Prince Harry, always a favourite Royal when it comes to the cheaper end of the tabloid press, has recently been seen with US-born actor Meghan Markle. The two are thought to have been dating for around five months, and had even managed to get into Balmoral without the press discovering the visit. But once the Fourth Estate were certain that the couple were an item, they began to get ahead of themselves.
Exactly how far ahead of themselves the press has been getting has been revealed after Kensington Palace put out a strongly-worded statement this morning which told “the past week has seen a line crossed. [Harry’s] girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subjected to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public - the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces …”.
It is not difficult to find the front page smear: step forward the Murdoch Sun with its claim last week on the front page that “Harry Girl’s On Pornhub”. This was, allegedly, an “exclusive”. Nor was the evidence of “racial undertones” hard to locate, this being a speciality of the Daily Mail, where Alison Boshoff talked of “Miss Markle (“Miss”? What Century is this?) - who is of mixed race heritage”. Which is irrelevant.
Ms Boshoff (note 21st Century terminology) also sneers “It has been noted that her parents have both filed for bankruptcy in the past and that her family is neither wealthy nor well-connected … Raised in Los Angeles, Meghan is the treasured only daughter of Thomas and Doria. Her mother’s great-great-grandfather was a freed slave, named Wisdom, while Thomas’s family are Irish and from Pennsylvania”. Big deal. So what?
The Sun also ran “PRINCESS PUSHY Prince Harry’s new flame Meghan Markle is ‘a social climber’ who ‘is not fit to be royal’ - according to her own SISTER … Samantha Markle slams her half-sister actress as 'shallow' and 'a social climber' who shunned her family once making it in Hollywood”. Ms Markle and her half-sister have, it is later admitted, not seen one another for several years.
After all of that, Kensington Palace has told of “the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to Police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker and loved one in her life”.
There is more: “Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her … This is not a game. It is her life and his”. Our vibrant, free and fearless press don’t get it, do they? Harry knows all too well of the intrusion that his late mother was subjected to in the last years of her life. What has happened to Meghan Markle will have sounded alarm bells.
So where is IPSO? Where is the allegedly toughest press regulator in the Western world? Where is Alan Moses, setting up an investigation and warning the papers his organisation regulates that they must exercise restraint? The reality is that IPSO is, like the PCC before it, absent when it needs to show genuine toughness and leadership.
That’s not good enough. IPSO is a toothless sham regulator. We need and deserve better.