Voices: If Prince Harry has his way, this is going to be the story of 2023

In the modern world, when conflicts turn hot, they also turn complicated. When one country invades another, it is not uncommon for it to end up with less, not more, than when it started.

Not that long ago, capitalism and communism were engaged in what really should have been a straightforward existential struggle, but it hadn’t even been going for all that long before America was secretly selling guns to Iran and sending the profits to a guerrilla movement in Nicaragua for reasons that really don’t make sense even on the tenth reading of the Wikipedia page on the subject.

Prince Harry is suing the Daily Mail for running what he alleges to be a covert surveillance operation on him, yet his witness statement on the matter appears to be more concerned with ramping up another conflict – with his own family.

Where is it going? What is it for? Who will win? What will they lose? It’s possible that these were the very thoughts whirring inside the head of Elton John’s husband David Furnish as he took his turn to sit for very long hours in the public seats of Court 76 at the Royal Courts of Justice for Day Three of the pre-trial hearing of Sussex and Others vs Associated Newspapers (which denies the allegations). It’s also, of course, possible that they weren’t. The mind goes on elaborate flights of fancy when it sits in a small, hot room listening to neverending verbiage that almost no one present actually understands.

This is already, by some margin, the most box office pre-trial hearing there has probably ever been, though if that is technically praise, it may not be possible to damn with any fainter.

Sussex himself, aka Prince Harry, wasn’t there. Sadie Frost called in briefly. Elton John came on Monday. Baroness Doreen Lawrence called in on Tuesday. No sign yet of Liz Hurley, or the former Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes. Together they form the crack commando unit, Sussex and Others. It’s possible they’ve divvied out the four-day pre-trial hearing between them on a kind of rota system. Almost like lying in state, except that no one’s died. Not yet anyway. Though the Daily Mail will, if they get their way.

Mr Justice Nicklin seems rather more content with things, these days. On Monday he couldn’t quite get over the furore, when press and public packed his very unglamorous courtroom, hugger-mugger with royalty – pop and actual. Now there’s not much furore, just an extremely dry legal argument over whether to kick out the case in its entirety, which the publisher of the Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers, is trying to achieve.

There are 73 journalists named in the action, but Mr Justice Nicklin has also granted Associated Newspapers’ requests that they not be named, which they’ve achieved using human rights legislation derived from the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s this legislation that the Daily Mail has regularly called to be scrapped, not least so that it makes life easier for a Conservative home secretary who wants to deport Afghan war veterans to Rwanda.

Prince Harry’s witness statement is out, as well, in which he has claimed that details of the hacking of his phone and potentially the phones of his friends were kept from him by his own family. That they chose, in other words, to have the newspapers carry on making his life hell, then hand him the ammunition to take them on.

Well, that’s certainly not the case anymore. The prince has all guns blazing, and on the current trajectory, his fight with the press is going to be the story of 2023. There is so much more to come. Everyone is in the firing line, and he appears to be long past the point of caring who actually wins and who actually loses. He just wants to fight it out to the end and see what’s still standing at the end of it. Look on my works ye mighty and despair.

Not everyone loses though, of course. Sussex and Others are represented by David Sherborne, Coleen Rooney’s ex-barrister. At the end of that saga, both women were likely seven figures worse off, but not everyone loses, and it’s not quite as hard as the Iran-Contra affair to work out who won that one. He’s sitting up in Court 76, looking very, very pleased with himself. You don’t need to understand history all that well to know that it has a habit of repeating itself.