Harry’s antics: the real issue?

Daisy BlacklockYouGovLabs writer
August 24, 2012, 2:36 PM GMT+0

At the start of the week, it was the tale of a naked billiards-playing Prince – third in line to the British crown (nieces and nephews permitting) – that had the Tweeting classes all a-chatter.

At its close however, the debate over whether what Prince Harry got up to while holidaying in Las Vegas was appropriate activity for a member of the Royal family, or no-one's business, has aged into moralistic wrangling over whether or not the press should publish such snaps in a post-Leveson world.

On Wednesday, Dai Davis, the Met’s former head of royal protection, raised a key point about the royal right to privacy – and the efficacy of the tax payer-funded security intended to preserve it.

“We're paying huge amounts of money for this young man to be followed everywhere he goes by security,” he said.

“British security costs in excess of £120 million a year but on the other hand, [royals] have to have a life."

So what was the real talking point here?

This week, we bid you to tell us which you thought the greater concern:

A) The fact that Prince Harry was naked at a party in Vegas, and how that affects how he is perceived as a member of the Royal family

B) The fact that these photographs had made it into the public domain, despite security

C) Or that neither blue-blooded nudity, or security breaches (where these snaps were concerned, anyhow) were an issue

YouGov panellists stepped forward to represent their views across the debate spectrum, as follows.

B was the most-selected option; which many participants concluding that the SECURITY BREACH was a bigger issue than the fact of Prince Harry’s light-hearted (if lightly-clothed) Las Vegan escapades. But for what reasons?

  • ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ – Prince Harry has every right to a private life, many of you protested in Labs. What’s more, he was only acting like a typical ‘squaddie’ or young man in his twenties, letting his hair down on vacation:

“Harry will never be king so he may as well have fun and enjoy been young!” Sassy, Durham

“What happens at a private party should remain private. He's a 27 year old man having a bit of fun. Where's the crime? Leave him alone” Anon

“He is a young man enjoying himself, it's not his fault he was born into royalty, and who has the right to tell him what he should and shouldn't do” Paul, Woking

  • Just who has access to the Prince? – Other participants were concerned by what they saw as a security lapse, and felt that the fact a member of the Royal’s party had covertly snapped him and sold on the naked image to the press, was a brazen act of betrayal – and one driven by media demand (some reasoned). That Harry should be wary of who he lets into his close-knit circle was a common refrain, while some queried that “if ‘random-ers’ can gain access to one of the world’s most high-profile public figures, would someone else with darker motives, be able to sneak past his security?

“I don't care what he does in his own time it's not our business and the people who took and shared the photos are despicable, unethical and beyond contempt” Melfordian, Sudbury

“It's a pretty low-down trick to play on anyone” Ryan, Kent

“Whoever took these photographs is of concern to the Royal Family as they had access to Harry and he trusted this person to make himself vulnerable in front of them. He is naive if he thinks he can trust ‘friends’ not to leak these to the public and needs to learn from his past mistakes” Anon

  • And a minority view expressed by people on this side of the debate was that the taxpayer is paying for an ineffective personal security service.

“Everyone should be able to have some private moments. His minders are employed to allow Harry just that. Their wages appear to be a waste of money” Anon

“He's entitled to let his hair down in private once in a while. But it sounds like the UK tax payer is paying for a service they aren't getting if photographs of him in such a state are able to be leaked so easily!” Jon, Cambridge

“Security needs to be re-evaluated” Anon

The second highest proportion of panellists said in Labs that they DIDN'T THINK THERE WAS ANY ISSUE to consider here, arguing:

  • As before, that the vim and vigour of youth accounted for his actions – and that they certainly didn’t matter:

“It's his private life. It's what youngsters sometimes do. It did not harm anybody” Janet, Llanfoist

“Normal behaviour for 27 year old single man in Las Vegas” Anon

“He’s still young, I wish I could have done that when I was that age” Harvey, Grimsby

  • That it was non-news – either because they were personally uninterested in royal or celebrity ‘gossip’, or perhaps they felt the subject matter trivial:

“Why is this an issue?!” Anon

“The Royal Family is now irrelevant and so is Harry's private life and behaviour” Mike, Bristol

“It’s not real news its titillation and not something that NEWSpapers and TV NEWS show should be focusing on” Jonathan, Halifax

  • And a handful of participants argued that Harry is too far down the succession line for his actions to really count:

“He's young, he's not going to be crowned King, and to be honest he wasn't offending or hurting anyone so just let the guy have some fun in Vegas with his friends” ER, London

“Well if it were William I suppose it would be different, Harry is not the direct heir to throne so it does not really matter. But what about security?…” Daz

And lastly, those participants who felt that how Harry was PERCEIVED AS A ROYAL, in light of his partying, was by and large the bigger issue at stake here, gave their justifications as being:

  • That he represents the Royal family, first and foremost, and the armed forces, second. And as such, he should respect the gravity of his position by not becoming embroiled in such scandal:

“He must surely be aware that he represents the monarchy abroad and was foolish to be be in such company” Anon

“He should know his place he is not the same as everybody else” Anon

“He represents the Queen and this country. Yes, have fun like a person his age should do, but still remember your standing and representation of the UK and Commonwealth” Anon

  • That his actions would have been understandable if those of a younger man – but the boy has since grown up, argued individuals in Labs, and he should behave like one:

“It's time he grew up” Annie, Bedfordshire

“I think that he should be more discreet, even at a private party” Ted, Middlesbrough

“He should have acted more responsibly” Simon, Peluna

  • He is funded by the taxpayer – and thus act as an unfaltering ambassador to Britain, and show respect to his ‘subjects’:

“I resent the fact that he's partying on my tax money when I can't afford a holiday for my family. He does nothing for the country” Karen, Poole

“He is supposed to represent this country with dignity; my taxpayer money is not meant for him to party when I can barely make ends meet, my elderly and disabled friends and neighbours are in dire straits and my State Pension age keeps being moved up because 'there is no money in the Treasury.' He is a disgrace and is also behaving in a way unbecoming the military” Anon

Not yet taken part in this week's debate? Click here

Click here to follow @YouGovLabs on Twitter