 and during a dinner party at a home in Hackney, East London. "There was something about her eyes that went beyond radiance," he said. "They locked on to you and were utterly mesmeric. She had perfect skin and her whole face lit up when she spoke and there were moments when I had to fight to hear the words because I’m just lost in the beauty." Later he describes a dinner party in Hackney in which Princess Diana criticised him for the stories he had written about her when he was a journalist. "I said is it all forgiven? And she said yes....She was a curious mix of fun (with a lovely girlish laugh, a beautiful smile and the ability to take the mickey out of herself) and insecurity".Campbell irked Blair at the same dinner party by telling Diana, after the Labour leader had been waxing lyrical about the importance of 'compassion' that Blair refused to ever give a penny to beggars. Tony Blair a few days later ribbed Campbell on this ' He said I did'nt have to drop him in it so spectacularly when he was giving all that bullshit about compassion .... He put on a cockney accent, said 'There was I chatting up this bird and my mate drops me in it cos he fancies her rotten.I clocked that one'. When Diana vaguely offers to 'help out' Blair and Co. Campbell writes, 'Diana had thought about it a lot, she knew it would be difficult but if she could help, she would like to. I said to Fiona ' What do you think she's after?' 'You', she said.' It is clear reading between the lines that Campbell did have a thing about Diana, although its less clear that it was as reciprocated as much as perhaps Alastair would like us to believe. On the other hand Australian feminist academic Germaine Greer is far less star struck by the Diana mystique speaking in Edinburgh recently she observed that '"I have come to the conclusion that she was a devious moron," said the Australian academic and broadcaster. "One of the things I have been puzzled by is why her whole life was such a mess. She made a mess of being Princess of Wales, but that is fine because the job is not do-able. It is an insane job and, in history, all but one of the Princesses of Wales have come to a sticky end – stickier than hers.
"I am also interested in why she couldn't manage life after being HRH. It still puzzles me that she does that no-no thing: she sleeps with married men. If you do that in Hello! magazine, you are beyond contempt. But she does it with Will Carling, we forgive her somehow – even though his marriage is in a very delicate state and it doesn't seem to have helped at all.
"Then she does it with Oliver Hoare, the antiques dealer, who eventually realises he is in deep shit and goes back to his wife. She makes 300 nuisance calls to his home phone number. And this is the angel that people want to crown."
It is difficult to judge what is motivating either of these writers , when absorbing their comments, in the case of Campbell is it conceit? In that the subtext of his reporting at such length his (surely imagined) chemistry with Diana is that he must be one helluva guy to catch her eye, and indeed Campbell's diaries reveal that he is beset with a number of insecurities, and constantly seeks to impress the reader with his importance, these diaries were always intended for publication, that much is obvious . In the case of Greer is there perhaps just a little hint of the green-eyed monster? One thing for sure is that both of these commentators were perfectly happy to utilise Diana as a mechanism to promote their respective publications.
After ten years will the Diana cult begin to fade at last? Or is it destined to reach yet still higher degrees of intensity as the years go by, it is surely one of the strangest phenomena of recent years that this rather dim, pretty and manipulative young aristocrat exerts such a grip on the imagination of the worlds media. What do you think ?


Jim Jepps said...

Interesting stuff - cheers.

One thing though - obviously the diaries came out well after Diana's death and have been heavily edited. Should we just accept at face value what Cambell has to say here... after all if he thought her a vacuous buffoon before she died (like many of the papers did) he'd hardly let on to that one afterwards.

I'm pretty sure he'll have cleaned up this version eradicating anything remotely critical of Diana.

Frank Partisan said...

"Her violent death in a car crash last Sunday morning has been followed by a demonstration of popular feeling so deep and broad as to have alarmed the institutions of the state. She has shown the power of the crowd." (Financial Times, 6-7/9/97.)

"Diana would not be thought good if the causes she had espoused had been privatisation, workfare and the charity ball; her instincts, amazingly for one with her background and education, took her unerringly to the liberal wing of the spectrum of supportable causes. Homelessness, Aids and landmines are all issues with which the Conservative mind is instinctively uneasy - and an important reason why the responses of William Hague and the Conservative Party to the past week have been so feeble." (The Observer, 7/9/97.)

The Monarchy didn't understand the appeal of the outsider. She was both at the same time the subject of the scandal sheets, and given publicity for visiting hospitals etc. The media had a field day both ways.

She was the outsider, the human one in the story. Even what Greer says, points out unmonarch like behavior.

Graeme said...

I never understood the fascination with her

Louisefeminista said...

I was shocked by the levels of outpourings of grief and wondered what caused this. And for me, she was a member of the parasitical ruling class. But I think it goes further than that.

I also wrote a post about the Diana Phenomenon on Stroppyblog, it takes a different analysis (well, not drastically different but from a different perspective). Shameless plugging, I know.


Anonymous said...

Diana epitomised a lot of different fantasies /realities for many women. she was the fairy tale princess of our childhood stories who grew into the insecure bulimic trapped in an unhappy marriage who constantly sought approval and validation from men through sex. classic low self-esteem behaviour. Of herself she has no importance, but the reasons so many women identified with her is highly pertinent to the condition of women in society.
As to men's fascination with her - could it just be the potent combination of sex appeal and power/celebrity? surely not as simple as that. after all men are more complex than that aren't they? Campbell is just another man stroking his own ego, but it's perfectly possible that Diana flirted with him - it would fit her pathology.
For me Diana was an irrelevance and as Louisefeminista says, a member of the parasitical ruling class, but there was an identification with her from many women that we ignore at our peril.

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