The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their PR people at St James’s Palace have taken a supply and demand decision in choosing to sue Closer. Going after the paparazzi photographer is a waste of time because photos like those taken in Provence go for a lot of money but, crucially, only if the demand is there. Cut off the demand from magazines such as Closer and you close down the paparazzi. That is the strategic decision.
And to be honest, it’s hard not to agree. Ethically, legally and morally, the decision by Closer to publish was wrong. Publication is a clear violation of French privacy laws and, make no mistake, the French take the issue of privacy very seriously. Former French President Francois Mitterand for example, was known to have an illegitimate child from a relationship outside of his marriage, but the French media did not dare breath a word of it until his death.
I also suspect that considerations back in the UK have had a bearing on this decision. We know that the Royals have been concerned about tabloid excesses and broadly support the thrust of the Leveson Inquiry and, in all likelihood, the idea of much stricter privacy laws in the UK. What sort of message would it have sent out to the British press if they had chosen not to sue in a country with strict privacy laws already in place?
What’s more, I also suspect that St James’s Palace has astutely gauged that public opinion in regard to intrusion and invasion of privacy is moving in their direction, particularly in light of the many revelations at Leveson. Photos of a young couple on holiday in rural France have been deemed beyond the pale by the general public and even Richard Desmond, owner of The Express. In fact, the vast majority of people I spoke to thought the decision to publish photos of Harry’s antics in Vegas was a bit harsh on a young, unmarried bloke.
What is clear is that St James’ Palace is drawing a line in the sand. This decision sends a message that they are taking the issue of privacy seriously both for themselves and for any future children the couple may have.
Tom Leatherbarrow is head of B2B at WPR.