Prince Andrew’s follies have shown the royal family who its friends are
To enemies of the monarchy, Prince Andrew presents the perfect target. He has an array of vices: a love of the high life, a weakness for unsavoury company, a painfully short list of achievements and a talent for finding his way into newspapers. His foreign trips have a reputation for misadventure, with diplomats sent to smooth the feathers he ruffles. To have the reputation of being rude is hardly fatal for a royal: the Duke of Edinburgh has almost made a virtue of it. But when convicted sex offenders, Kazakh billionaires and teenage masseurs were thrown into the mix, the anti-monarchists knew it was the perfect time to pounce.
It is a Labour MP, Chris Bryant, who has led the charge. The Prince, he says, should resign because he ‘is a bit of an embarrassment’ — this from a former vicar best known for posting a picture of himself in his underpants on a dating website. But Bryant’s mission is broader. When he was a Foreign Office minister, he said, he felt frustrated at the idea that the monarchy was immune from political attack. ‘A Labour administration tackling the royals would have led to charges of republicanism,’ he said. ‘Perhaps it might be easier for the coalition to take a stand.’ If last week was anything to go by, he will not be disappointed.
The anonymous briefing from government sources started immediately. Prince Andrew was acting as an unpaid trade envoy, ran the logic, so he should be treated like an ordinary politician. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said the Duke should ‘judge the position he is in’ and added, with menace, that ‘conversations will have to take place’. Another source said the government would shed no tears for the Prince’s departure.