History is unfolding all around us. Tragedies are occurring every day. So I was very taken with a recent article addressing the most urgent issue of our time: what can be done to help Prince Andrew’s reputation? As even the staunchest royalist papers have accepted, being forced to deny sexually assaulting a minor – Virginia Giuffre, then 17 – is not a great look for a prince; an even worse one is a prince who insists he “can’t remember” meeting her, despite the inconvenient photograph of Andrew wrapping his mitt around Giuffre’s waist while Ghislaine Maxwell – currently awaiting trial for sex trafficking, a charge she denies – grins in the background, Aunt Lydia with a Cheshire cat smile. Andrew’s “friends” (his what?) insist the photo is clearly faked because “the prince has chubbier fingers”, which, as alibis go, is as ironclad as being at Pizza Express in Woking. The task of making the prince even vaguely palatable to the public is, according to the article, “the rebranding job from hell”, given that, as one strategist beadily noted, he “has no accomplishments or public admiration he can leverage, no day job he can go back to”. Treasonous talk there from the PR industry, and yet not even the Queen could defend her favourite child against any of it.
There is another problem for Andrew’s PR, aside from sheer uselessness, personal unlikability and general idiocy that have wafted off him for most of his adult life. It’s that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. This has been a lifelong problem. When interviewed in 2017 , he was asked about his various “gaffes”, which included allegedly giving Maxwell and – naturally! – Kevin Spacey a tour of Buckingham Palace and allowing them to sit on thrones; inviting Maxwell and later convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and – but of course! – Harvey Weinstein to his daughter Beatrice’s 18th birthday party; selling his house to the Kazakh oligarch, Timur Kulibayev, for £3m over the asking price, which seemed strangely generous of the buyer, given it had been on the market for years. The prince, as per, denies he has done anything wrong.
How, the journalist asked, did he keep getting himself into these little scrapes? “Everybody should be given an opportunity. Sometimes you find that somebody’s done something after the event, or you find that perhaps that wasn’t quite as wise. You don’t get it right all the time. It doesn’t bother me, really. It’s just part of life’s rich tapestry,” Andrew replied. Indeed. Although Andrew increasingly seems to be re-enacting the Bayeux tapestry, specifically the section depicting the royal flailing around with an arrow stuck in his eye.
Like Andrew, former prime minister David Cameron was born blessed with only gilded opportunities, and then, with almost impressive determination, plunged his reputation through a shredder. Cameron has insisted he lobbied ministers during the pandemic to prop up Greensill Capital because “he sincerely believed there would be material benefits for UK businesses at a challenging time”. And “UK businesses” appears to have meant “myself”, given he banked £7m, whereas taxpayers are footing the bill for Greensill’s collapse of up to £320m. Good to see Cameron’s judgment is just as sharp as when he gave the go-ahead to the Brexit referendum.
What can be done with such men? PR executives insist that Andrew must make “almost a full, authentic and credible apology”, although either man doing anything “authentic and credible” is as likely as the two of them growing matching quiffs and becoming the new Jedward. One PR quoted in the article suggests that Andrew “devote himself to good works and public service for the rest of his life”, but that’s what he was already supposed to be doing before, and look how that turned out. Eddie Murphy once wisely observed “the best way to hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people”. But poverty, or even normality, is a strange concept in Andrew and Cameron’s worlds, when it applies to themselves. Prince Harry insists he moved to California because he wanted a “normal” life, although his version of normal turned out to mean living in an £8m mansion, hitting up his father for cash and flogging tales of his royal family. Well, it’s all relative. Or in Harry’s case, all about the relatives. Meanwhile, Cameron’s off living the humble life in his various £25,000 shepherd’s huts , which surely cost more than his book, which he famously wrote in them, has made in profit.
There really is only one solution. These men won’t change personally, so they need to change geographically. One PR suggested Andrew should “devote himself to charity work, perhaps in Africa”, but Britain has inflicted enough pain on Africa already. Instead, both men should build a time machine and go back to when useless posh politicians could be snout-deep in the trough and no one would notice, and the royals could do anything they damn well pleased. So maybe the 19th century for Cameron and the 16th century for Andrew? It’s for their sake as much as ours; they’ll feel so much more at home there. Bon voyage, guys.