Keir Starmer is terrified of the media while Prince Andrew is not nearly scared enough

The greatest tribute Andrew could pay to his father is... making himself available for interview by the FBI.

Prince Andrew, famous patron of Pizza Express (Woking branch), advocate for the sweat-challenged, and top Yelp! reviewer for Jeffrey Epstein’s houses, made his first statement following stepping down as a top tier shaker-of-hands, cutter-of-ribbons, and friend of despotic regimes.

After attending a remembrance service for his father, Prince Philip — who died on Friday, though you might have missed it as the coverage was very low-key — FBI avoider Andy sidled up to the cameras to say:

I feel very sorry and supportive of my mother who is feeling it, I think, probably more than everybody else. The Queen, as you would expect, is an incredibly stoic person. And she described his passing as a miracle.

And she’s contemplating — I think is the way that I would put it. She described it as having left a huge void in her life, but we, the family, the ones that are closer, are rallying around to make sure that we’re there to support her.

The last line is the most important one as the Prince of Preposterous Excuses went out of his way to not-so-subtly remind everyone that he is the Queen’s favourite (“we… the ones that are closer…”).

Perhaps now lockdown is lifting a little, Andy can take his mother to enjoy some doughballs at his favourite alibi…

Quite reasonably, Andy’s appearance on BBC News and Sky News prompted a flurry of responses that can be summed up as “the only interview he should be giving is to the FBI.”

But a source close to the Prince, who definitely isn’t him doing a silly voice, told The Daily Telegraph’s official obsequiousness correspondent Camilla Tominey that it “reflected a change in character”:

Do remember that Prince Andrew has been in a self-imposed and very self-disciplined lockdown since the end of 2019. That’s 18 months to reflect on life. What you heard today was Andrew the grandfather, the father and – now, more than ever – the son. It’s nice to see, isn’t it?

That boils down to saying, “He went away for a bit, didn’t he? What more do you want?” Well, I’d say at the bare minimum we want him to account for his close relationship with the dead sex offender whose house he couldn’t seem to stop staying at and to answer the FBI’s specific questions about accusations that he had raped an underage girl who had been the victim of sex trafficking.

That Andrew is being allowed to use the death of his father as a step in a PR campaign to rehabilitate what was already an extremely shop-soiled reputation even before the Epstein revelations is vomit-inducing.

A second source — still not just Prince Andrew in a comedy wig — also told the Telegraph’s Tominey that:

He is the closest to the Queen of any of her children and is her most frequent visitor as he lives so close by. She has increasingly come to rely on him for support and he is only too willing to give it.

It is so creditable that he finds time to comfort his mother in his business schedule of sitting around and avoiding justice.

The only way the BBC and Sky could really justify broadcasting Prince Andrew’s pompous, self-serving speechifying, would have been to run a chyron beneath the footage reading, “Fugitive from the FBI speaks…” Instead, news organisations across the country have run with Andy’s line that Prince Philip was “the grandfather of the nation”.

It’s a line that cuts through as many of us do or did have grandfathers who served in the war and spent the rest of their lives making racist comments and refusing to understand anybody else.

The Telegraph headline Tominey’s report In from the cold: Prince Andrew speaks for the first time since stepping back from royal duties. How curious. Why was that?

In its story — 'TERRIBLE LOSS' Queen left with ‘huge void’ after Prince Philip’s death, Andrew reveals in tribute to ‘grandfather of the nation’The Sun’s Alex Winter and Matt Wilkinson write that…

Andrew [was] speaking publicly for the first time since his Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis in 2019…

… but don’t mention what that Maitlis interview was about. Probably his many good works, I expect.

The Times goes with Prince Philip’s death ‘has left a huge void’ in Queen’s life, avoiding mentioning who gave that quote in the headline and saying in the copy:

Andrew, 61, [was] speaking in public for the first time since he stepped down from official duties.

Valentine Low and Kaya Burgess don’t find any space to mention why Andy backed away from his busy schedule of golf, helicopter rides, and shaking hands with arms dealers. No space, probably — they need to keep that for another superlative-filled supplement about “the nation’s grandfather”.

The Guardian, in its piece headlined Queen says Prince Philip’s death has left ‘a huge void’, manages to pop in a reference to the substance of the ‘scandal’ but still soft soaps it:

Andrew, who stepped down from royal duties in November 2019 amid controversy over his friendship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, added: “And so we are all in the same boat – slightly different circumstances because he didn’t die from Covid, but we’re all feeling a great sense of loss.”

For ‘controversy’ read ‘accusations that he had sex with an underage girl who was trafficked by his sex offender friend’, for ‘friendship’ read ‘suspected collusion’ and for ‘disgraced financier’ read ‘convicted sex offender’.

Just as the coverage of Prince Philip has transformed him from an undoubtedly privileged, undeniably racist old man into a sports-smashing, charity-saving, book-writing, polymath superhuman, the coverage of Andrew’s statement is disconnected from reality.

When Dr Paul Bernal tweeted quite factually that:

The former BBC presenter and now LBC mainstay Shelagh Fogaty replied:

Okay, I’ll have a heart for him when he has a heart for the victims of Epstein’s sex trafficking ring. I’ll have a heart when he makes himself available for interview by the FBI as he indicated he would. But until then I will see him ‘breaking his silence’ to offer sweet-as-a-chocolate-box memories of a father who is said to have harangued him often as a transparent PR move.

Of course, he was going to be with his family at the memorial service and of course, there would be press interest in his comments, but he didn’t have to stand in front of the cameras right then. It was a strategic move — one made while metaphorically reaching over his own father’s coffin. His heart played far less part than his calculating, self-serving head.

And on the same day that Prince Andrew was realising once again that he has very little to fear from the British media, Keir Starmer — who debased himself for The Telegraph just the other week — was genuflecting for Rupert Murdoch in an interview with The Sunday Times’ Decca Aitkenhead.

The line on the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine — “Call me Keir” — was a nod to Starmer’s continuing (and unconvincing) Tony Blair cosplay act. Blair famously and calculatedly opened his first cabinet meeting as Prime Minister by telling his colleagues, “Just call me Tony.”

Aitkenhead’s interview oscillates between questioning whether Starmer has what it takes and arguing that his ‘ordinariness’ might be an electoral advantage even as there remains no evidence of that. “I know who I am,” Starmer says. The problem is that, increasingly, so do the public and they’re not particularly enamoured with what they see.

Starmer offered some weasel words about The Sun during the Labour leadership contest, telling the hustings in Liverpool: “I certainly won’t be giving any interviews to The Sun during the course of this campaign.” But since he’s been in office, his fear of the right-wing press and desperation to get them on side has been evident. Of course, he can’t ignore them, but he's been bowing to them.

After having it both ways on a question about religion — Starmer’s an atheist but “this is going to sound odd, but I do believe in faith.” — Aitkenhead turns to his relationship with the press and especially the tabloids:

Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, was a sitting duck for the tabloids’ long tradition of casting Labour leaders as loony lefties. They will have their work cut out with this one. Whether or not Starmer is mindful of appeasing them, or simply telling the truth, I can’t tell, but they will certainly like what he has to say about press coverage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I ask if he would describe it as racist, and he shakes his head, ‘I wouldn’t.’

Did he believe every word the couple said to Oprah? ‘I’m not in a position to say. What I did think was, like every family argument, there’s always going to be another side to the story. I certainly felt, what’s the other side to this? It’s just a real shame to see a family going through anything like that.’

If there’s a defining characteristic of Starmerism, it’s fence-sitting — tough on having strong opinions on anything, tough on the cause of having strong opinions on anything.

The article concludes with a truly cringe-worthy back and forth about the ‘Boris’ mononym and whether Starmer would also like to be just Keir:

His parents named him after the former Labour leader Keir Hardie. The media is often criticised for conferring chumminess on the PM by calling him Boris, but reporters can’t help themselves. Is the solution for Starmer to become known as Keir? He looks pleased.

‘Yeah. It’s already becoming more common to be known as Keir, and that’s a good thing, because Boris is known as Boris. And Keir is a fantastic name.’

Having dedicated much of the five-page interview to pressing upon Aitkenhead how much he’s not like the Prime Minister (“I’m not like Boris Johnson. There’s almost nothing we have in common.”) Starmer allowed the encounter to end with the kind of empty egotism we’re so used to seeing from the bumptious ‘Boris’.

And, just like the Prime Minister, Starmer is desperate for the media to love him. Perhaps he needs to spend more time hanging out at Pizza Express in Woking.

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