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Life looked rosy for the Liberal Democrats at their party conference in September 2019.

Buoyed by her election as leader, Jo Swinson, a Scot, appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on September 15. The Daily Mail reported on the programme and the party’s policies on Brexit:

The clear stance on Brexit was cemented when members at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 it the party gains a majority in a general election.

The move would stop Brexit in its tracks without the need for a second referendum.

“The policy we are debating at conference today is very clear,” Ms Swinson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government – as a majority government – the ‘Stop Brexit’ party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get. Yes, we will revoke Article 50.”

The East Dunbartonshire MP added: “We have argued that a specific Brexit deal should be put to a People’s Vote to give clarity.

We still argue for that. But if we end up at a general election then I think we need to be straightforward with people and give them an option for all this Brexit chaos to stop.

I recognise not everyone agrees with the Lib Dems on this. (But) it is genuinely what we think is right for the country.”

Is cancelling a referendum result ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’?

Some voters did not think it was:

Tweets began appearing about her voting record as an MP in David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s coalition government (2010-2015). Swinson voted with the Conservatives more often than the leading Conservative MPs of the day:

She went further than most.

However, those were but minor distractions that never hit the media. On September 19, the Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Jo Swinson’s party jumped from 19 per cent to 23 per cent to leapfrog Jeremy Corbyn‘s bitterly divided outfit, according to the YouGov vote tracker. 

It came after the party used its annual conference at the weekend to vow to revoke Article 50 and keep the UK in the EU if it won a general election.

Meanwhile former prime minister Tony Blair said today that UK political parties should be worried about the Lib Dems as there is a ‘great level of frustration’ about the direction Labour and the Tories are taking.

Ms Swinson used the speech to lashed out at ‘insular, closed and selfish’ Brexiteers as she branded Brexit ‘the fight of our lives for the heart and soul of Britain’.

This was the polling result published that day:

London’s Evening Standard published an exclusive interview with Tony Blair that afternoon. The former Prime Minister told the interviewer ‘you’re making me feel under-dressed’ and gave his thoughts on the Lib Dems:

… the dangers to Labour if its leader blunders into “a Brexit election” have increased following Jo Swinson’s first conference as Liberal Democrat leader this week. Her promise of a “very, very clear revoke” could be “attractive” and he thought a “resurgent” centre party could squeeze Labour.

On September 30, Twitter activists had researched Swinson’s husband, who works for a pro-EU organisation called Transparency International:

On October 9, Swinson went to Brussels to meet with EU politicians, including Guy Verhofstadt, who has travelled to England to participate in a few Lib Dem events, including their 2019 party conference:

Here is a bit more about Swinson’s visit. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake is in the far left photo:

She also met our EU negotiator Michel Barnier that day. He negotiates with the government, not opposition MPs. She has some brass neck, but, then, again, she wasn’t the only one bending the ears of EU officials:

On Wednesday, October 30, Swinson appeared on the BBC, where veteran journalist Andrew Neil gave her a grilling for insisting she could become Britain’s next Prime Minister. I watched it. It was a breathtaking half hour. The Express reported the principal soundbite around which the rest of the interview revolved:

Speaking on BBC Two’s the Andrew Neil Show, Ms Swinson said: “I’m standing as a candidate to be Prime Minister, Andrew.”

He interjected: “No one stands as a candidate to be Prime Minister. You’re standing as a candidate in East Dunbarton.”

Ms Swinson continued: “I’m standing as the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

“You’re right, we have a parliamentary democracy system and the leader of the party who secures the most or majority of MPs becomes Prime Minister.”

Oh, my!

She dug herself in deeply during that half hour:

Only two weeks later — one week into the general election campaign — Swinson’s delusions of becoming PM were dashed:

Her approval ratings haven’t budged since.

At the party’s manifesto launch on November 20, Swinson pledged to save Britain’s children from a ‘boiling planet’. You cannot make this stuff up:

Some found her rhetoric unconvincing:

Two days later, Home Secretary Priti Patel took strong exception to Swinson’s illiberal and undemocratic approach to Brexit, based on what she had said on the BBC’s Question Time:

Swinson had said on more than one occasion, the first time in an ITV interview, that she would revoke Article 50 on Day 1 of her premiership, because that is within the remit of the Prime Minister.

The BBC’s Andrew Marr decided not to ask her about that statement. The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges, Glenda Jackson’s son, wanted to be sure:

That day, Hodges had written a columm for the Mail on Sunday about how Swinson was ‘killing the Liberal Democrats’, particularly in the south west, where they always do well:

True. And the slogan on the Lib Dem leaflets is:

STOP BREXIT

in large upper-case letters.

Negative slogans are nearly always the least persuasive.

She began turning off voters in earnest:

Many men have said, rather politely, that Swinson would do well to wear, as one put it, ‘more business-like attire’. Where do one’s eyes go when looking at her? We would like to look more at her face without the other obvious distraction, which women have noticed, too. A Chanel-style jacket would certainly help.

She also made a huge mis-step by putting a huge photo of her face on the side of the Lib Dem battle bus:

Then Andrew Neil chimed in. Oh, boy, did Neil nail it:

On Wednesday, December 4, she made a second appearance on Andrew Neil’s show. She seemed more realistic but, by now, it no longer matters for her or for the Lib Dems. They have sunk like a stone:

She’ll be lucky if they pick up one more MP.

Neil quizzed her on her past voting record, which she now admits was a mistake. He then asked if we couldn’t trust her to make good judgements in the past, how could we do so now? Fair point, well made:

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston sounded the death knell for the Lib Dems on December 5:

This is the latest polling. Lib Dems are down three points:

Of course, all of us pontificating on and projecting their result next week could be wrong, but, somehow, I doubt it.

Lib Dems: same as they ever were, Jo or no Jo.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, ITV showed the first debate of the election campaign.

Supporters of smaller political parties criticised ITV for inviting only Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, but, in reality, only one of the two will be Britain’s next PM:

At that point, a week before Remembrance Day (hence the poppies), the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson was confident she had a real chance at becoming PM:

Although Conservatives believed Boris should have been harder hitting on Labour policies, he probably pulled back because a) this was early in the campaign and b) he wanted to help convince undecided or low-information voters that Conservatives have the better policies.

Afterwards, ITV News reported on the highlights (emphases mine):

In the opening exchanges, the prime minister warned the UK faced more “dither and delay” under a Labour government.

He said a vote for the Conservatives would be a vote to finally “get Brexit done”.

“If you vote for us, we have a deal that is ready to go. Approved by every one of the 635 Conservatives candidates standing at this election,” he said.

As soon as we can get that deal through Parliament, as we can in the next few weeks, we can get on with the people’s priorities.”

But Mr Corbyn retorted that he could not deliver on what he was promising.

“That idea that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’ deal can be dealt with and finished by the end of January is such nonsense,” he said.

“What he is proposing is a trade deal which will take at least seven years to negotiate whilst at the same time saying he will negotiate a special trade deal with the European Union.

“The two things are actually incompatible.”

Also:

Mr Corbyn’s shifted focus onto the NHS, claiming the service would be part of trade negotiations with the US.

Mr Corbyn accused the prime minister of conducting “secret meetings” with the US about the NHS and a future trade deal.

The Labour leader said: “What we know of what Mr Johnson has done is a series of secret meetings with the United States in which they were proposing to open up our NHS markets as they call them to American companies.”

To this claim, Mr Johnson replied: “I’m amazed how often this comes up.”

Mr Johnson insisted: “This is an absolute invention, it is completely untrue, there are no circumstances whatever that this Government or any Conservative Government would put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiations.”

That was the week after Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview on the BBC, which had aired the previous Saturday evening. Moderator Julie Etchingham asked the two leaders about the monarchy. I have highlighted what the PM said, because it has been often misquoted since:

Asked if the monarchy is fit for purpose, Mr Corbyn simply replied: “It needs a bit of improvement.”

Mr Johnson answered: “The institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach,”

Ms Etchingham then asked if Prince Andrew is fit for purpose.

Mr Corbyn highlighted how sympathies should be with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, which Mr Johnson echoed.

Boris never said the monarchy was beyond reproach, meaning individual royals. He remarked on the institution itself.

Corbyn, who has been repeatedly accused of downplaying anti-Semitism in his party, which, oddly, has been rampant since he took over as leader in 2016, brought up Jeffrey Epstein. As everyone following the scandal knows, his surname is pronounced ‘Ep-steen’, but Corbyn deliberately pronounced it ‘Ep-shtein’, putting real emphasis on it.

The former editor-in-chief of The Independent, Simon Kelner, wrote an editorial about it for the i paper, ‘Conscious or not, Jeremy Corbyn’s mispronunciation of Jeffrey Epstein’s name matters to British Jews’. Too right it does:

The question, which we can be sure will never be answered, is this: did Corbyn do it, consciously or unconsciously (they’re both as bad as each other, by the way), to make Epstein sound just a little more sinister and foreign and, relevantly in the context, more Jewish? It’s hard to come up with an answer that doesn’t make the Labour leader appear either malevolent or incompetent. Given the wall-to-wall media coverage devoted to the scandal over recent days, it stretches credulity to suggest that Corbyn hadn’t heard Epstein’s name pronounced correctly multiple times.

it was a very emphatic delivery – is something else entirely, and Corbyn had to go out of his way to summon up the mittel-European pronunciation

I am more of a pedant than I am an anti-Semite hunter, but my synapses were twitching on both counts. I have a high threshold for anti-Semitism, and I have never thought that there was a prima facie case against Corbyn in this respect. In fact, I share some of his views on the politics of the Middle East. But this definitely pulled me up short. Having just watched his epically short-tempered interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4, which was filmed in 2015 but went viral this week, it made me wonder whether Corbyn might just be, to borrow [the BBC’s] Eddie Mair’s epithet about Boris Johnson, a nasty piece of work.

While the mispronunciation of Epstein’s name may not be viewed by the majority of viewers as overtly anti-Semitic, it definitely had a nasty edge. No one is offended on Epstein’s behalf (that would be ludicrous), but if I found it offensive, many, many other Jewish people would have found it more so

Whether I am reading too much into a slip of the tongue is open for debate. But what is not in question is that Jeremy Corbyn should be doing all he can to persuade Jewish voters that, on anti-Semitism, he doesn’t just talk the talk. And what he did here was, apart from anything else, very bad politics.

More on this follows below.

Members of the audience were allowed to ask questions:

The debate ended with a hypothetical question from an audience member about what Christmas presents the two leaders would give each other:

Before their closing remarks, the prime ministerial hopefuls were asked what Christmas presents they would buy for each other.

Mr Corbyn said: “I know Mr Johnson likes a good read, so what I would probably leave under the tree for him would be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and he could then understand how nasty Scrooge was.”

Responding, Mr Johnson said: “I would probably leave a copy – since you want a literary reference – a copy of my brilliant Brexit deal.”

Pressed by host Ms Etchingham to give a non-political answer, Mr Johnson said: “Mr Corbyn shares my love of plants and trees. I think maybe some damson jam,” to which Mr Corbyn said: “I love damson jam.”

At that point, Boris walked over to Corbyn and invited him to shake hands. It was a spontaneous moment, and it’s a pity that ITV did not report on it. Viewers could see Corbyn backing away from Boris with his outstretched hand. After seconds of hesitation, he extended his own for a limp handshake. Boris’s was much heartier.

What did the general public think? Interestingly, the result was similar to that for the Brexit referendum, which was 52% to 48%:

Leaders of the two main parties take part in debates like tonight’s, in part, to try to win over undecided voters.

A YouGov snap poll suggested 51% of Britons believed Mr Johnson won the debate compared to 49% for Mr Corbyn.

Those who answered “don’t know” were removed from the result, with YouGov adding the figures are so close as to be within the margin of error.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston told news presenter Alastair Stewart that Jeremy Corbyn needed this debate to present a positive game-changer for Labour, who were trailing in the polls then and continue to do so now. Peston said that it was a draw. People who want Brexit done will vote for Boris. People who are worried about the NHS will vote for Corbyn:

Tom Harwood, who works for Guido Fawkes, said that Labour missed a trick with their claim that the Conservatives would ‘sell the NHS’ to President Trump:

Interestingly, our EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, noticed another of Harwood’s tweets — and ‘liked’ it:

Dear me. Whatever next?

Well, the Labour-supporting newspaper, The Mirror, did not exactly go overboard in favour of Corbyn’s performance. Then, again, Prince Andrew was still making the headlines:

At the weekend, the polls remained static. More than one person thought this was because of the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. They are the only other political party other than the extreme British National Party to be investigated for it. Shameful:

One week later — Tuesday, November 26 — Corbyn appeared on the BBC for an evening interview with veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil. He looked tired, ‘low energy’ (to borrow a Trumpism) and cranky. Neil took him to town on anti-Semitism, forcing him to admit nearly everyone in Britain would be poorer under Labour as well as false claims about the Conservatives wanting to sell the NHS to Trump:

It was generally agreed that, only days after Prince Andrew managed to give one of the all-time worst interviews on television, Corbyn managed to rival him:

This is how bad it was:

These were some of the newspaper headlines on Wednesday:

Andrew Neil began by asking Corbyn if he thought a particular statement about ‘Rothschild Zionists’ was anti-Semitic. Corbyn refused to say, until after the fourth time Neil repeated it:

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Jeremy Corbyn had to be asked four times before admitting ‘Rothchild Zionists run Israel and world governments’ is an anti-Semitic trope. This’ll undoubtedly put the minds of 80% of British Jews to rest…

Corbyn offered no apology for the anti-Semitism in sections of the Labour Party. This video is subtitled:

Andrew Neil grilled Corbyn on taxing everyone more, not just the wealthy:

Neil exposed the fact that Labour’s costings make no sense. Where’s the money coming from? The reply is not an actual Corbyn quote, by the way:

Labour supporters accused Neil of interrupting Corbyn, but:

The Sun has an excellent summary of the interview:

The next morning, ITV’s Piers Morgan picked up Corbyn’s daft comment on ISIS:

The interview got very good ratings:

With regard to the NHS, Neil scored points there, too.

Even Barry Gardiner, the erudite, effete veteran Labour MP — technically a Labour candidate, now that we are approaching the election — couldn’t defend his leader to Andrew Neil with regard to his questionable statements about the Conservatives wanting to sell the NHS to the United States. This interview took place 24 hours later:

Guido Fawkes commented:

The second excruciating Andrew Neil interview Labour has had to go through took place last night, when Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner was shown up over Jeremy Corbyn’s blatant fibs to the electorate. Labour are banking on people not being bothered to read the 451 pages they produced. Unfortunately for them, Guido has

With this and snapping at a journalist for mentioning anti-Semitism, Gardiner has not been having a good media round…

Those interested can follow Guido’s link in his first paragraph to see the documents in question.

Jeremy Corbyn is talking a lot of nonsense not only on the NHS but everything else his party proposes.

One thing is for certain: so far, he has been a gift to the Conservatives.

On Friday, November 22, 2019, a special two-hour Question Time was broadcast.

Fiona Bruce, the show’s host, moderated a discussion involving questions from a live audience put forward to the four main party leaders in half-hour segments.

The programme began with Jeremy Corbyn. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP followed. The last two were Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party.

It was really sad to see that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are the only political party running on a pro-Brexit platform. Labour favour a watery Brexit with a second referendum. Jo Swinson said in a previous interview on ITV last week that in the (unlikely) event she became Prime Minister, she would revoke Article 50 all by herself on the first day. The SNP are all about Scottish independence and only the Scots can vote for them. They, too, oppose Brexit and would appeal to the EU to allow Scotland to join as a separate nation.

Who won?

On Saturday, November 23, The Express reported on a poll it conducted among readers. Not surprisingly, most participants thought that Boris won (emphases mine):

A total of 50 percent of people believed the Conservative leader stole the show, with less than a quarter of readers (23 percent) convinced Jeremy Corbyn won.

Of the 22,368 people who voted in the poll, 11,307 believed Boris Johnson won – versus just 4,816 people. who voted for Mr Corbyn.

Of the four candidates, Jo Swinson seemed the least popular, with just eight percent – 1,776 people – believing she won the debate.

In fact, more people said they didn’t know who won – with this option being chosen by 1,924 people.

Coming third was Nicola Sturgeon, who teased a “less formal” arrangement with Labour to stop Brexit and end austerity, with 2,545 votes for the SNP leader.

One commenter, ‘fitz’, said the Prime Minister managed to “scrape through” after a tough start.

They said: “Boris had a tough job, but he scraped through ok at the end.

“I do not have any doubts that he will win the election with a modest majority of MPs who will support him.”

I hope that proves to be the case.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nearly all the leaders received tough questions from the audience. Nicola Sturgeon seemed to receive fewer:

I was hoping someone would ask her more about Scotland being financially self-sufficient post-independence without English money provided through what is called the Barnett Formula and what plans she would have for a Scottish currency. The SNP believe they can continue to use the British pound!

But I digress.

Sturgeon was adamant that Scots alone could decide the fate of the Union, which has existed since 1707:

Sturgeon relaxed with a book on the way back to Scotland:

Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson got a verbal blast from a Brexit supporter. The Express reported on the exchange:

Catherine, the audience member, asked: “Is revoking Article 50 confirming to 17.4 million people that you think we’re stupid and don’t know what we voted for?”

The Lib Dem leader said: “You cannot accuse us of not being upfront about wanting to stop Brexit. We have been crystal clear about that from the very beginning.

“Not for one second do I think that means you or anyone like you is stupid. I think it means we disagree.

“I really want us to be in a situation in this country where we can disagree with each other, Catherine.”

Ms Swinson continued: “That means that you want to leave, and I don’t think that makes you a bad person.

“I want to remain in the EU and I hope you think that doens’t make me a bad one.”

The audience member shot back: “You can disagree with me but you lost.

“You don’t get to keep disagreeing with me.”

Well said, Catherine.

On Saturday morning, Chuka Umunna, former Labour MP, now a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, was asked on a BBC radio programme about Swinson’s Question Time performance and the Lib Dem’s anti-Brexit policy. The Express reports:

Mr Umunna, who standing in the cities of London and Westminster constituency on December 12, insisted the Liberal Democrat position to revoke Article 50 was not a mistake, despite Ms Swinson facing a tough grilling by furious audience members on the special leaders debate last night. The Labour-turned-ChangeUK-turned-Lib Dem politician told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “No, there’s been no mistake made on this policy.”

Mr Umunna added: “It’s absolutely clear – you can’t save the NHS and address the issues in it at the same time as not seeking to stop Brexit, not least because 10 percent of our doctors come from the EU, and 7 percent of our nurses come from the EU.”

What no one from any party has addressed is WHY we have so few British doctors and nurses these days. I do not have an answer myself.

Anyway, The Express article related another audience member’s blast at Swinson on the Question Time special:

Ms Swinson faced yet another awkward encounter when another audience member branded the plan to stop Brexit “undemocratic”.

An audience member said: “You are not saying we will go back to the people, you are unilaterally saying ‘Revoke it.’

It’s undemocratic from somebody who wishes the last three and a half years had never happened.”

A startled Ms Swinson responded by saying the Liberal Democrats had campaigned for a so-called people’s vote for the past three years without getting the support in the House of Commons.

Swinson also received a grilling about her voting record when she was an MP in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government from 2010-2015. Swinson voted ‘Aye’ to more Conservative policies than Conservative MPs did during those years:

The woman asking that question was no ordinary member of the general public. To some viewers, her face seemed very familiar. They were not wrong. The woman is an actress:

That did not go down well with some viewers, and, in my humble opinion, rightly so:

Returning to Jo Swinson, the questions did no favours for the Lib Dems:

Jeremy Corbyn

Right at the outset, Jeremy Corbyn received a verbal smackdown from a long haired, bearded man:

Then, one of Corbyn’s supporters chimed in:

Corbyn’s position on Brexit has been rather nebulous, so, someone asked him about it:

This is what Corbyn said:

Boris Johnson

Boris confirmed to Fiona Bruce and the audience that he had been watching the programme backstage.

The Left have been hammering at Boris for an alleged lack of integrity. Yet, I cannot think of a single politician who has told the truth 100% of the time. Anyway:

As in the United States with the 2016 election, the Left are alleging that Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum campaign. Before Parliament was dissolved, Boris declined to release an official report about it, saying that, customarily, the Prime Minister reviewed such documents over a matter of weeks rather than days:

Someone brought up former Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve, a muckraking Remainer:

Boris got many more difficult questions.

He handled them well. Here he is on education:

And on Brexit:

Many of the questions and remarks were not fair, because he was not a sitting MP for most of the time the Conservatives have been in government. He was Mayor of London during several of those years, a fact that he put forward to the audience. He also said that he has been Prime Minister for only 120 days!

Overall, he managed a conversational tone with everyone, no matter how obnoxious they were:

Nearly everyone is upset over the blatant bias that Fiona Bruce and Mentorn Productions show on Question Time. Therefore, people overall — outside of Leftist activists — empathised with Boris, such as this journalist:

Boris also got a boost from this viewer:

And these:

The Prime Minister was gracious afterwards:

Conclusion

Outside of the usual bias, the Question Time Leaders Special was good, because it is probably be the only time in this election campaign when party leaders will take questions from a live audience.

For those who would like to read more about the programme as it happened, see the Daily Mail (here and here) as well as The Guardian.

This week’s posts have largely been about last Saturday’s televised interview that Prince Andrew gave to BBC Newsnight‘s Emily Maitlis.

My post from Tuesday has a link to the full interview, and for those wondering why the public sentiment is so against him, here are several reasons. Yesterday’s post featured his announcement to retire from public life and subtitled video clips from the interview.

Today’s looks at the reasons why Prince Andrew maintained his friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein. The following quotes are taken from the transcript as published in The Express. Emily Maitlis is ‘Interviewer’.

It’s quite a read, according to this Sunday Times journalist:

How they met

It appears that Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s erstwhile girlfriend, introduced the two (emphases mine):

Well I met through his girlfriend back in 1999 who…and I’d known her since she was at university in the UK and it would be, to some extent, a stretch to say that as it were we were close friends. I mean we were friends because of other people and I had a lot of opportunity to go to the United States but I didn’t have much time with him.

I suppose I saw him once or twice a year, perhaps maybe maximum of three times a year and quite often if I was in the United States and doing things and if he wasn’t there, he would say “well, why don’t you come and use my houses?” so I said “that’s very kind, thank you very much indeed”.

But it would be a considerable stretch to say that he was a very, very close friend. But he had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together and that’s the bit that I remember as going to the dinner parties where you would meet academics, politicians, people from the United Nations, I mean it was a cosmopolitan group of what I would describe as US eminents.

Interviewer: Was that his appeal then?

Prince Andrew: Yeah.

Maitlis asked the prince if the two of them enjoyed partying:

because you were perceived by the public as being the party prince, was that something you shared?

Prince Andrew: Well, I think that’s also a bit of a stretch. I don‘t know why I’ve collected that title because I don’t…I never have really partied. I was single for quite a long time in the early 80s but then after I got married I was very happy and I’ve never really felt the need to go and party and certainly going to Jeffrey’s was not about partying, absolutely not.

This might help jog his memory:

And what about this?

Back to the interview.

Maitlis asked if he trusted Epstein:

Yes, I think I probably did but again, I mean I don’t go into a friendship looking for the wrong thing, if you understand what I mean. I’m an engaging person, I want to be able to engage, I want to find out, I want to learn and so you have to remember that I was transitioning out of the Navy at the time and in the transition I wanted to find out more about what was going on because in the Navy it’s a pretty isolated business because you’re out at sea the whole time and I was going to become the special representative for international trade and investment.

So I wanted to know more about what was going on in the international business world and so that was another reason for going there. And the opportunities that I had to go to Wall Street and other places to learn whilst I was there were absolutely vital.

Epstein’s visits to the UK

Emily Maitlis then asked about Epstein’s visits to the UK as his guest:

Interviewer: He was your guest as well, in 2000 Epstein was a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham, he was brought right into the heart of the royal family at your invitation.

Prince Andrew: But certainly at my invitation, not at the royal family’s invitation but remember that it was his girlfriend that was the key element in this. He was the, as it were, plus one, to some extent in that aspect.

Interviewer: Am I right in thinking you threw a birthday party for Epstein’s girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell at Sandringham?

Prince Andrew: No, it was a shooting weekend.

Interviewer: A shooting weekend.

Prince Andrew: Just a straightforward, a straightforward shooting weekend.

Interviewer: But during these times that he was a guest at Windsor Castle, at Sandringham, the shooting weekend…

Prince Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: We now know that he was and had been procuring young girls for sex trafficking.

All above board in Epstein’s houses?

Prince Andrew then said that he never noticed anything abnormal about Epstein’s houses other than the number of people at all times of day.

He was also a patron of the Full Stop campaign for the UK’s NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) early after the Millennium, a position he held until 2009.

Oh, the irony.

Prince Andrew: We now know that, at the time there was no indication to me or anybody else that that was what he was doing and certainly when I saw him either in the United States…oh no when I saw him in the United States or when I was staying in his houses in the United States, there was no indication, absolutely no indication. And if there was, you have to remember that at the time I was Patron of the NSPCC’s Full Stop campaign so I was close up with what was going on in those time about getting rid of abuse to children so I knew what the things were to look for but I never saw them.

Interviewer: So you would have made that connection because you stayed with him, you were a visitor, a guest on many occasions at his homes and nothing struck you as suspicious

Prince Andrew: Nothing.

Interviewer: …during that whole time.

Prince Andrew: Nothing.

Could it be a matter of perception? In an appearance this week on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Lady Colin Campbell (second tweet) made a dubious distinction:

Moving along:

Interviewer: Just for the record, you’ve been on his private plane.

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Interviewer: You’ve been to stay on his private island.

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Interviewer: You’ve stayed at his home in Palm Beach.

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Interviewer: You visited Ghislaine Maxwell’s house in Belgravia in London.

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party — 2006

Maitlis asked Prince Andrew about inviting Epstein to Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party:

Interviewer: So in 2006 in May an arrest warrant was issued for Epstein for sexual assault of a minor.

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Interviewer: In July he was invited to Windsor Castle to your daughter, Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday, why would you do that?

Prince Andrew: Because I was asking Ghislaine. But even so, at the time I don’t think I…certainly I wasn’t aware when the invitation was issued what was going on in the United States and I wasn’t aware until the media picked up on it because he never said anything about it.

Interviewer: He never discussed with you the fact that an arrest warrant had been issued?

Prince Andrew: No.

Interviewer: So he came to that party knowing police were investigating him.

Prince Andrew: Well I’m not quite sure, was it police? I don’t know, you see, this is the problem, I really don’t know.

Interviewer: It was the Palm Beach Police at the time.

Prince Andrew: But I mean I’m afraid, you see this is the problem is that an awful lot of this was going on in the United States and I wasn’t a party to it and I knew nothing about it.

Epstein’s 2008 conviction

The prince said that contact with Epstein was in abeyance for a few years:

Interviewer: In 2008 he was convicted of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, he was jailed, this was your friend, how did you feel about it?

Prince Andrew: Well I ceased contact with him after I was aware that he was under investigation and that was later in 2006 and I wasn’t in touch with him again until 2010. So just it was one of those things that somebody’s going through that sort of thing well I’m terribly sorry I can’t be…see you.

The 2010 dinner party

To celebrate his freedom, Epstein threw a private dinner party in December 2010. Prince Andrew was a guest of honour:

Interviewer: He was released in July, within months by December of 2010 you went to stay with him at his New York mansion, why? Why were you staying with a convicted sex offender?

Prince Andrew: Right, I have always…ever since this has happened and since this has become, as it were, public knowledge that I was there, I’ve questioned myself as to why did I go and what was I doing and was it the right thing to do? Now, I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.

And I had a number of people counsel me in both directions, either to go and see him or not to go and see him and I took the judgement call that because this was serious and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way of doing it. I had to go and see him and talk to him.

And I went to see him and I was doing a number of other things in New York at the time and we had an opportunity to go for a walk in the park and that was the conversation coincidentally that was photographed which was when I said to him, I said “look, because of what has happened, I don’t think it is appropriate that we should remain in contact” and by mutual agreement during that walk in the park we decided that we would part company and I left, I think it was the next day and to this day I never had any contact with him from that day forward.

Interviewer: What did he say when you told him that you were breaking up the friendship?

Prince Andrew: He was what I would describe as understanding, he didn’t go into any great depth in the conversation about what I was…what he was doing, except to say that he’d accepted, whatever it was, a plea bargain, he’d served his time and he was carrying on with his life if you see what I mean and I said “yes but I’m afraid to say that that’s as maybe but with all the attendant scrutiny on me then I don’t think it is a wise thing to do”.

Interviewer: Who advised you then that it was a good idea to go and break up the friendship? Did that come from the palace, was Her Majesty, the Queen involved?

Prince Andrew: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, that came from…so there were a number of people who…so some people from my staff, some people from friends and family I was talking to and I took the decision that it was I had to show leadership and I had to go and see him and I had to tell him “that’s it”.

Interviewer: That was December of 2010.

Prince Andrew: Yep. 

Interviewer: He threw a party to celebrate his release and you were invited as the guest of honour.

Prince Andrew: No, I didn’t go. Oh, in 2010, there certainly wasn’t a party to celebrate his release in December because it was a small dinner party, there were only 8 or 10 of us I think at the dinner. If there was a party then I’d know nothing about that.

Interviewer: You were invited to that dinner as a guest of honour.

Prince Andrew: Well I was there so there was a dinner, I don’t think it was quite as you might put it but yeah, okay I was there for…I was there at a dinner, yeah.

However, it was not as if the prince stayed in a hotel or with other friends and went to Epstein’s only to dine. No, he was a houseguest of his:

Interviewer: I’m just trying to work this out because you said you went to break up the relationship and yet you stayed at that New York mansion several days. I’m wondering how long?

Prince Andrew: But I was doing a number of other things while I was there.

Interviewer: But you were staying at the house

Prince Andrew: Yes.

Interviewer: …of a convicted sex offender.

Prince Andrew: It was a convenient place to stay. I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.

Interviewer: Because during that time, those few days, witnesses say they saw many young girls coming and going at the time. There is video footage of Epstein accompanied by young girls and you were there staying in his house, catching up with friends.

Prince Andrew: I never…I mean if there were then I wasn’t a party to any of that. I never saw them. I mean you have to understand that his house, I described it more as almost as a railway station if you know what I mean in the sense that there were people coming in and out of that house all the time.

What they were doing and why they were there I had nothing to do with. So I’m afraid I can’t make any comment on that because I really don’t know.

Why he was friends with Epstein

Prince Andrew explained why he maintained his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein:

Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful. He himself not, as it were, as close as you might think, we weren’t that close. So therefore I mean yes I would go and stay in his house but that was because of his girlfriend, not because of him.

Also:

As far as Mr Epstein was concerned, it was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010. As far as my association with him was concerned, it had some seriously beneficial outcomes in areas that have nothing and have nothing to do with what I would describe as what we’re talking about today.

On balance, could I have avoided ever meeting him? Probably not and that’s because of my friendship with Ghislaine, it was…it was…it was inevitable that we would have come across each other. Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.

There’s a lot more those interested can read on their own.

Update

This is what happened on Monday and Tuesday before the prince announced his retirement from public life for the foreseeable future.

It appears that the Queen did give the go-ahead for this interview. On Tuesday, November 19, The Express reported that, although she is standing by her son, his charities’ supporters are not:

THE Queen has thrown her support behind Prince Andrew. It comes despite worldwide criticism over his TV interview on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and a backlash from supporters of his charity patronages.

Sources confirmed that the 93-year-old monarch granted her approval for the Duke of York to give an interview to BBC Newsnight and stands by him. She signalled her backing as Andrew made it clear last night that he “regrets” the whole scenario and not expressing sympathy for the paedophile’s victims. And it emerged yesterday that key sponsors and supporters of Andrew’s charities are reviewing their involvement with him.

Sky News reported on KPMG on Monday:

However, The Express article says that KPMG might have taken the decision prior to the fateful interview:

Royal sources stressed KPMG’s decision was taken before the furore over Andrew’s interview with Newsnight. But the eighth in line to the throne, 59, has been embroiled in controversy since the summer, when previously sealed evidence, including claims about him cavorting with young women in the pay of Epstein, was released.

Another partner of Pitch@Palace, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, has indicated it is considering ending its work with the duke.

The article also said that the University of Huddersfield will keep the prince on as chancellor (patron), as the students only ‘discussed’ a petition for him to stand down.

Palace officials are concerned, because the Royal Family is supposed to stay out of the limelight during a general election campaign:

During campaigns, the Royal Family continue normal duties, but are usually urged to be careful to avoid doing anything that will attract controversy and distract attention from the politicians.

Labour supporters have said Andrew’s problems have disadvantaged their party particularly because it is behind in the polls and needs maximum media attention to have a chance of catching up.

The media have been asking politicians their views on the interview. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wisely refuses to be drawn in. Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates, when asked for their opinions, have been critical of the prince.

At the end of the article, Royal Family author Phil Dampier posted an editorial blaming the present situation on the lack of seasoned courtiers currently advising the Queen:

She has lost some experienced advisers in the past couple of years. It seems likely as Buckingham Palace has said she was made aware of it, that she allowed him to get on with it without worrying too much about the details. She has always indulged Andrew and at 93 and 98 she and Prince Philip don’t have the same grip on the family that they used to have

But in the past few years the Queen has appeared to exercise less authority over her family, not least when her private secretary Christopher Geidt was forced out in 2017, apparently because of opposition from other members of the family and their households.

The fallout from this interview is just another sign of the looser grip she is exercising now that we are in a period when the monarchy is gradually preparing itself for a handover to Prince Charles.

Another article in The Express says that when Prince Philip stepped away from public life a few years ago, the fabric of the Royal Family began to unravel:

The Royal Family is missing the involvement of Prince Philip, with royal commentators warning Prince Andrew’s calamitous BBC interview is evidence the Queen has “lost control” of Buckingham Palace. The Duke of Edinburgh, who at 98 no longer plays an active royal role, was widely considered to be “the disciplinarian in the family” and one commentator has said his departure from royal duties has led to a series of royal upsets.

This includes rifts between brothers William and Harry, Meghan Markle’s claims she is struggling with adjusting to royal life and now Prince Andrew’s “car crash interview”.

Veteran courtiers have suggested if Philip was still actively involved, there would have been “no way on this Earth” he would have allowed Andrew to be interviewed.

The Mirror’s Royal Editor Russel Myers has said in the past, the Duke of Edinburgh has warned against media interviews.

Currently, the duke is at Sandringham for health reasons, The Express says:

The Duke of Edinburgh has been staying during the past weeks at Wood Farm, a five-bedroom house on the Queen’s Sandringham estate, where he spends his days reading and “pottering around”, according to a royal insider.

They told The Sun: “A few weeks ago Philip had a bit of a wobble and hasn’t felt so energetic

“Until recently he has been very active — carriage riding, fishing at Balmoral and driving around royal estates — although he no longer drives on public roads following his crash in January …“

I wish the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh all the best. They are a very close couple, each other’s best friend.

However, the spotlight remains on their son. A November 19 report in The Express discusses David McClure, author of Royal Legacy, who wonders how Prince Andrew can fund his lavish lifestyle:

The Duke of York has two large properties including a £13 million chalet in Switzerland ski resort Verbier and the 30-room Royal Lodge in Windsor Park.

He travels extensively and while nowadays this is mostly for the work in the past he has enjoyed regular skiing trips, jaunts in St Tropez and golfing holidays.

McClure said:

There is a mystery as to what he lives on and where his money comes from.

“Andrew’s situation raises the wider issue of the lack of meaningful employment opportunities for middle-ranking royals.

Traditionally the armed services have been the port of call for princes like him.

But he left the navy at the age of 41 in 2001 and since then he has struggled to find a proper role in life.”

The Times reported Prince Andrew’s main income comes directly from Queen Elizabeth II  and is used to maintain his office at Buckingham Palace and pay for his private secretary.

This money comes from the income the Queen receives from her property portfolio The Duchy of Lancaster and amounts to around £249,000 a year.

This year the duchy’s profits amounted to £21.7 million.

Will we ever know? I wonder.

On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, in a surprise — but nonetheless welcome — development, Prince Andrew announced he would be standing down from public life for the foreseeable future:

As I wrote the other day, I could not stomach watching the BBC Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew, but my post from Tuesday has a link to it, and for those wondering why the public sentiment is so against him, here are several reasons.

Newsnight warmed us up for the big event the day before the broadcast:

No one responding to the tweet was impressed. The following reaction was unintentionally funny, however:

Subtitled clips

All of the Twitter clips below are subtitled, so there’s no need for sound. These are what I watched.

In some ways, it is more interesting reading the subtitles and watching Prince Andrew rather than listening.

Ultimately:

I must stop there.

More to follow tomorrow.

Yesterday, I wrote about Prince Andrew’s BBC interview, which includes a link to the video.

It’s hard to explain public anger with Prince Andrew to those who are not avid readers of online media.

One suspects that the prince himself does not frequent online media, either.

None of us knows for sure what happened in 2001 between him and the girl in ‘that’ photo, which appears countless times daily on the Internet. The now-married mother of three has her version of the story, and the prince has his:

We have also read enough about Jeffrey ‘Lolita Express’ Epstein to know he was a bad ‘un.

An article that appeared in The Guardian on August 23, 2019, ‘”Boorish and self-centred”: little love for Prince Andrew over Epstein links’, encapsulates public sentiment brilliantly.

At the time, Epstein had been dead for nearly two weeks. The Duchess of York took her husband to a resort in the south of Spain to whisk him away from the fray (emphases mine):

The duke, first named in US court documents in 2015, has issued outright denials over allegations he had sexual encounters in 2001 with Virginia Roberts, now Giuffre, when she was a 17 -year-old masseuse for Epstein. The claims were struck from the US court record by a judge who described them as “immaterial and impertinent”. Also vehemently denied are allegations, in recently released court papers of the Giuffre case, made by Johanna Sjoberg that Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch at Epstein’s home in 2001.

When the video footage of Andrew waving off a young woman from the convicted sex offender’s residence emerged this month, an equally strong statement, through Buckingham Palace, said the duke was “appalled” by the recent sexual abuse claims levelled at Epstein, 66, who killed himself in jail on 10 August while facing sex trafficking charges.

“His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent,” it said.

Not only was there the video, but also a photograph of the prince and Epstein together:

That video, and a photograph of him walking with Epstein in New York’s Central Park, were taken in 2010 – two years after the billionaire was convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution and was a registered sex offender.

Even royal insiders find this a compromising situation, because it reflects on The Firm as a whole:

The situation changed when Epstein was convicted. It was [Andrew’s] conscious decision to stay loyal, to not criticise his friend the convicted paedophile. And, while that may be fine for him, it’s a step too far. What it’s saying is the royal family tolerates this sort of behaviour,” said one veteran royal commentator, who has met Andrew on several occasions, and believes he should now step down from his public roles.

It’s true. Logic dictates that the prince’s deeds should not reflect on the Royal Family as a whole, but many people will draw that conclusion, regardless.

I know next to nothing about Prince Andrew, but what I do know is mostly negative. I remember hearing the nickname Randy Andy in the 1990s. He and his ex-wife also have a foot fetish. On the positive side, he is the Queen’s favourite son who is guaranteed to make her laugh.

The article lists more negatives. When these things concern a member of the royal family, our memories are long:

Time and again, Andrew, who a courtier once reportedly described as having “a pompous level of self-importance”, has demonstrated an eye-watering lack of judgment. Palace staff have rated him the rudest of royals, according to reports. A secret cable, published on WikiLeaks in 2010, revealed a US ambassador describing Andrew speaking “cockily” during one official lunch, leading to a discussion that “verged on the rude”.

He earned the soubriquet Air Miles Andy after the National Audit Office censured his helicopter habit in 2005, which included him spending £32,000 in one year flying to Scotland to the Royal and Ancient club at St Andrews in his capacity as captain.

In 2011, following pressure over the Epstein connection, he stood down from his role as UK special representative for trade and investment. It did not help when his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, admitted having accepted £15,000 from Epstein to help pay off her debts

Rightly, or wrongly, there is a perceived air of arrogance about Andrew, and he is described by various people as boorish and very self-centred,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine. “Perhaps we shouldn’t be judging the book by its cover. But, certainly, that’s the impression he has given for a very long time.”

Andrew’s loyalty to his seemingly perpetually broke former wife, famously photographed having her toes sucked by her “financial adviser” before their 1996 divorce, remains clear. The two live under the same roof, Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, and are currently holidaying together in Sotogrande. Even after Ferguson was caught trying to sell access to her ex-husband to an undercover reporter for £500,000 – of which the duke denied any knowledge – they remain close.

Andrew’s friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the notorious press baron Robert Maxwell, and a close friend of Epstein’s, first surfaced in 2000 when they appeared together at private parties and celebrity functions in the UK and US.

On Saturday, November 16, 2019, after the BBC Newsnight interview with the prince aired, The Guardian‘s Catherine Bennett wrote a scathing editorial, ‘What is the excuse for this misogynistic nonsense served up in a gilded chamber?’

An excerpt follows:

The prince’s rueful snigger alone, before “let the side down”, must have triggered a surge of collective nausea that the Queen, notwithstanding the new extra-empathetic generation of dependants, will struggle to subdue. Again, aside from the Giuffre allegations, the prince’s frank focus on the convenience of the Epstein residence, as opposed to the fate of the girls and women who were raped inside it, would have confirmed that Princess Margaret was actually quite a minor case of royal entitlement syndrome. But perhaps we should blame ourselves? Andrew’s generous Kazakh friends can’t do everything. There was no room at the inn. Given a royal annexe in Fifth Avenue, this might never have happened. And media training seems to have been another incautious palace economy.

If “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady” does not follow him, like Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, to his grave, it will only be because “my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable” becomes the popular, go-to excuse for idiocy of all kinds, let alone the misfortune to remain the boon companion of a convicted paedophile. It was hard to gauge, from the tackily suspenseful way the BBC has flourished its underage-sex-related scoop, how far the prince has been indulged. Maitlis was persistent, but never mentioned the time Andrew – according to Fergie – helped mediate a loan from Epstein.

One of the more egregious moments of the interview was when the prince said he’d ‘let the side down’:

It’s hard to disagree with this:

More to follow.

On Saturday, November 16, the BBC aired a recent interview that Prince Andrew gave to Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis.

Those who missed it can see the 49-minute long interview in full:

The interview did the Queen’s favourite son no favours.

Prince Andrew’s communications secretary Jason Stein even resigned over it, two weeks prior to the broadcast. The Gateway Pundit reports (emphases mine):

Prince Andrew’s publicist has officially resigned over the disastrous interview he did with BBC about his ties to deceased billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Prince Andrew claimed that he was eating pizza on the night in 2001 when he is accused of raping then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts Giuffre. He also made bizarre claims that he doesn’t sweat because of an “adrenaline overdose.”

Jason Stein, 28, was brought on as Prince Andrew’s communications secretary to address the Epstein connections. However, he resigned two weeks before the interview because the royal would not take his advice not to do it. He only held the position for four weeks.

“This will go down as one of the single worst PR moves in recent history,” a source close to Buckingham Palace told the Times.

I agree. I could only watch short clips of it from the BBC’s tweets. Afterwards, I felt distinctly queasy.

Vastly differing opinions between palace and public

The Guardian‘s articles and editorials on the topic reflect public opinion online. Hardly anyone commenting anywhere on this interview supports the prince.

‘Prince Andrew: Calls for royal to say sorry and speak to FBI’ says, in part:

Prince Andrew is facing a transatlantic backlash over his extraordinary defence of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein after lawyers who represent 10 of the billionaire predator’s victims branded the royal unrepentant and implausible and demanded that he speak to the FBI.

After the royal’s defiant Newsnight interview on Saturday triggered a disbelieving reaction from the public and the media, the prince was under growing pressure from critics in the UK and US on Sunday who demanded an apology for his conduct and said that his defence of his actions was simply not credible …

On a day of escalating difficulty for the prince:

Former royal press officers and PR experts described his appearance as “excruciating” and “arrogant”.

It emerged that a key PR adviser brought in to help salvage Andrew’s reputation had left after just weeks in the job and only a fortnight before the interview was broadcast after he advised the prince against it.

The Guardian learned that after filming of the interview concluded, Andrew had been pleased enough with how it had gone that he gave the Newsnight team a tour of Buckingham Palace.

The students’ union at Huddersfield University, where Andrew is chancellor, unanimously backed a motion demanding that he resign from the post.

Sources in the prince’s private office insisted that he stood by the interview and believed he had dealt with the issues with “honesty and humility”.

Also:

Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter told the BBC “any sensible-thinking person in the PR business would have thrown their hands up in horror”.

He said that the interview was “not so much a car crash but an articulated lorry crash”.

Meanwhile, businesses and charities were under growing pressure to review their links to the prince and his pitch@palace initiative for entrepreneurs, which stages events at Buckingham Palace and around the world.

Barclays, KMPG, Standard Chartered and the Stelios Foundation are all listed as partners of Pitch@Palace, which links tech entrepreneurs to people who can help their business …

In the charity sector, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) took the step on Twitter of repeatedly responding to questions about “dropping” the prince as a patron by pointing out that his role as patron of its Full Stop campaign, which sought to draw attention to child abuse as an issue, ended in 2009.

Members of the students’ union at the University of Huddersfield will on Monday discuss pushing for him to resign as chancellor after there was unanimous support for a motion stating that they “should not be represented by a man with ties to organised child sexual exploitation and assault”.

The university itself issued a statement pointing to the prince’s previous denial and lauding him for taking a keen interest in its work and describing his “enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship” as “a natural fit”.

How the interview was arranged

Another Guardian article, ‘”He was incredibly gracious after”: Newsnight team say Andrew was pleased with interview’, describes the six months between negotiations and the interview.

It states that Newsnight editor Esme Wren was of the understanding that Prince Andrew’s office was in touch with the Queen:

with Andrew’s team referring the decision up the royal chain of command before finally agreeing to take part. “One assumes that means checking with his mum,” she said.

However, others told the Daily Telegraph a different story:

On Sunday night, … the Daily Telegraph reported a different account, quoting “Palace insiders” who accused the Duke’s private office of “operating in a silo” and said that the Queen was only made aware of the interview after it had been set up – implying that she had no opportunity to veto the plan.

Friends of Jason Stein, who worked as the prince’s press adviser for little more than a fortnight, confirmed that he told Andrew not to do the interview shortly before leaving his position by mutual consent last month.

The Guardian‘s article says that the prince and his team were happy with the interview:

People involved in the recording have told the Guardian that after the recording Andrew was pleased with how it had gone. “I think he appreciated the fact that he’d had plenty of time to say his piece and that there hadn’t been interruptions,” one said. “There was a sense on both sides that there had been a generous amount of time and he had been allowed to speak. He was incredibly gracious afterwards.”

He gave the Newsnight team a tour of Buckingham Palace after filming.

The article says that the public’s disastrous reaction to the broadcast could pose difficulties for the prince’s personal secretary, hired originally to manage his finances:

Andrew’s private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, is now facing questions over her position after playing a key role in pushing for the interview to take place. Andrew’s team were nervous about how the interview would be perceived, sources said, and they are unlikely to have been reassured by the days of negative coverage that it has created. Others said the general public would appreciate Andrew putting himself up for scrutiny, and his references to a “straightforward shooting weekend” and rare visits to Pizza Express revealed him as he is, without PR sheen.

According to multiple sources with connections to the royal household, Thirsk has always had complete belief in Andrew’s insistence that he is innocent regarding the claims of his involvement with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and sexual impropriety. It is thought she felt the public would come around to his side if they saw the royal explain himself in his own words on television.

A former banker who has worked with Andrew for more than a decade, Thirsk was originally hired to focus on his financial affairs, according to people with knowledge of the household. She worked her way up to the top job of private secretary in 2012, taking responsibility for shaping the prince’s reputation despite not having any background in public relations or media. Former members of the household have talked of being “survivors” of her management style, while also noting her total loyalty to Andrew.

Six months ago, Jeffrey Epstein hadn’t been arrested. The Newsnight interview was originally planned to highlight the prince’s charity work:

Six months ago the programme turned down a proposal to interview Andrew about his charity work, saying they would consider it only if there was no limit to what questions could be asked.

In October, Newsnight‘s editor Wren said the palace contacted her team:

“A couple of weeks ago they said they were ready to do an interview with no subject off the table,” she said. This culminated in despatching the programme’s lead presenter, Emily Maitlis, and a small team to meet Andrew and discuss a plan for the interview.

“Last Monday they went in to the palace to discuss with his team and him what would be in the interview,” Wren said. “He wanted to find out more about Newsnight, really. He said he was going to refer up – one assumes that means checking with his mum – and on Tuesday they said they were going to do it and they wanted to do it quickly.”

The Newsnight team mobilised and worked diligently to make sure everything was above reproach:

Wren, who was not at the recording, said she was aware of the need to ensure all questions were asked, to avoid any perception of Andrew receiving an easy time. “We had to be absolutely resolute that we had to ask him every single question or else we would be deemed to have not done the job. We already had one of our investigative producers working on a brief and had a lot of work in train.”

Throughout the week Maitlis practised her interviewing approach, with Wren playing the role of Andrew in rehearsals. “We spent time drilling the questions back and forth, back and forth. A lot of this was tone and how we’re going to deliver this. Speak normally, don’t turn away.

“They knew what Newsnight stood for, and they knew that no one would say he was let off. They knew that if they do Newsnight, no one will say they were softballed. To our surprise, he did engage with questions and didn’t turn away a single question put to him.”

The BBC broadcast the interview on Saturday because their Children in Need programming interrupted the normal nightly schedule.

Although the public reaction has been negative, Wren says that she received no criticism from the palace:

“I haven’t heard back from the palace,” she said. “I believe they feel we were, as we had promised, fair and forensic and robust. We haven’t heard to the contrary.”

The BBC are not being criticised as much as Prince Andrew is for his demeanour during the interview, which people have called ‘arrogant’, ‘condescending’ and ‘misogynistic’.

More to follow.

It was on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, that Theresa May made her final appearance at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons at PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). Boris Johnson succeeded her as Prime Minister later that day.

Here’s a great video compilation of Boris in action. He was declared the next Conservative Party leader on July 23:

Today’s PMQs session was bittersweet. I remembered liking Mrs May wholeheartedly until March of this year.

Outside of Brexit, she was a very good PM, as MPs from both sides of the aisle made clear during today’s 65-minute PMQs.

The link in the next tweet shows a list of MPs who asked today’s questions. Mrs May did not wear this suit, by the way:

Instead, she wore the royal blue one that matched Angela Merkel’s in colour. As it looks like wool, that must have been over the top when we are not only in July but also in the middle of a heatwave:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid her a brief compliment on her ‘sense of public duty’:

Political pundit Guido Fawkes noted with irony (colour and italics in the original):

Remarkably he will now be onto his third Tory Prime Minister, not that he’s had much to do with that himself…

May asked Corbyn with good humour if he would follow her example:

She said:

Perhaps I could just finish my exchange with him by saying this – as a party leader who has accepted when her time is up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same.

She also reminded the House of his many political flip-flops:

An Independent MP later agreed with her:

May has taken 4,540 questions during her PMQs sessions since she became PM in 2016. She has spent hundreds of hours answering them.

Both Conservative and Opposition benches gave her credit for:

– lowering public borrowing (the lowest rate in 17 years);

– a stronger economy, despite Remainers’ anti-Brexit Project Fear;

– reducing unemployment;

– actively supporting legislation, currently in place, to combat slavery;

– actively supporting legislation, also in place, to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence;

– supporting law enforcement, although, as always, more work needs to be done;

– promoting a more equal society, as she promised in July 2016;

– being a solid role model for women, including those in politics;

– showing dignified, respectful leadership.

Indeed, Brexit was her only black mark.

After she listened to a warm tribute from Jo Swinson, the new female leader of the Liberal Democrats, May rightly pointed out that only the Conservatives have had two female prime ministers! She added that most of Britain’s political parties have or have had women leaders. She concluded by saying that there is only one party that has not had a woman leader: the Labour Party! (We cannot count the Brexit Party, because they have no MPs yet.)

Philip May was in the spectator’s gallery to watch his wife give her final appearance in Parliament as PM. A Conservative MP mentioned it. You can see that she really loves her husband, because she blushed and smiled broadly at his mention.

When she left the dispatch box, she received one minute of applause and a standing ovation from Conservative MPs.

Theresa May will now sit on the backbenches as a Conservative MP.

Outside of Brexit, she did a great job as PM.

Thank you, Mrs May.

Guido Fawkes has a rundown of what happened next. I’ve inserted tweets from the BBC:

13:00 TM returns to Downing Street to say goodbye to staff.

14:00 TM leaves Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister, making a short speech outside.

14:15 TM goes to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to the Queen.

15:00 Boris goes to Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed as Prime Minister.

16:00 Boris makes his first speech as Prime Minister from the steps of Downing Street.

17:00 Boris heads to his Commons office to begin his Cabinet reshuffle.

Expect the top jobs to be announced by 10pm…

I wish Boris Johnson well as Prime Minister.

On Friday, May 24, 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would stand down as Conservative leader immediately and as Prime Minister once the Conservatives have elected a new leader.

The tension at No. 10 must have been palpable that morning, as the email with the text of her speech had no attachment. ITV’s Robert Peston tweeted:

Nonetheless:

The Guardian, among other media outlets, has the full text of her speech (emphases mine below):

Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone. And to honour the result of the EU referendum. Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union.

I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our Union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort.

So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the Party Chairman and with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her Prime Minister until the process has concluded.

It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.

For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton – who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport – was my constituent in Maidenhead. At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice. He said, ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’ He was right.

As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics – whether to deliver Brexit, or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland – we must remember what brought us here. Because the referendum was not just a call to leave the EU but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone. I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years.

We have completed the work that David Cameron and George Osborne started: the deficit is almost eliminated, our national debt is falling and we are bringing an end to austerity. My focus has been on ensuring that the good jobs of the future will be created in communities across the whole country, not just in London and the South East, through our Modern Industrial Strategy.

We have helped more people than ever enjoy the security of a job. We are building more homes and helping first-time buyers onto the housing ladder – so young people can enjoy the opportunities their parents did. And we are protecting the environment, eliminating plastic waste, tackling climate change and improving air quality. This is what a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative Government, on the common ground of British politics, can achieve – even as we tackle the biggest peacetime challenge any government has faced.

I know that the Conservative Party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our values. Security; freedom; opportunity. Those values have guided me throughout my career.

But the unique privilege of this office is to use this platform to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society. That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long-term plan. It is why I am ending the postcode lottery for survivors of domestic abuse. It is why the Race Disparity Audit and gender pay reporting are shining a light on inequality, so it has nowhere to hide. And that is why I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten.

Because this country is a Union. Not just a family of four nations. But a union of people – all of us. Whatever our background, the colour of our skin, or who we love. We stand together. And together we have a great future.

Our politics may be under strain, but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female Prime Minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.

When she got to the last five words of her announcement, she choked up and abruptly turned around before re-entering No. 10:

Here is her statement in full (start at 1:28, sorry for the closeup of Peston):

Brexit defeated Theresa May:

The Sun‘s political editor observed:

Peston called it correctly:

This is important to remember over the next several weeks:

The new Prime Minister should be in place by the time Parliament begins its summer recess. The 1922 Committee is comprised of Conservative MPs and will oversee this process:

Then again … please note:

The Guardian has more (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and the vice-chairs of the 1922 Committee, Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, have issued a joint statement setting out the process for selecting a successor to Theresa May.

First they thank her for her service to the party as an activist, councillor, MP, a member of the shadow cabinet, party chairman, home secretary and, finally, prime minister.

“She embodies the finest qualities of public service and, with this decision, has once again demonstrated her strong sense of duty and devotion to the national interest,” they say.

They set out the following –

    • The timetable to select a new leader has been decided by the executive of the 1922 committee after consultation with the party board, which includes representatives of the voluntary, parliamentary and professional party.
    • Nominations will close in the week commencing 10 June, before “successive rounds of voting will take place until a final choice of candidates to put to a vote of all party members is determined”.
    • “We expect that process to be concluded by the end of June, allowing for a series of hustings around the UK for members to meet and question the candidates, then cast their votes in time for the result to be announced before Parliament rises for the summer,” they say.

So we should have a new prime minister by mid-July.

They conclude:

We are deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation. We will therefore propose that the leadership election and hustings involve opportunities for non-members and people who may not yet vote Conservative to meet the candidates and put their questions to them too.

Peston points out that Graham Brady did not sign the 1922 Committee’s letter, even though he is its chairman. It is possible that Brady wants to throw his hat into the ring as a contender:

I assume the reason the chairman of 1922 committee of Tory MPs Graham Brady hasn’t signed letter setting out timetable for new leader and PM to be in place by 20 July is that he may well be a candidate to replace .

Soon afterwards:

By mid-afternoon:

Jeremy Hunt was the first to formally declare his own candidacy:

I doubt either of these men has a chance. The Conservatives must choose someone who can defeat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, therefore, I predict Boris Johnson will be the next leader and PM.

May’s predecessor tweeted his appreciation of her service. It did not go down well. One person remembered that he stood down as party leader the morning the referendum results were in — around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016:

He gave an empathetic interview to the BBC later in the afternoon:

Let us spare a moment to recall Cameron’s jaunty ‘doo-doo-doo-doo-Right!’ tune after he resigned:

Brexit is powerful, although, despite this tweet, not insurmountable:

I hope the new Spanish government’s concerns turn out to be accurate (emphases mine):

The Spanish government has described May’s decision to resign as “bad news”, warning that it significantly raised the prospect of a hard Brexit, reports the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent Sam Jones.

A hard Brexit in these circumstance seems an almost unstoppable reality,” the government’s spokewoman, Isabel Celaá, said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

Celaá said the announcement would disappoint all those “who want an orderly UK exit from the European Union”. But she said that Spain had contingency measures in place and would do everything possible to “guarantee the best situation” for Spanish citizens and businesses in the UK.

A No Deal Brexit does not mean a disorderly exit from the EU. Plans have been in place for months to implement No Deal processes, as drawn up by civil servants in Whitehall. No Deal was ready for implementation well in advance of Friday, March 29, 2019.

Outside of Brexit, I believe Theresa May was a good prime minister.

As far as Brexit went, however, her downfall started when she presented her deal at Chequers in July 2018. The principal members of her Brexit team at the time resigned. It is rumoured that her ‘deal’ — a treaty — was developed in Berlin by one of her advisers. I have read at least one article about it, but would like to see another source before writing more.

Whoever the next Conservative leader is, I hope he or she is a committed Leaver and will toss the whole of May’s deal into the long grass of history, where it belongs.

Any Remainers who missed last week’s BBC4 Storyville documentary about Brexit from a Brussels perspective must watch it before voting in the EU election on May 23, 2019.

The two-part documentary was made by Belgian film-maker, Lode Desmet, who spent two years with Guy Verhofstadt and his team in Brussels.

I did not watch it at the time, because it features Verhofstadt, whom I consider to be odious.

At the weekend, I read a British website where two Remainers commented after watching it. Both said they had changed their minds — to NO DEAL! Amazing.

After that, I looked the Storyville documentary up on YouTube, because BBC iPlayer said their videos could not be played at that time. On BBC iPlayer, part one is here and part two is here.

Each part is just under an hour long. I highly recommend them to everyone, particularly Remainers:

 

Conservative MP Mark Francois is absolutely correct:

What follows is part of his article for Brexit Central (emphases mine):

On one occasion – incredibly, bearing in mind he was on camera – one of Verhofstadt’s staffers, exclaimed on hearing that we had agreed to the 585-page so-called “Withdrawal Agreement”, that “We have made them a colony!”. The sheer joy that was evidenced on the faces of the European negotiators when it became apparent that we had acceded to the “Withdrawal Agreement” tells you everything you need to know about why they regarded it as a clear victory over Britain.

Again and again throughout the documentary, the UK’s negotiating tactics are derided by their interlocutors, including the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier. The Prime Minister and her team are repeatedly disrespected and only on one occasion – when Dominic Raab took over as the Brexit Secretary – did any of the Europeans appear to believe that we had started to resist …

Verhofstadt and his highly self-satisfied team are then filmed watching the result of the first Meaningful Vote in Parliament in January 2019. When the “Withdrawal Agreement” was defeated by 230 votes (the largest defeat in parliamentary history as it turns out), their disappointment is palpable. The pattern is repeated for MV2 and MV3 – by which time Verhofstadt cannot bear to watch, as he has clearly realised what is going to happen.

I have never doubted that I was right to vote against the “Withdrawal Agreement”, but this dramatic insight only confirmed my deep conviction that we were fighting a surrender to the European Union all along. Indeed, Martin Selmayr, the Secretary General of the European Commission said some time ago (although not in the programme) that “Losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay for Brexit”. It seems on reflection the House of Commons was not prepared to pay this price – and rightly so.

One other thing struck me when I watched the programme – as a patriotic Brit – which was that I could not help but be angered by the sheer arrogance of the people on camera and the utter disdain that they had for our country and its people. I was discussing this only yesterday with a TV producer who is a self-declared Remainer but who told me, in her own words:

I have always been pro-EU and I gladly voted Remain, but when I saw that documentary all I could think was – how dare you talk about us like that, f**k you!

As a media expert, she also volunteered that these people were not in any way self-conscious about being filmed – because they clearly thought that they were doing nothing wrong.

Ultimately:

I would urge every MP and indeed everyone who is thinking of casting a vote in the European Elections on 23rd May (which I hope will be as many people as possible) to watch this programme before deciding how to cast their ballot.

The European elite have completely given themselves away – on camera – and proven once and for all via this programme that 17.4 million people were right all along.

The EU elite do not give a fig about Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They are interested only in our money to fund their lavish Brussels lifestyles.

I am surprised that the BBC even showed this documentary, because it really paints a most unflattering portrait of the EU elite.

Therefore, this is one of those rare times I can honestly say, ‘Thank you, BBC!’

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