It is not often that I will jump to the defence of The Sun newspaper, in fact this may be the only occasion! So firstly, the facts in brief. On the 9th March 2016 The Sun ran a front page exclusive which claimed that the Queen supported Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit). There was speculation as to the source of this story, including ex-Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Michael Gove, both of which denied the leak. Claiming that the story was inaccurate, Buckingham Palace lodged a complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). The argument in essentially that the story must be wrong because the Queen is politically neutral and did not, indeed would never, voice such an opinion in public. The Sun has refused to name its source under journalistic confidentiality. So we await the verdict of IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses with interest.
These salient details are enough to draw a number of conclusions about the iniquity of Monarchy in the 21st century. Lets start with the fact that a free press has not only the right but the responsibility to report stories which are in the public interest. But specifically, there is an inherent unfairness at the heart of judging such a complaint. Firstly any investigation will require the Sun to divulge the source of the story. The paper has every right to defend its source. Roy Greenslade has pointed out the fact that both of the main suspects have vehemently denied the claim together with the fact that the Palace will field a number of other witnesses besides means that the odds are stacked against The Sun. But IPSO will certainly be denied the possibility of calling the one witness who could clarify just what was said at the event, the Queen herself! Consider if it were you or I who complained to IPSO and then refuse to turn up to state our case. We would almost certainly lose – so why should it be any different for the Head of State? At the very worst IPSO should find that the claim was unproven and throw out the compaint. Here is an example of the injustice of a private individual who uses privilege to avoid accountability.