In our world of fear, there are some glimmers of hope at last

Last updated at 11:41 07 March 2005

With A poem by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, and special postage stamps agreed by the Queen, the April 8 wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles is hardly the discreet, low-key affair we were led to expect.

We're told the £52-a-mile royal train is to be used, pulled by a vintage steam locomotive, the Duchess of Sutherland, to convey the bride and groom to Birkhall, their Highland honeymoon destination.

If so, the Charles/Camilla nuptials sound as elaborate, albeit on a smaller scale, as his 'fairy-tale' 1981 marriage to Diana Spencer. Charles and Camilla are more Mr and Mrs Shrek than Prince Charming and Cinderella but at least the bridegroom-to-be sounds enthusiastic this time.

Prior to his first wedding, asked if he and Diana were in love, Diana replied: 'Of course' - and Charles added: 'Whatever "in love" means.'

Asked the same question about Camilla last week in Australia, he replied: 'Yes, very much.' Charles must have winced many times after seeing the TV clip of himself uttering the callous-sounding 'whatever "in love" means'. So it's not surprising he didn't fall into that trap again.

But, is there a little more to it than that? He wants to marry Camilla. He has fought the Queen, the Church and the public for the right to do so. As he sees it, he couldn't avoid marrying Diana Spencer.

The love affair between the winsome, innocent 19-year-old daughter of an earl and the ladykilling, 31-year-old Prince caught the public imagination. Was he serious - or sowing his wild oats, as usual?

That was the moment Diana first recognised the power of public sentiment and how the Royal Family had to respect it. Under enormous pressure from the media to confirm the status of the romance - with no support from Charles or his family - she smiled her way shyly into the public's heart.

The mood about their romance turned ominously from 'Isn't Prince Charles a bit of a lad?' to 'What a rotten shame if he's leading that poor girl astray'.

Charles was told by Prince Philip to make up his mind and took this to mean he must marry Diana.

That's been his story ever since - pushed into marrying a young, inexperienced girl who couldn't cope as his wife.

So why should his marriage, 30 years delayed, to the woman he has always loved, be some hole-in-thecorner affair? Wouldn't that merely confirm that he had been in the wrong?

So we're to have special stamps and a romantic overview by the Poet Laureate. Will the image of Camilla enjoy full prominence on the stamp design which is chosen?

Or, will she and Charles be in the background with the Queen hogging the foreground? Whatever design is chosen, experts on the projection of image will be on hand to advise us on what message is intended.

Even before we've seen the stamp, the Queen - by agreeing it - has rescued herself partially from the public perception that she's against the marriage in principle.

As for the Poet Laureate, Mr Motion says: 'I feel it is an important part of my work to mark significant events in the royal calender.'

He has not been idle, having written poems marking the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones; the 100th birthday and then death of the Queen Mother; the death of Princess Margaret; and the 18th birthday of Prince William.

A fitting poem to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla will undoubtedly be his greatest challenge.

Will he find the poetic means of acknowledging the sometimes bitter opposition to the marriage, including the nine formal objections to the registrar general, Len Cook?

If he doesn't, amateur poets certainly will.

The prospect of the mature royal newlyweds rushing north by steam train for the long-delayed Highland consummation of their union would certainly have inspired Scotland's prince of doggerel, William McGonagall.

The BBC is accused of 'a disgusting warping of our values' by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, for paying £4,500 to convicted criminal Brendan Fearon.

Yesterday,Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, said she understood 'the disquiet and unease people feel about this'.

I felt disquiet and unease about the BBC's approach to the story.

A report on BBC TV news said the corporation was 'reported' to have paid Fearon £4,500. In other words, this was merely what people were saying. In fact, the BBC did pay Fearon £4,500. And it knew it had. So why did it suggest otherwise?

Tales of terror from his lordship

Retied Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, now elevated to Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, says there are 'at least 100 Osama bin Ladentrained terrorists are walking Britain's streets'.

Moreover, 'the number is probably nearer 200 . . . the cunning of Al Qaeda means we can never be exact'.

The new Prevention of Terror Act 'must be passed as soon as possible', he urges. Sir John knows more than I do about terrorism. He has had access to details about Al Qaeda suspects in Britain.

So I make no comment on his warning other than an obvious one arising from his article.

If, as he admits, 'even larger numbers of undercover agents, moles and special, deep-cover surveillance teams risk their lives daily to track and monitor the evil in our midst', why is there a need for more legislation to reduce our rights?

On a lighter note, I congratulate Sir John on maintaining a splendidly high profile and commiserate with his successor, Sir Ian Blair.

While his lordship makes headline news with his warnings about terrorism - and endears himself to the Government - Sir Ian says the same and is practically ignored.

He is also mocked regularly for his political correctness.

Who spilled the beans on baby Quinn?

The blighted romance of Kimberly Quinn and ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett is back in the news. Who told the papers that DNA tests prove Mr Blunkett is not the father of Mrs Quinn's son, Lorcan?

Mrs Quinn's understanding (to put it mildly) husband, Stephen, has no doubts. He says: 'We are angry that Mr Blunkett has, yet again, chosen to talk to the Press about matters concerning our family.'

Then, referring to two-year-old William, fathered by Mr Blunkett, he added a headline-grabbing detail: 'I will not draw a distinction between biological and non-biological - we are not buying Persil or Daz.'

So who is Lorcan's father? An Indian businessman, M. J. Akbar, is elevated into the Friends of Kimberly pantheon along with Mr Blunkett, The Guardian's Simon Hoggart and banker Lord Leitch.

Mr Akbar denies having 'a Clinton moment' with Mrs Quinn. Then, showing his familiarity with this saga, he adds: 'This is not a denial of the Simon Hoggart kind . . .'

Mr Blunkett bears a heavy responsibility for putting this family scandal into the public arena. Home Secretaries can't have affairs and sire children, with married women, without risk of exposure. Neither can they 'fast-track' visas for their mistress's nannies.

Nor can they feud - either personally or via surrogates - with the woman concerned when the affair ends. Stephen and Kimberly Quinn are private citizens; they can do as they please and take the consequences.

As a minister of the crown, Mr Blunkett was guarded 24 hours a day by Special Branch detectives. So it's inconceivable the Prime Minister wasn't told about this affair.

Did Mr Blair warn his friend, whom he likes to guide by the arm when they are in public, that it wasn't on?

Or, does Mr Blunkett's blindness make him a special case?

That's always been the elephantin-the-drawing-room question about this curious affair.

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