Princess Diana Files: Loony Speaker, Loopy Ideas
05:25 GMT 30.12.2021 (Updated: 05:32 GMT 30.12.2021)
The tragic death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997 unleashed a flood of conspiracy theories, with the British government at a loss as to how to deal with them while searching for ideas to properly commemorate the Princess, Prime Minister Tony Blair's files just released to The National Archives in London reveal.
"Lindsay Hoyle is publicity-mad loony", said a handwritten yellow Post-it note from Sir Robin Butler to John Holmes, principal private secretary to Tony Blair.
What made the Head of the Home Civil Service use un-parliamentary language towards a Member of Parliament? Obviously, he did not expect the Right Honourable Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley to become the Speaker of the House of Commons one day.
Hoyle was a newcomer to parliament, having been elected in May 1997, three months prior to Princess Diana's death. He took it close to his heart and after a series of allegations in the media about the possible involvement of the British secret services in the tragedy decided to clear the air.
"I have attempted to table a number of written parliamentary questions to you concerning the mystery surrounding the death of Princess Diana. However, these were refused by the table office as they were deemed to be national security issues to which I am not entitled to an answer", he wrote Prime Minister Blair on 10 June 1998.
Hoyle urged Blair to make a statement on the tragic passing of Princess Diana, "in order to clear up some of the secrecy and controversies surrounding her death"."There has been an enormous amount of speculation on recent television documentaries stating that somehow, British security forces may have been involved in the death of Diana. Making a statement on this matter would answer many of these questions and put an end to these rumours and uncertainty", wrote Hoyle.
Hoyle sent a copy to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook whom Hoyle considered as having "some responsibility" for the matter.
The question he tried to table for Prime Minister's Question time was: "If there were any British Security Agents on duty in Paris on the night of Princess Diana's death last year?"
The table office resolution said "no basis" and the question was not tabled.
Hoyle's letter put the government in a bind – they had to reply but did not want to put it in writing. The Foreign Office suggested a phone call to Lindsay Hoyle. They said they used the same tactic when handling similar questions from UK and foreign media. Their worry was that a written statement could give the story "a fresh wind and encourage the press to recycle all the conspiracy theories of linkage between the Agencies and the accident, before printing the prime minister's denials".
Prime Minister Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell said the idea of a phone call instead of a written reply was "daft – much better to put this in writing clearly and definitely".
So the government put in writing that "any suggestion that any British official organisation or department had anything to do with this tragic event is both ridiculous and deeply distressing for the bereaved families".
A Loopy Idea
Hoyle had probably earned his reputation within the government as a "publicity-mad loony" by promoting ideas to commemorate the Princess of Wales. Shortly after her tragic death he campaigned for the establishment of a new national children's hospital in her name and also suggested that London's Heathrow Airport be named after Diana.
30 December 2021, 00:01 GMT
His proposals gained widespread support, with thousands of people urging the government committee on Diana's legacy to scrap the controversial Millennium Dome Experience project and build a children's hospital instead.
The committee thought the idea was not a viable one but some of the suggestions made by big business were out of this world. An aptly named "Projet Grand" submitted to the committee envisaged that "a memorial to Princes of Wales should last for a thousand years" and should include:
Children's Medical Research Centre;
"Fame" school, involving Macintosh, Elton John, Sting, Chris de Burgh, Pavarotti;
Centre for British Fashion;
Theme park with great rides and activities;
Every country should be asked to create a tribute to the Princess;
A plan to issue Share Certificate/Membership for £10/20;
The Post Office should issue a series of Princess Diana stamps, suggested nomination £2 pounds;
A plan to develop a larger site "than the 70 acres currently nominated" [for the Millennium Dome];
There should be 2,000 apartments constructed and sold at a price of £2 million each [£3 million in today's money] in exchange for a British passport.
This, the authors of "Projet Grand" said, will become "unquestionably the most exciting tourist centre in the world and should confirm London's position as the most cutting edge city on earth".
The project "cannot be criticised and it cannot be misunderstood", the authors concluded.
But Tony Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell had only one word for most of these suggestions – loopy.