Prince Philip and the Communist Party of China (CPC) are the same age.

Today Prince Philip celebrates -or more likely ignores- his 90th birthday –a remarkable innings in which time he has been exiled from Greece; took part in the invasion of Sicily; told his wife Elizabeth she was Queen; and been worshipped in Vanuatu as a god.

On July 1st, China’s ruling party will mark 90 years since it was founded in 1921 in Shanghai.

In that time, the world’s largest political party (78 million strong) has helped fight off the Japanese; won a civil war; implemented Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution; and led China into the 21st century as a free market under the Scientific Development Concept.

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Commonalities

On the face of it, the Communist Party of China and Prince Philip may not seem natural bedfellows.

At the Hong Kong handover in 1997, Philip referred to Chinese officials, apparently without a sense of irony or self-reflection, as ‘appalling old waxworks’. He told British students they’d become ‘slitty-eyed’ if they stayed in China too long.

Despite this, the two do share things in common. They are crusty, ancient pieces of living history, wallowing in the luxury of ill-gotten wealth, both unsoftened by decrepitude and still ferocious when the mood takes them.

They have straddled the 20th century and evolved their public images from uncouth military entities to benevolent, pragmatic grandfather figures.

They both embody systems of government whose claims to represent the people differ from orthodox democratic republicanism.

Despite being acknowledged as generally good for their country, both have a propensity to spark international outrage from time to time.

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Philip the Consort

For 60 of his years Philip has been married to the Queen as Consort –a vague role whose lack of substance may have destroyed the soul of a lesser man.

A naturally impatient and outspoken leader, he has had to endure years of walking several steps behind his wife at official ceremonies and staying in the background.

But the Duke of Edinburgh has handled it with aplomb, bringing hawk-like intelligence, charitable inclination and bloody-minded political-incorrectness as a foil to the Royal Family’s stuffy decorum.

A lifetime in the monarch’s shadow has given Philip a reputation for making outrageous or offensive comments in public. The word ‘cantankerous’ could have been coined specifically for him.

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For this, he is loathed in part but overwhelmingly adored by the majority of Britain. This Mountbatten adds a quality of realness, of frankness to the Royal Family which none of the Windsors could get away with. If you don’t find him refreshing, you at least find him newsworthy.

Today I doff my cap and wish the Duke of Edinburgh, whose D of E Gold award I am a recipient of, a happy 90th birthday.

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