STEPHEN GLOVER: How cynical of MPs to claim sisterly solidarity with Meghan Markle

What’s this? On Tuesday, a group of 72 female MPs, the great majority of them Labour, issued an open letter of solidarity with a leading member of the Royal Family.

In normal circumstances, no one would be more delighted than me, since the signatories include hard-Left Labour frontbenchers such as Diane Abbott and Angela Rayner. Not the sort of people you would expect to have a picture of the Queen hanging on their wall.

But it turns out the letter is not a welcome airing of monarchist sentiment from women who might not usually be the first to jump to the aid of a member of the Royal Family.

No, it is an expression of support for the Duchess of Sussex. The MPs assert that some very beastly things have been done to her by the wicked Press.

The letter, addressed to Meghan Markle (above) claimed that the MPs stood with her on her stance against the media

Part one of the letter

The letter was sent by Holly Lynch and claimed that the MPs ‘shared an understanding’ with the Duchess 

For example, newspapers have ‘cast aspersions on her character’ and published ‘distasteful and misleading’ stories ‘concerning you [that’s Meghan], your character and your family’.

Unfortunately, in what is admittedly a short letter whose leading signatory is the Labour MP Holly Lynch, not a single instance of the media’s alleged persecution of the Duchess is produced.

Wouldn’t it have been helpful if the missive had at least hinted at what is meant by the charge that newspapers are ‘seeking to tear down a woman for no apparent reason’?

If only one illustration of what sounds like bullying bordering on intimidation had been cited, we would at least have the basis for a sensible debate. But nothing whatsoever is offered.

The letter was spearheaded by Halifax MP Holly Lynch (pictured above) who said the MPs would 'stand with' the Duchess

The letter was spearheaded by Halifax MP Holly Lynch (pictured above) who said the MPs would ‘stand with’ the Duchess

This did not prevent Meghan from telephoning Ms Lynch yesterday to thank her for her support. According to the MP, she was ‘pleased to have seen that letter’.

There is one wild and unsubstantiated accusation in it which tops all the others. It is that ‘some of these stories’ — naturally, no examples are given — have ‘outdated, colonial undertones’.

Is this a suggestion that there is an element of anti-Americanism in the supposed hounding of Meghan by the vicious media? After all, the country of her birth, the United States, was once a colony.

It’s possible, I suppose, but I think the MPs are getting at something else. They are implying, without quite daring to say as much, that news-papers’ criticisms of the Duchess of Sussex are partly motivated by racism.

Of all the smears in this ill-conceived epistle of nonsense, this is easily the most outrageous — and also potentially the most damaging. What could lower the Press more in public esteem than the insinuation that it has a secret racist agenda against Meghan?

It’s rot. And dangerous, politically driven rot at that. I have read countless articles about the Duchess in the mainstream media, and I haven’t come across a single example of anything remotely resembling racism in the faintest sense.

If the MPs can dig up one shred of evidence to support their disgraceful innuendo, they should produce it forthwith. But, of course, they can’t — because it doesn’t exist.

What they would very probably do, if forced to defend their idiocy, is to say that while there are no instances of racism to be found in Press coverage, it nonetheless underlies all the criticisms that are made of Meghan.

In other words, if newspapers grumble about the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on Meghan’s six-day ‘baby shower’ trip to New York earlier in the year (flying there and back by private jet), that is a clear case of racism.

When some in the media express surprise that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex should conceal the names of the godparents of Archie, who is seventh in line to the throne, that is another appalling manifestation of racism.

Both Meghan and Harry (above) have been critised for their actions - especially concealing Archie's god parents

Both Meghan and Harry (above) have been critised for their actions – especially concealing Archie’s god parents

And if columnists harrumphed after Harry delivered a lecture about the perils of global warming before he and Meghan took four journeys by private jet in 11 days, it was, of course, another expression of sublimated racism.

Could anything be madder? Harry and Meghan are immensely privileged people in receipt of considerable public funds. For example, their home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, was refurbished at a cost of more than £2.4 million of taxpayers’ money.

But it would appear that whatever inconsistencies the Duke and Duchess may display, the Press is enjoined to stay schtum for fear of being accused of the worst form of bigotry.

Such is the debased level of public debate in modern Britain. We are not talking about louts name-calling on a street corner but Members of Parliament (four of them in the Shadow Cabinet) who might be expected to show discrimination, intelligence and discernment.

Let me add that I wish Harry himself would supply chapter and verse when lashing newspapers. He recently accused them of running ‘knowingly false and malicious stories’ and other such excesses without offering a single example. But he hasn’t — at least, not yet — accused them of racism.

So what we have here are insidious and baseless accusations circulated by a group of female MPs. I don’t doubt that there is at least a smidgen of sisterly affection for the Duchess.

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above) is thought to want to bring newspapers under a measure state control

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above) is thought to want to bring newspapers under a measure state control 

But the deeper motivation behind the letter is, of course, political. As I say, most signatories are Labour. And it is Jeremy Corbyn’s intention to bring newspapers under a measure of state control.

Although details have not yet been revealed, the Labour leader spoke four years ago of the need for a ‘multiplicity of ownership’ in the Press. That might imply confiscation.

Last year he warned news-papers that ‘change is coming’. A Labour administration could set in train a second Leveson Inquiry into newspapers. He has questioned Press freedom by claiming titles are ‘controlled by billionaire tax exiles’.

The motives of many of the signatories of Holly Lynch’s letter should be partly interpreted in this light. If the Press is to be curbed, it is necessary to demonstrate that it has overstepped the bounds of decency and ignored people’s privacy.

But, as I’ve argued, the women MPs have shown no such thing. They have made charges without foundation — without, indeed, bothering to adduce any evidence at all. Their cunning purpose is to disseminate the idea that newspapers are not to be trusted, and so should be regulated.

How a handful of female Tory MPs could have been caught up in such a devious plot is bewildering, though it seems that some were astute enough to smell a rat, and refused to sign.

It is even more regrettable that Meghan should have thanked Holly Lynch for her support. She has done what no member of the Royal Family should ever do by entering the political arena — whether deliberately or inadvertently I can’t say — and given comfort to the enemies of a free Press.

Prince Harry is taking legal action against two national newspapers, and Meghan is suing the Daily Mail’s sister paper, the Mail on Sunday. The rights and wrongs of these cases need not concern us here.

What should concern us, though, is the possibility that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex might foolishly broaden their battle with the Press and line up with Labour MPs intent on undermining its freedoms.