Monday, 24 May 2010
Another story that is grist to the republican mill over the last few days has been that the Duke of York has been dropped in the soup by his ex wife. He faced fresh controversy over his role as British business ambassador last night after it emerged Sarah Ferguson had been caught on camera offering access to him in exchange for £500,000.
There were fears that his position as Special Representative for International Trade and Investment had been compromised. That is the sinecure job that seems to be passed from one member of the royal family to another. The previous incumbent was the Duke of Kent who passed it to Andy in 2001.
The Prince, 50, arrived in Britain yesterday after visiting Malaysia to promote industry. He is expected to meet advisers at Buckingham Palace today and also to speak to representatives of the UK Trade & Investment department, which he represents. Time for a lot of damage limitation I think.
The Duchess of York, also 50, said she was “devastated” after being filmed by the News of the World, which is owned by News International, parent company of The Times. “I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused,” she said yesterday. “It is true that my financial situation is under stress”. I see, devastated at being caught offering access to an unelected holder of a government sinecure for a few hundred thousand to beef up your personal wealth.
“However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened, she continued. I can confirm that the Duke of York was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred.” Lapse in judgment? No Sarah cynical attempt to grab money from your position I think.
Undercover footage showed Sarah, suggesting that half a million pounds would “open doors” before confirming that she was referring to her former husband, who met the “most amazing people”. Claiming that she was broke, she accepted $40,000 (£27,600) in cash. She gave the reporter her bank details for future payments, adding “then you open up all the channels . . . then you meet Andrew and that’s fine. And that’s when you really open up whatever you want.”
She insisted that the Prince was “whiter than white” but also claimed to have discussed her plans with him. “Andrew said to me, ‘Tell him £500,000’. He knows that he’s had to underwrite me up to now because I’ve got no money. So if you want to meet him, look after me and he’ll look after you . . . you’ll get it back tenfold.” The newspaper added that the Prince had no knowledge of the deal. So he did know then or at least suspected.
The Duchess ignored reporters’ questions when she arrived in Los Angeles yesterday after an American Airlines flight from Heathrow at 2.15pm (10.15pm GMT). She is attending an awards ceremony organised by the children’s charity Variety.
Last night UK Trade & Investment said that the issue was a matter for Buckingham Palace and backed the Prince’s work. Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The timing of this couldn’t be worse and this whole affair may affect the ability of the Prince to clinch those vital deals. When the pound is so weak and following the recent uncertainty about the election, his job is even more important than ever.” Not that old chestnut about the Prince opening doors to investment because he is a prince is it? How do the Americans manage without a royal family to be the richest and most powerful country in the world without a load of royal hangers on to open all these doors to trade that would otherwise be slammed in republican faces? And the Chinese, and the French and the Germans. And do the Japanese royal family rush around the world prostituting themselves for a few million quid? The fact of the matter is if British expertise and goods were so good we would not need a royal salesman would we?
He urged UK Trade & Investment and the Prince’s office to show that he was “above all this”. “Intrigue is not the way we do business.” Are you joking what about the Al Yamamah arms deal that set a bench mark in terms of bribery and corruption?
Last year the Prince, nicknamed Airmiles Andy, was paid £130,000 in expenses. He does not receive a salary. This year he was criticised for using a £1 million golfing villa in Abu Dhabi.
This is the problem when you have grasping royals and their hangers on, like this. Their personal unelected influence is, and always will be a magnet for corruption.