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The battle to avoid being blamed for Prince Andrew’s BBC interview, variously and accurately described as a “car-crash,” “disastrous,” and “career-ending,” has become a civil war all of its own for the various camps surrounding the prince.
On one side stands Andrew’s senior staffer Amanda Thirsk; on the other Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, and their elder daughter, Princess Beatrice, who stood in as family rep on a crucial meeting with the BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis just three days before the fateful day.
Many thousands of words have been written about the art of crisis management in recent days, but for operatives on the ground there is always one overriding objective: not to get left carrying the can.
The undoubted winner by this measure is Jason Stein, Andrew’s PR executive who walked out of the job a month before the interview, in frustration that his warnings not to submit to a 40-minute sit-down with one of the most feared interviewers in British TV were not being heeded by Andrew’s team, which leaves Thirsk or Fergie/Bea squarely in the frame.
Since the interview hit the airwaves, both have been fighting to kick the other into the PR sewer.
The latest claim today, which appears to emanate from the Fergie camp, comes courtesy of the Daily Mail.
The Mail’s diarist Sebastian Shakespeare says “Fergie and Beatrice both cautioned him against doing the program, while his then private secretary Amanda Thirsk was more gung-ho, thinking it could offer him a chance to draw a line under his association with Jeffrey Epstein.”
Shakespeare quotes a source as saying: “Princess Beatrice and Sarah both advised Andrew against going ahead with the interview… However, he paid too much attention to Amanda, who was encouraging him, saying it would clear his name.”
The Mail vests much confidence in the fact that Fergie “did not attend the meeting with the BBC Newsnight team and was abroad when details of the interview were being finalized.”
Despite the debacle, Thirsk is to continue to be employed by Andrew in a private capacity now that his state grant, out of which she used to be paid, has been taken away.
The pro-Thirsk camp has sought to promulgate a theory that Fergie encouraged Andrew to do the interview, in a bid to clear the air ahead of Beatrice’s wedding to property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi next year.
According to this reading of events, Fergie deputized Beatrice to stand in for her when she was overseas, which is how, as everyone agrees, Beatrice and Thirsk both attended a meeting with the Newsnight team at Buckingham Palace to discuss the scope of the interview.
Shakespeare, however, reports today that friends of Beatrice insist she “wasn’t part of the decision-making process,” adding, “Bea went to one meeting with the BBC. That’s all.”
Well, yes, but at that one meeting it was finally agreed Andrew would do the interview.
Thirsk and the Yorks can cast all the aspersions on each other they want, but the simple truth is that, whoever’s idea it was in the first place, neither of them actually stopped it.