QUENTIN LETTS: Left-wingers regard themselves as virtuous. But the spiteful reaction of so many to Charles’s illness shows they’re the ones filled with hate

Twenty-five minutes was all it took for the Left to start politicizing the King’s cancer.

Fast work, guys. A political activist called John Smith was first at the draw, taking to X (formerly Twitter) to complain the monarch was not stuck on an NHS waiting list. Mr Smith went on to denounce the ‘defunding of public health care by neoliberal governments to enrich the 1 per cent, to whom the King belongs’.

Quick-to-the-trigger Smith soon posted another message saying monarchy was a ‘cancer on politics’. He completed a hat-trick of charms with a tweet about his own experience of cancer. “I was also helicoptered to my ancestral estate Sandringham to recuperate with a household of servants at my beck and call,” Comrade Smith wrote with wry sarcasm.

He wasn’t alone in curling a lip. Kevin Maguire of The Daily Mirror, who happens to be an old friend of mine, pumped out a comment on social media that ‘two in five cancer patients who are urgently referred by a GP are not receiving treatment within the NHS target of two months do not begin. I wish King Charles a full recovery, but it must not be ignored that many others are not so fortunate or fortunate.’

Ava Evans, another left-leaning pundit, said it was “a good moment to consider statutory sick pay – and the millions of people who have to keep working when they’re sick because they can’t afford not to”.

King Charles with Queen Camilla by his side leaves Clarence House the day after his shock cancer diagnosis was announced

King Charles with Queen Camilla by his side leaves Clarence House the day after his shock cancer diagnosis was announced

The pressure group Republic, which campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, responded decently, saying ‘cancer is a horrible disease and we are sorry to hear of Charles’ diagnosis. We wish him a speedy recovery.’

Republic’s online followers were not entirely pleased with this civilized response.

Although some cheered, others said ‘karma’s coming for him’, ‘it’s time he abdicated for the sake of his health’ and ‘it’s funny because he’s possibly the least likable monarch in ages’. One snail even wrote: ‘He should be tipped so he can stand trial for crimes against humanity.’

Well, it’s a free country. People should be able, shouldn’t they, to say offensive things as long as they don’t incite violence? As a parliamentary sketch writer, I would be a frightful hypocrite if I opposed a little saltiness in political commentary.

Anyway, who is really offended when some idiots and attention grabbers said unkind things about our 75 year old head of state who is told he has a disease that unfortunately visits so many families? Doesn’t the incidence of cancer actually legitimize critical scrutiny of the King’s private treatment?

Or does the sourness of those published views — the desire to turn every personal adversity into a political blush — say something about their authors and their political orientation? Why, in short, are some on the Left in such a tizzy about everything?

Angela Rayner (pictured last week) described the Tories as 'a bunch of scum' as she spoke at a Labor conference in 2021

Angela Rayner (pictured last week) described the Tories as ‘a bunch of scum’ as she spoke at a Labor conference in 2021

Theresa May once said that the Conservatives were seen as ‘the nasty party’. Unlike some, I thought she was right to speak that home truth to her party, which at the time did seem forever confused. However, in recent times it has been clear that the haters and haranguers have been more often on the left.

Socialist comedian Jo Brand suggested throwing battery acid in Nigel Farage’s face. Angela Rayner called Tories ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolutely vile’. John McDonnell joked about Conservative MP Esther McVey being lynched. Apologists said these were loose, mispronounced words.

But when the boot is on the other and a Rightie makes a fool of himself, as Rishi Sunak did in the Commons yesterday with a slightly tone-deaf comment about trans self-identification, Labor MPs cower like goose widows and claim that their parliamentary opponents guilty of moral decay.

What’s so crazy is the way Leftists project themselves as ‘good people’ and claim virtuous heights. Really their main consideration, a lot of the time, is naked politics. Their application to the cause is quite enviable in a way. They never seem to shut down.

The right is never as focused because they are more individualistic, and therefore less good at following a party line. So we have to concede that the left is skilled at playing a tough game. But every once in a while one feels like sighing: ‘Oh, please give it a shot.’

Having lost two siblings to cancer in the past six years, should I or should I feel anger at the King’s quick treatment?

No. I sure wish medics were this good when they treated my sister Penny. She seemed to have overcome breast cancer, but it returned. She went to her doctor with pains and was told it was a back strain. Penny, the mother of three fine children, died at the age of 59.

The NHS was little better when my brother Alexander complained of pain in his bowels. It turned out to be cancer of the colon, but his treatment during confinement was far from good. Alexander, one of the fittest guys I knew, died at 62, leaving behind a heartbroken wife and four wonderful sons.

The King’s cancer was detected at a private hospital and he will now receive the best care and attention. The Left wants me to ask: why isn’t the privileged so-and-so on a hard chair at an A&E in Slough? Why isn’t he having a more miserable time? Why? Why? It is not fair!

Well, no, I suppose it’s not fair, if by fair we mean that everything should have an equal outcome. But life is not fair. Life can be hard.

Why are my super fit siblings dying of cancer while I, fat as an old labrador, am still alive? Shakespeare’s King Lear cradles the body of his dead daughter Cordelia and rants: ‘Why must a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and you have no breath at all?’ It’s only human to react to grief this way, perhaps.

However, the reaction of our Leftist friends is not driven by sadness. It is political. It seeks to make political hay out of a diagnosis. A doctor tells a 75-year-old sovereign he has cancer and these people accuse the supposedly wicked Tory government of ‘defunding’ an NHS that has never received more money. They spit on Charles’ ‘privilege’.

Sorry, but this outrage is forced. It is almost unapproachable in its unceasing devotion to electoral purposes. Is not the greatest privilege of all the privilege of good health?

I’m no saint. I’m just as likely as the next person to feel numb. But when I heard about the King’s illness, my brain did not begin to calculate electoral advantage. My first reaction was ‘bloody cancer’.

The second, if one may say so without majesty, was ‘poor man’. Chap he be, despite his rank. The King is human, just as prone to mistakes and bugs as the rest of us. I happen to admire him, although I accept that it is every citizen’s right to fight against the constitutional monarchy. What is harder to accept is this unceasing eye for political chance, this galloping, stubborn night of defenselessness.

Politics matters, of course it matters, but the best politicians understand there is more to life. “To everything there is a season,” says Ecclesiastes. When a beloved king received rough medical news, it should be ‘a time to throw away stones’. The initial reaction of the anti-monarchists at Republic was wise. The resulting bile from some of their supporters, and the rush by others to make political points, ruined that moment of decency.

We will conclude by returning to John Smith, the fiery revolutionary who greeted the King’s diagnosis by calling the monarchy a ‘cancer on the body’.

Mr Smith, as he states on his X handle, is the son of Harry Leslie Smith, a writer and political campaigner who was a well-known figure in the Labor movement. Without his late father, in other words, poor John would be a nobody.

How perfect that such a sour little agitator for republicanism should himself be a beneficiary of the hereditary principle.