Like many people, I watched Prince Andrew’s Newsnight meltdown with mounting disbelief. Why had he agreed to do it? It wasn’t as if the general public was clamouring for an answer about what he was doing on the night he’d been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old victim of Jeffrey Epstein. And if he was going to give a television interview, why choose Emily Maitlis? That’s like booking yourself into Sweeney Todd’s for a short back and sides. Emily asked me to do an interview last year when I was forced to resign from the Office for Students over some embarrassing old tweets and, after humming and hawing for a bit, I declined. Clearly, one of my more sensible decisions.
But my feeling of smugness at having sidestepped that landmine was short-lived. The day after Prince Andrew’s interview was broadcast I got a call from Good Morning Britain. Did I fancy coming on to defend Prince Andrew in a debate? Instead of saying no, I started to discuss what I might say. If he believes himself to be innocent and has a good alibi, as he appears to have, it’s kind of understandable that he would want to clear his name. Yes, it was unrehearsed and he admitted to things he probably shouldn’t have, such as the fact that he stayed in Epstein’s house in New York because it was ‘convenient’. But didn’t that just make his denial more credible? He’d been criticised for not speaking out about the allegation, and now he was being criticised for doing exactly that.
At this point, I’d pretty much talked myself into it, but before saying yes I glanced up at my wife who was sitting opposite me. Caroline was shaking her head furiously and running her finger back and forth across her throat. ‘Can I call you back in a minute?’ I said.
When I hung up, I got the force nine gale. (To read more, click here.)