Hate male: Matthew Parris pretends to be baffled by the anger at his ‘charming’ Prince Andrew anecdote…

… in the same week that the disgraced royal gets a medal from mummy and some help from Tatler.

Previously: The Moran’s Promise: After The Times tells students it’ll teach them who the bastards are, it shares a rumour that Prince Andrew saved a dog…


Last week, Matthew Parris used part of his Notebook (one of two columns he writes for The Times every week) to pass on a ‘heartwarming’ (used here as a synonym for “vomit-inducing”) story about Prince Andrew ‘saving’ a dog, which had been told to him by a “nameless [but] impeccable source”.

According to Parris — or rather his “impeccable source”, the grotesque old Duke of York — the prince turned Pizza Express influencer, campaigner for no sweat awareness, top Yelp! reviewer of Jeffrey Epstein’s houses, future orange jumpsuit model, and current person of interest to US law enforcement agencies — leapt into action when others simply looked on:

It happened like this. The prince was attending a reception in an upper storey of a castle. A small dog was also present. The dog, excited by the sound of royal security hounds barking on the drive beneath the window, ran at the open window and, teetering on the window-ledge, looked about to lose his footing and fall to earth many storeys below. Other guests noticed but Andrew acted. He rushed to the window, grabbed the little dog just in time and brought him cradled in his arms to safety.

That Prince Andrew can be light on his feet will come as no surprise to lawyers chasing him around Britain to serve him with legal papers.

I wrote last week that…

… while anyone paying attention can see that Prince Andrew has slithered and slimed his way from accountability — sweating as he goes — The Times gives Parris the space to push a single-sourced tale of princely bravery. “For Prince Andrew, every little helps,” writes Parris and The Times is helping where it can, not calling out the bastards but humanising them however it can.

… and it seems I’ve inadvertently joined — let me check my notes — a “barrage of hateful commentary” and a “human mob”. If I’d known I was going to be socialising, I’d have washed my hair.

Yes, Parris, abiding by one of British column writing’s unwritten rules (“If you’re pissing people off… double down.”), has returned to last week’s column like a dog sidling up to a lukewarm pile of its own vomit. He writes today:

There’s something about the times we live in that I suspect I just don’t get. Last week this notebook offered a slightly tongue-in-cheek little account of a dog rescue by Prince Andrew, a trivial counterweight (I smiled) to a barrage of dreadful stories. It was hardly meant as a serious contribution to the debate about the prince’s character, still less the accusations against him. I don’t know Andrew. Never met him. Keep my mind open. Have no opinion to offer.

But you should have seen the Twitterstorm, the barrage of hateful commentary by online readers! Water off a duck’s back, but I do observe. Among the human mob, of course, there’s always been an appetite to seek someone prominent to hate, and pile in; but social media is adding greatly to the volume and velocity with which all this bile sloshes about. I’ve tried to imagine myself into the mindset of someone who becomes enraged because someone else has written something pleasant about a person whom neither of us knows but I hate ... and failed.

I think it’s ludicrously optimistic for Parris to think there’s just one thing about “the times we live in” that he doesn’t get. As a former Conservative MP and current Times columnist, it’s a professional necessity for him to be largely ignorant about most of the modern world, purveying a level of tactical ignorance that allows him to pretend that the system isn’t rigged.

There’s another strain of performative ignorance at work in the next part (“I don’t know Andrew. Never met him. Keep my mind open. Have no opinion to offer.”), which shows abject contempt for the reader. The opening line to Parris’ pathetic contribution to the public debate about Prince Andrew last week was:

Prince Andrew has had very little positive publicity in recent months so I thought I’d contribute a snippet.

That line alone is freighted with opinion and clearly the product of a mind that is far from open. He decided to use his platform in a national newspaper to push a story — given to him by someone whose identity the readers weren’t privy to — that crudely attempted to reframe Prince Andrew as a “good chap”.

In neither last week’s column nor this week’s sequel does Parris dedicate even a single sentence to the victims of Jeffrey Epstein — he doesn’t know them either — or Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Prince Andrew of child sexual abuse and whose suit is the reason the royal is skulking about in Scotland, trying to dodge legal papers.

Parris is pretending to be confused about people’s anger, like a celebrity who has wandered out of a department store with an expensive bag that they have ‘forgotten’ to pay for slung over their shoulder; he feels entitled to express his views without criticism, yet another example of a newspaper columnist who believes that it should be illegal for people to @ him.

He could have saved a lot of time by simply reprinting the following line from the world’s greatest columnist, Dril:

and another thing: im not mad.
please dont put in the newspaper that i got mad.

Was Parris not engaged in “hateful commentary” when he published a column that suggested Gypsy, Romany and Traveller people should be stripped of their ethnic minority status (“It’s time we stopped pandering to Travellers”, May 151)? He thinks not and believes that “there is simply no place for the true nomad in modern Britain” and “we should stop forcing local authorities to create Traveller sites, phase out the “ethnic minority” rights of people who are not a race but a doomed mindset,” is actually kind.

Just as there is no trans person with a national newspaper column and is unlikely to be any time soon, there are no members of the GRT community with regular access to a national platform. But Parris, who has had his Times column for 25 years, believes he is the victim of people “[seeking] someone prominent to hate”. How can it be anything but trolling with a byline to write, in a faux-naive voice, that:

I’ve tried to imagine myself into the mindset of someone who becomes enraged because someone else has written something pleasant about a person whom neither of us knows but I hate… and failed.

Prince Andrew is not simply “someone”. For Parris, writing in The Times, a paper which cannot go a page without judging far less privileged people that it doesn’t know and whose sister paper The Sun is dedicated to the destruction of whoever it deems fit to pretend that people’s anger over Andrew is unjustified is more than a slap in the face, it’s the column-writing equivalent of pissing on someone’s leg and expecting praise for cooling them down.

Boil Parris’ words down to their essence and you are left with a sound we’re used to hearing from the British commentariat: A howl of rage about having to listen to other people’s opinions, other people who aren’t on the payroll, who don’t have a byline, who have the impudence to believe that they can’t talk back not only to a former MP but a columnist, no less.

Because he is paid for his opinions, Parris, like so many of his compatriots in The Times’ opinion pages and across the British media in general, believes he is in possession of a better class of ideas. That’s why his trollish thoughts on pasta are classed as ‘witty’ and not just the most basic sort of engagement baiting, why he’s indulged in his racist old uncle ravings about the British empire, and why his “what I did on my holidays” thoughts on circuses, llamas, and camels are given space in the so-called paper of record.

Parris is riding to the rescue of Prince Andrew, sorry, I meant “a person whom neither of us knows” again in the week that it’s emerged that his mother, dear ol’ Brenda, is giving her favourite son a medal2 and Tatler, in redefining its list of things its permissible to be snobby about, has placed Pizza Express on the snob-friendly side of the ledger. Oh yes, he’s also accepted he’s been served.

In The Spectator — where poor put-upon Matthew Parris is also a columnist — former BBC diplomatic and royal correspondent Peter Hunt, writes a piece headlined Prince Andrew has no good options, which begins:

It’s not a good look, aged 61, to be hiding behind your mother. The ninth in line to the throne joined the Queen at Balmoral, making it difficult for papers to be served in the Virginia Giuffre civil case. The Aberdeenshire estate may cover 50,000 acres, but it hasn’t provided refuge — a state of being that has eluded Andrew for the past six years.

Which, given the natural obsequiousness of royal correspondents, is as close to saying, “He’s fucked up,” as Hunt can possibly get. The piece also includes the most extreme piece of understatement I’ve read in years:

If recent briefings to newspapers are correct, then his lawyers are minded to come out fighting and provide a point by point rebuttal. Such a muscular approach is fraught with risks. The Newsnight defence of a prince who doesn’t sweat, was at a Woking Pizza Express on a key day and who has no memory of ever meeting Virginia Giuffre looks incomplete when viewed through the lens of a court of law.

Yes, that series of increasingly outlandish lies will look so “incomplete” in court that if it were a suit, Prince Andrew would be standing in the dock with a thin strip of cloth across his nipples, clutching the Bible in one hand and the presumably sweat-free royal ‘jewels’ in the other.

The grim reality that Prince Andrew has lied time and time again about his relationship with and behaviour around Jeffrey Epstein, who was already a convicted sex offender when the royal hosted him and stayed at his home, is entirely divorced from the bubble in which Matthew Parris relays ‘cute’ stories about the man (barely) saving a dog.

Parris, having spun up this production of Withnail & I (Cannot Sweat), is back in the newspaper today screaming: “Help, I’ve gone and penned a defence of an alleged sex offender by mistake.” No doubt he’ll have gone back to demanding the finest wines available by next week, but most of us are not as ‘forgetful’ as Prince Andrew, and will remember how Parris ran to his defence.

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1

Earlier this month he published a follow up about going to meet a group of representatives from the Roma and Traveller communities. He concluded, having made sure to tell his readers he’d ‘listened’, that he “[has] not changed my broad conclusions set out in that article” but is able to present himself as very ‘reasonable’.

2

It is not, and you would be wrong to suggest otherwise, the Golden Grope bestowed to the Royal Order Of Noble Nonces.