Finally, there's something interesting in the will-he-wont-he saga of the heir to the British crown and the decision not to let him slip the dogs of war in Iraq. According to the Independent newspaper, the decision to hold Harry back from deployment was made under intense pressure behind the scene s from Downing Street and against the wishes of the royal family.
Blair was in Iraq today to mouth more "stay the course" platitudes while Bush gets ready for Blair's successor's U-turn.
What spoke louder than any prime ministerial rhetoric, however, was the news last week that Cornet (2nd Lt) Wales, as he is known in the Army, would not after all be deploying to Iraq. Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt announced that after a secret visit to south-eastern Iraq, he was reversing his earlier decision: to allow the third in line to the throne to go there with his unit, the Blues and Royals.Instead, Harry is running up $15,000 bar bills in London nightclubs.
General Dannatt said he had been told that there were "specific threats which relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual". He continued: "These threats expose not only him but also those around him to a degree of risk I now deem unacceptable."
The Independent on Sunday has learned, however, that the Chief of General Staff found himself squeezed between the Royal Family, which insisted that the Prince should go, and Downing Street, which for all the Prime Minister's public confidence, was horrified by the danger of Harry being killed, wounded or captured. Although the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, declared the decision was one for the army, Gen Dannatt came under heavy unofficial pressure from elsewhere in the Government.
There was no such wavering, it is understood, by the Royal Family. A source close to Clarence House said it had been foreseen some time ago that any senior royal who opted for a military career might be sent to a war zone in the wake of 9/11. This was the background to Prince Harry's 21st birthday interview, in which he said he did not intend to "drag my sorry arse through Sandhurst" only to be left behind when his troops were sent to the front line. This is what has now happened, although he insisted last week that he won't leave the Army, which now has to decide what to do with him.
If Gen Dannatt had stuck with his original decision, Prince Harry might well have been in Basra yesterday to greet the Prime Minister.
Update The Guardian reports that any future information surrounding Harry's military career may be covered by a D-notice - an official request to newspaper editors not to publish items on specified subjects for reasons of national security.