Viewpoint: 'The Duke of Edinburgh was much more than a figurehead'

This week's Viewpoint includes memories of the Duke of Edinburgh and his work with the Prince Philip Trust Fund. Email letters to

The Duke was more than a figurehead

One of the fascinating aspects in the public reaction to the death of Prince Philip has been the different perception of the younger generation compared to older age-groups.

Of course, this is a generalisation, and readers will be able to cite plenty of exceptions, but older people remembered how he championed causes that were once unfashionable, but have now become taken for granted (conservation being just one of several).

Alternatively they will recall how he helped modernise the Royal Family and give it greater involvement in the everyday affairs of the nation, or be aware of the significance of his war service.

By contrast, many under-30s told me they saw him just as an old man living in rarified conditions.

Even teenagers who participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and who thoroughly enjoy the experience, have little knowledge of the Duke himself.

Yes, the blanket coverage was probably overdone and the BBC should have devoted one channel to his life, not all of them at the same time.

But it did show exactly why he was much more than a figurehead, and what a dynamic life he had led.

In fact, the vast majority of the Prince’s work was away from the cameras, not consorting with the privileged, but meeting ordinary people – such as in factories or research laboratories, in day-care centres or youth-training hostels – who work hard and do good, but who never receive publicity and appreciated his interest.

His presence showed that they mattered to the national life and those whom he visited often felt he sprinkled fairy dust over what they did.

As for his famous bluntness, it was the product of a fundamental honesty that stands in stark contrast to those in public life who just mouth platitudes or engage in verbal gymnastics.

I was fortunate in seeing him at close quarters, being part a special think-tank he had established and having lunches with him for a number of years.

So I know he was equally capable of challenging the high and mighty.

When discussing the plight of England’s uplands, for instance, which had become

de-populated in recent years, a leading expert started pontificating imperiously on how important it was to get ordinary people to settle there.

‘Why talk about it?’ the Prince interjected, ‘If you want people to do that, go there yourself and get people to follow your lead!’ The very important man fell silent.

Whereas the first Queen Elizabeth never married, apparently worried that a husband would take over and become a rival, the current monarch found that having a husband meant she had a trusted and supportive adviser.

The Prince never received the centenary letter that his wife sends out, but he did lead an extraordinarily long life of public duties, only retiring at 96, more than thirty years after most other people do.

Even republicans have to acknowledge his remarkable stamina, while monarchists need no prompting in mourning his loss.


Maidenhead Synagogue

So many local groups were helped by trust

The Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and Prince Philip’s support for young people will surely be one of his most enduring legacies.

But in local terms at least, I would also nominate the Prince Philip Trust Fund, founded in 1977 in his honour and over which he presided until relatively recently.

Innumerable local projects and organisations, including Maidenhead Heritage Centre, have benefited from the grants made by the fund, and the Royal Borough has been a better place as a result.


Maidenhead Heritage Centre

Dirty, murky corner needs a spring clean

I walked on Monday morning past the new waterway towards the centre of town and was disappointed to see Sports Direct on the corner looking completely dark and scruffy with litter and birds’ mess all around.

Is this the responsibility of the shop or the council? It is a real eyesore.


Newlands Drive


Preserving nature is the simpler option

Roger Tull’s effort (Viewpoint, April 15) is good value script.

Waterways, while not mentioned, is another target to review.

We had decades of abandoned nature costing nothing.

Now we have pretty brickwork (for a while) and reinforced concrete costing fortunes. The cry goes up: “More nature, where are the green bits?”

Fun in ’ere innit?


Forlease Drive


One step at a time to help our environment

Happy Earth Day Maidonians.

What are you going to do today?

Since 1970, April 22, Earth Day, has been recognised as the day when people focus on the need for conservation, and the protection of the environment.

In 2021, more than one billion of us in 193 countries will be focused on climate change and global awareness.

I am going to spend some of today in my garden, planting a small wildflower patch I have prepared.

I’ve been growing the borage separately, as the bees love it, and get less tired if they are in a clump, so they don’t have to fly far to find each plant.

I will spend the rest of the day in meetings (online) with a range of people in different countries, and in the borough.

I’ll be involved in organising events from COP26 in Glasgow to the exciting work we are doing here in the borough, working with residents, building our capabilities internally and developing our relationships with businesses and other significant parties as we deliver our climate strategy.

If understanding more about how to reduce your carbon footprint, or living sustainably matters to you, sign up to Giki Zero They have a wonderful programme planned for Earth Day.

I’m one of their local champions, so can vouch for it.

It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something positive for the planet.

Sir David Attenborough spoke recently about how all the small things add up.

When I started contributing to public life it was by litter picking.

An acquaintance said I shouldn’t waste my time.

I’m so glad I paid him no heed.

Every small thing we do helps, and we feel better for doing it.

We meet like minded people who teach us, challenge us and give us wings.

This wonderful earth we inhabit is heating up at an astonishing rate because of us, and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to nurture it back to health again.

It is not without hurdles.

Sixty percent of achieving net zero involves behaviour change.

One person at a time.

But that is also the beauty of it.

We can start with ourselves.

In doing so, we might find our own peace.

If you want to get involved, please get in touch.


Councillor for St Mary’s Ward

Cabinet Lead for Climate Change and Sustainability, Parks and Countryside

Look at the bigger picture of GDP levels

It is now five years since George Osborne launched his Project Fear campaign to scare the British people into voting to stay in the EU.

Included in that Treasury analysis published on April 18 2016 there was a projection which attracted relatively little attention at the time, that a ‘Canada style’ free trade deal with the EU would be of only marginal economic value for the UK.

Such a deal would be worth only 1.3 percent of UK GDP, according to that ex-ante Treasury estimate, while recently we had an ex-post estimate from the EU that Boris Johnson's ‘fantastic’ deal is worth a mere 0.75 percent to our economy (Viewpoint, February 25 2021, ‘What was conceded to make this deal?’).

Neither source is trustworthy and so both their numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it is nonetheless interesting that the average is close to the 2017 estimate from the German Ifo Institute for Economic Research, 1.1 per cent (Viewpoint, January 16 2020, ‘Economic impact of EU membership has always been marginal’).

Indeed there are quite a few other estimates of the one-off economic benefit to the UK of any such deal that fall in the range from zero to 2 per cent, but notably there has been no estimate at all from the Department for International Trade.

To be perfectly clear, all cited estimates of the economic impact of various changes to our international trading relationships refer to the one-off effect, even if the projected effect on UK GDP would be spread over a number of years.

For a proper perspective UK GDP increased nearly sixfold between 1948 to 2019, the trend rate for that growth of the economy was 2.54 percent a year, so a one-off 1.1 percent would be similar to natural growth over about five months.

Some may disagree, but I do not think it is worth risking the integrity of the country for that slight gain.


Belmont Park Avenue


People living without the comfort of a home

This past year has shown us more clearly than ever before just how important it is to have somewhere safe and secure to call home.

Yet, on any given night, tens of thousands of families and individuals are facing the worst forms of homelessness across Great Britain.

This includes people forced to sleep on our streets, having to drift from sofa to sofa, or stuck for months in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Crisis works with thousands of people every year to help them rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good. We won’t rest until homelessness is ended. That’s why we need your help.

This Early May Bank Holiday (30 April – 3 May), we’re asking you to give up your usual eight hours a night and Stay Awake for Crisis.

The challenge is to Stay Awake for 24-hours, all to raise money for people experiencing homelessness, helping to put them on a path to a secure home.

Whether you chose to go it alone, do it as a relay with colleagues, or team up with family and friends, we’ve got loads of ideas and support to help you plan out how you’ll spend your hours and keep up your fundraising.

Join us as we Stay Awake and fundraise for those who do it night after night. To sign up, visit:


Chief Executive, Crisis

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