The worst and best of the Royals

I AM not in the habit of reading The Daily Mail, but these words caught my eye: "The declining audience they attract is almost as narrow as the aging rump of support that sustains the ailing Conservative Party."

I AM not in the habit of reading The Daily Mail, but these words caught my eye: "The declining audience they attract is almost as narrow as the aging rump of support that sustains the ailing Conservative Party. Indeed, their two fates seem terminally, distressingly intertwined."

Those words must have been doubly upsetting to the Mail's essentially Tory readership. But Mark Bolland, the man who wrote them, knows what he is talking about.

So who are these out-of-touch folk whose elderly audience is dwindling away?

Could it be The Rolling Stones, perhaps? Or the Three Tenors? Maybe Les Dennis and Michael Barrymore?

No, it is the Royal Family - and Mr Bolland does know a bit about them, having spent six years as deputy private secretary to the Prince of Wales.

In fact Mr Bolland remains remarkably loyal to Charles. But he's pretty damning in his verdict on the rest of them.

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He wrote: "Try as they might (and they don't often even try), there is little most of the Royal Family can do to build bridges successfully with those parts of the population whose support is crucial for their survival."

So it's goodbye from them, then.

The ghost of Diana was back with a vengeance to haunt them this week.

They didn't know how to deal with her when she was alive. They certainly didn't know how to deal with her death. And they have done an amazing job since of converting Paul Burrell from the role of sad, faithful retainer to avenging angel.

His new book, with its extracts from Diana's correspondence, could be dynamite under the Windsor throne.

The revelation that Di feared she would be the victim of an arranged car accident is a stunner.

In a way, it doesn't matter if she was paranoid or had rumbled a real murder plot. The way the story has come out could be deeply damaging to the Royals either way.

At the worst, it casts them in the role of villains in a grim fairytale. At best, it reminds us all of how ineptly out of touch they are with "their" people.

There is still something to be said for royalty, though. Their irrelevance is in a way the best thing about them.

Boot them out and what are we left with? A republic. And you only need to put together two words to show what a scary idea that is.

The words are "President" and "Blair".

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