LONDON - British ministers will downgrade Prince Andrew's role as a trade ambassador over his association with a convicted pedophile, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Monday.
Ministers will carry out a review into Andrew's position, which could result in the queen's second son losing his role completely, government sources told the British newspaper.
The prince came under increased fire after it emerged that U.S. businessman Jeffrey Epstein - who served 18 months in jail for child sex offences - had paid off debts accrued by the Duchess of York, Andrew's former wife.
Andrew has been a guest at Epstein's Florida mansion where underage girls were abused, but there has been no suggestion that the fourth-in-line to the British throne had ever been guilty of any wrongdoing.
Diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website last year showed how U.S. officials were shocked by the "rude" prince's "astonishing display of candour" during a business trip to Kyrgyzstan.
A senior Conservative minister told the Telegraph that Andrew's position was fast becoming untenable due to his track record of poor judgment.
"There appears to be no discernible mental activity," the minister said. "I feel sorry for him. He has no friends and so is surrounded by these vile people."
Another government source told the paper: "We won't be giving a full-throated defence of him. There won't be many tears shed if he resigns."
Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier defended the prince, claiming he had done "a lot of good for the UK."
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
Last Tuesday I put up a posting on this blog headlined Why are so few newspapers carrying the Prince Andrew story?
I couldn't understand why there had been so little FLeet Street fuss following the revelation (in the News of the World on 20 February) about the prince's friendship with a convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
Only two papers - the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail - immediately took it seriously. Then, after eight days, The Times, and its columnist, Ben Macintyre, covered it well as questions were asked about Andrew's role as trade envoy.
But where were the others, I wondered. One editor very sportingly emailed me to say: "Spot on about Prince Andrew... We should have done it - and are making active efforts to repair our mistake." (And his paper did so).
Now it appears every paper - and broadcaster - has realised the story's import. It was all over the Sunday papers yesterday and it has front page coverage in virtually all of today's national dailies.
There were several mentions of the story on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, with the red-carpet-fevered Hugo Vickers even attempting to offer support to the supposedly "unwise" prince.
I was particularly surprised by The Sun having previously failed to cover the story. It still couldn't find space on page 1 today, but it did carry an inside page lead plus a superbly sarcastic column by Trevor Kavanagh, "There's no suggestion Andrew is a disgrace." (sadly, not online)
Andrew, not the brightest prince in the pantheon of the world's inbred royal families, might well think that headline is supportive. (Memo to the Panned Old Duke of York: it means the opposite).
Anyway, he wants it to be business as usual. According to the Financial Times (yes, even the Pink One is covering the story too), the prince will lead a trade mission to Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks.
He has decided to go ahead with the visit, says the paper, "despite rising political instability in the Middle East and fresh criticism of his official business-promotion role following links to Jeffrey Epstein, the controversial US businessman."
A controversial US businessman? That's some euphemism for a man who served 13 months in jail for soliciting an underage girl into prostitution and is now on the US sex offenders' register.
Anyway, I still can't understand why most of the papers were silent for most of the time. But I am pleased the "oversight" has been corrected.
And, for the record, I am given to understand that if the muckrakers rake a little more, there is more muck to be found.
I'm trying to figure out why the Government of Canada is going to ban mercury thermometers and thermostats yet are going to force us to use mercury-laden light bulbs.
Mercury is bad for humans. Incandescent bulbs may have some faults, but at least you don't need to seal off the room and call a hazardous materials specialist if you break one.
Can anyone help me make sense out of this?
Prince Andrew in the spotlight for friendship with U.S. pedophile
Araminta Wordsworth March 7, 2011 – 2:01 pm
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Prince Andrew: One half of the Dysfunctional Duo
Full Comment’s Araminta Wordsworth brings you a daily round-up of quality punditry from across the globe. Today: Kate Middleton isn’t the only one to have embarrassing relatives turning up at the wedding.
On her side, there’s Uncle Gary Goldsmith, the drug-dealing millionaire whose Ibiza villa goes by the Berlusconi-esque name of Casa de Bang Bang.
On her fiancé’s side, there’s Uncle Andy Windsor — Prince Andrew, the Duke of York to the not-so-forelock-tugging plebs — now in the spotlight for his dodgy friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile, and his intemperate outbursts while allegedly representing the country on trade missions.
It was bad enough to see photos of the Duke with his arm around the bare waist of the 17-year-old masseuse at the centre of the scandal. In a further embarrassment, he admitted on the weekend he had asked Epstein to help pay the debts of his former wife, the perennially toe-curling Sarah Ferguson.
These are just the latest blots on the escutcheon since his misguided marriage fell apart. The Prince, who was once applauded for his part in the Falklands war, is seen as an aging money-obsessed buffoon, with a major sense of entitlement. Now the government is facing calls to stop using him in any official capacity.
As Owen Bowcott and Polly Curtis report in The Guardian,
“As no stranger to controversy, the Duke of York’s role as U.K. special representative for international trade and investment has already earned him bitter criticism over his supposedly close relationships with the ruling families of Tunisia, Libya and Kazakhstan.
But his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the disgraced former newspaper owner, and the convicted American financier Jeffrey Epstein has spun off into a volatile tale of erotic massage and the procuring of underage girls into prostitution.
Epstein has been convicted of soliciting teenage girls for prostitution. Despite that, the Duke of York was photographed in New York with Epstein last December.
And it was the admission this weekend that the Prince had received a massage while staying at Epstein’s Florida mansion 10 years ago – although it did not involve sexual contact – that has apparently proved too much for the government.”
Even before evidence of the Epstein friendship surfaced, the Prince’s boorishness was amply on display, thanks to WikiLeaks. In a 2008 cable from Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. ambassador detailed his performance.
“He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia … His mother’s subjects seated around the table roared their approval. He then went on to ‘these [expletive] journalists, especially from the National [sic] Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere’ and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped. He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating ‘our stupid British and American governments which plan at best for 10 years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries.’ …
[H]e reacted with almost neuralgic patriotism whenever any comparison between the United States and United Kingdom came up. For example, one British businessman noted that despite the ‘overwhelming might of the American economy compared to ours’ the amount of American and British investment in Kyrgyzstan was similar. Snapped the Duke: ‘No surprise there. The Americans don’t understand geography. Never have. In the U K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!’ ”
In an editorial, the Mail on Sunday called for the Prince to go.
“It is increasingly difficult to see how the Duke of York can continue to act as an official envoy of the British Government … Rather than tirelessly promoting British trade, he appears to be promoting the Duke of York. Would an audit of his time in the post show that he, or the country, had benefited more?
Whatever the answer, this experiment has gone far enough. The nation held Prince Andrew in some affection after his display of undoubted courage in the Falklands, and sympathized with him over the break-up of his marriage to the tempestuous Sarah Ferguson.
The idea that a prominent Royal could boost British trade was not itself a bad one. But in practice it has given rise to far too much suspicion and doubt, and now threatens to damage the Monarchy. The Duke should retire into a more private life.”
At The Daily Telegraph, Cristina Odone suggests Andrew and Fergie should remarry.
“Look at the photos, follow the stories: Andrew and Fergie enjoy a complicity that no one can destroy – or truly understand. Yes, there’s money in it. But is there also a lingering sexual attraction, that binds the portly pair? A similarly childish sense of humour? A guilty secret that joins them at the hip, even decades after they officially split up?
Whatever their secret synergy, the outrageous pair deserve each other. Until recently, it looked as if Fergie was the reckless member of this partnership; her legendary greed and lack of common sense made her look like the Lady Macbeth whose machinations risked dragging poor old Andrew into disrepute. But the Epstein affair, coming as it does on the heels of WikiLeaks which exposed Andrew’s appalling behaviour on diplomatic missions, makes him look just as foolish.
At this point, the dysfunctional duo should make their relationship official: either they start a company, or they remarry.”
compiled by Araminta Wordsworth