Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson: Britain faces two crises at once

LONDON — When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with Covid in April 2020, the alarming news came shortly after a tel...


LONDON — When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with Covid in April 2020, the alarming news came shortly after a televised address by Queen Elizabeth II, in which she reassured the British public that after the decline of the pandemic, “We will meet again.”

Stoic, dignified and comforting, the Queen’s words helped anchor the country during the turbulent days that followed – not the first time the monarchy has acted as a stabilizing force for the government during tumultuous events.

This week, however, these two major British institutions plunged into crisis simultaneously. Wednesday, Mr. Johnson admitted to attending a garden party shortly after he recovered from the virus, which broke lockdown rules and sparked a chorus of calls for him to step down. Hours later, a federal judge in Manhattan rejected an offer by the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, to launch a sex abuse lawsuit against him.

On Thursday, Buckingham Palace announced that it forcing Andrew to relinquish all of his military titles and the honorary title, “His Royal Highness”. He is “defending this case as a private citizen”, the palace said in a terse statement that underlined the finality of the prince’s exile from royal life.

Although these cases deal with radically different issues, they both feature privileged middle-aged men being criticized for their behavior, raising age-old questions of class, law and double standards.

“Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew,” Alastair Campbell, former director of communications for Prime Minister Tony Blair, said in a post on Twitter. “What image does the world have of global Britain.”

Mr Campbell was involved in a now famous episode in which more stable government helped a monarchy in crisis: in 1997 he and Mr Blair, a popular Labor leader who had just won a landslide election victory, persuaded the Queen to strike a more empathetic tone by reacting to the death of Princess Diana in a car accident. This defused a growing wave of resentment against the monarch.

“Normally,” Mr. Campbell said, “they avoid seizures at the same time.”

Commentators said, half-jokingly, the court ruling against Andrew, 61, helped Mr Johnson, 57, as it diverted attention from his grilling in the House of Commons, where lawmakers from opposition accused him of lying and demanded that he resign. But both men are at the mercy of forces largely beyond their control.

Mr Johnson has asked lawmakers to withhold judgment, pending the results of an internal Downing Street party inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray. If she determines that Mr Johnson misled Parliament in his previous statements, it will almost certainly cost him his job.

Andrew, in failing to win the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, faces the prospect of damning revelations in his depositions and those of Mrs. Giuffre, who claimed to have raped her when she was a teenager. She says she was trafficked from Andrew by his friend, convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew flatly denies the charge and said he did not recall meeting Ms Giuffre.

What the two cases have in common, critics say, is a lack of accountability on the part of the main players.

Mr Johnson, apologizing for the party, acknowledged the anger the public would feel ‘when they think in Downing Street itself that the rules are not being followed correctly by the people who make the rules’. But he insisted he viewed the rally as a “work event” – which he only attended for 25 minutes – an alibi that placed the blame on his subordinates who organized the rally.

Andrew has not commented on his legal setback. But he and his lawyers maneuvered to avoid confronting Ms Giuffre’s accusations at trial. He was quick to avoid being served with legal papers in Britain. His lawyers have tried to have the case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and, more recently, on the basis of a settlement agreement between Ms Giuffre and Mr Epstein.

With so much at stake, especially in a year when the Queen celebrates 70 years on the throne, royal watchers speculate Andrew will seek his own deal with Ms Giuffre. Who would pay for this settlement, and with what money, are already questions being asked by British newspapers.

Buckingham Palace’s announcement that it would strip Andrew’s military titles and deny him “His Royal Highness” suggests he has no way to rehabilitate himself. It’s the kind of ruthless action Conservative Party lawmakers have yet to take against Mr Johnson, despite their frustration with him.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen will avoid any questions about Mr Johnson’s political future – or politics in general. But that does not mean that it is without influence. Legal experts say the monarchy, due to its longevity and consistency, can have a dampening effect on the most extreme political forces.

“The monarchy acts as a ‘pendulum’ in the sense of being an institution that, when political actors have tipped the ship of state too far in one direction, can tip it the other,” Harold said. Hongju Koh, an American. lawyer who is visiting professor at Oxford University this year.

It’s a delicate balance. In late 2019, Mr Johnson came under fire for asking the Queen to approve his government’s suspension of Parliament, a move the UK Supreme Court later ruled illegal as it sought to stifle debate over his plans to withdrawal of the country from the European Union. .

Unlike in April 2020, when the Queen sent her best wishes to the ailing Mr Johnson, she is almost certain to remain silent about his current plight. On the contrary, her disciplined adherence to social distancing rules – captured most poignantly when she wept alone in a choir stall at the funeral of her husband Prince Philip last year – stands in stark contrast to the socializing after the Prime Minister’s work.

For Mr Johnson, illicit parties are so damaging because they register with the public in a way that other scandals, such as the expensive redecoration of his Downing Street flat or his defense of a disputed lawmaker on ethically, don’t. The sense of a double standard, once implanted, is difficult to shake.

“Most people aren’t interested in politics, and so many of the issues that political commentators are passionate about don’t resonate with them. But this is different,” said Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London. “There are so many people who weren’t able to see elderly, sick or dying relatives during this time,” he said. “They will tell their family and friends.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson: Britain faces two crises at once
Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson: Britain faces two crises at once
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