Relations between the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, have hit an all-time
low following Blair's branding of the prince as a "goon." John Howard reports.
The prince infuriated the PM by snubbing a banquet hosted by Chinese president Jiang Zemin in protest against China's
occupation of Tibet. Human rights campaigners and many Britons are said to be siding with the prince.
Charles has a long admiration for the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, and this was just one of the reasons behind
his non-attendance at the banquet, according to friends.
Beef-on-the-bone, genetically modified foods, falling education standards, religion and modern architecture are all
subjects that have been tackled by the prince around the world even when his views have clashed with government's or
threatened to upset multi-million conglomerates. He has also written to Ministers about Britains foreign policy.
Charles is a devoted fan of the zany 50's BBC radio comedy series, The Goon Show, which starred his hero Spike Milligan.
Blair remarked: "I don't known about The Goons - he is a goon."
Blair's spin doctors were playing down the "snub" saying the prince was never intended to be at the function. But
privately both Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, are said to be seething at the prince's decision which comes
as Britain tries to build important trade relations with China while dismissing its poor human rights record.
One confidante of Blair added: "The Prime Minister is far from pleased that Charles seems to be undermining the
government's position on a range of important issues."
The prince's snub came after a week of strenuous protests by British campaigners who are incensed by the plight of
Tibetans at the hands of China. Jiang Zemin met further protests when he later visited France.
Blair views Charles' excuses about a prior engagement as "ludicrous" as the event at the Chinese Embassy was planned
well in advance. Charles had defiantly old officials: "Don't bother sending me an invitation to the banquet."
Charles also refused to accompany the Chinese president on engagements during his four-day tour, which was met with
constant public protests about China's record on human rights and its policies over Tibet and Taiwan.
This week the government's of Britain and France are facing possible legal action over the way police dealt with
protesters during the State visits.