x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Not everyone delighted by Britain's royal baby

The birth of Prince George has given Iran's media and its conservative politicians a welcome opportunity to indulge in a favourite pastime – bashing Britain's 'dictatorial' royal family. Michael Theodoulou reports

Crowds stretch out to capture pictures as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge show their newborn baby boy to the world’s media.
Crowds stretch out to capture pictures as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge show their newborn baby boy to the world’s media.

The birth of the United Kingdom's Prince George last week gave Iran's media and its conservative politicians a welcome opportunity to indulge in a favourite pastime - bashing Britain's "dictatorial" royal family.

The pretext for their indignation was a news conference last week by Iran's UK-educated foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araghchi, during which he was asked about the baby's birth and replied by congratulating the British royal family.

For some Iranians, that gesture did not go over well - to say the least.

Several hardline parliamentarians lambasted him for commenting on a subject "not worthy of the dignity" of someone in his position.

"Iranians are still upset about the dark colonial history of England," one MP, Javad Karimi Ghadousi, reminded the spokesman.

In what was probably news for many Britons, Mr Ghadousi then went on to say that those insulted by the spokesman's remarks included the people of England who "themselves have formed widespread campaigns to oppose the basis of the monarchy".

Even a moderate daily, Mardom Salari, chastised Mr Araghchi for commenting on "the unimportant royal baby".

In a report from London, Iran's state TV claimed that: "Nothing could have manifested the hatred of English people for their monarchy as much of the birth of this baby."

It branded Queen Elizabeth "an iron-fisted dictator" who chooses members of parliament and fills key positions by appointment. "England has one of the most reactionary and medieval forms of government," the channel told its viewers.

Many in the political establishment of Iran, whose Islamic revolution overthrew 2,500 years of absolute monarchy in 1979, refuse to accept that Britain's monarchy is a constitutional one.

Tehran is particularly suspicious of Britain, which it vilifies as a cunning "little Satan" that pulls the strings of the "great Satan America".

London withdrew its diplomats from Iran in November 2011 after hard-line protesters stormed and ransacked Britain's two diplomatic compounds in Tehran.

The rioters blamed Britain for spearheading sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme.

Asked whether Prince George's birth could help mend relations between Tehran and London, Mr Aragchi said: "The dimensions of our relationship are too complex for an issue such as this to help it."

Some of the sourest commentary on the royal birth came from Iran's English-language Press TV, which is widely viewed as the government's propaganda mouthpiece in the West.

It was magnanimous enough this week to insist it bore Prince George no ill-will personally, wishing him "luck and a healthy life as for all other innocent newborns".

But the channel insisted the "sweetness of an innocent new-born" had been "stained with hysterical media frenzy surrounding his birth".

He "is already stuck in the middle of dirty politics".

"Today, the British public - grinding under massive austerity budget cuts, unemployment, poverty wages, social deprivations and crumbling services - are thrown scraps of feel-good comfort from the much hyped event," it said.

"This attitude is silly at best and escapist Prince Charming syndrome at worst."

The channel likened the celebrations in Britain to the ancient Roman custom of distracting the populace from their misery "and the unwieldy wealth and corruption of the elite" with "bread and circuses".

Similarly, last year Iran's curmudgeonly media lambasted the "lavish" diamond jubilee celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne while her subjects faced "unbearable austerity measures".

Protests by British republicans - a mere footnote at home - were given prime-time coverage on Iranian state-run TV channels, which ignored the loyal majority's revelry.

mtheodoulu@thenational.ae

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