A long-standing convention that British politicians do not comment on remarks by members of the royal family was set aside on Wednesday as a Labour MP asked Prince Charles to abdicate after his remarks comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler sparked a furious row.
Charles, who is currently on a tour of Canada, reportedly made the remarks in a private conversation with a Jewish woman, who told him of how she fled the Nazis and lost members of her family during the Holocaust.
“Now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler," Charles said, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Charles is due to meet Putin in Normandy on June 6 at the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The remarks were criticised across the political spectrum as Labour MP Mike Gapes called on Charles to abdicate, while leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party said the prince was wrong to get involved.
Gapes tweeted: “If Prince Charles wants to make controversial statements on national or international issues, he should abdicate and stand for election."
A spokesperson for Clarence House said: "We would not comment on private conversations. It was a private conversation at a reception for war veterans."
The Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, said: “Usually politicians don't comment on what the royals are saying…It is not for ministers to comment on what our royals say. They can perfectly well express their opinions, as Prince Charles has done in this case”.
Stating that Charles was free to express himself, deputy prime Clegg said: "I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the royal family somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence. I think he is entitled to his views”.
He added: “But I don't know whether those were his views because I just don't think providing a running commentary on what were private conversations is useful to anybody. I don't know exactly what he did or didn't say in that conversation because he thought it was a private conversation."