The scandal involving Prince Andrew trying to broker a ‘deal’ with an unsavoury Kazakh oligarch highlights just why we should be worried about the way the monarchy interacts with our Government. The myth that the royals are somehow ‘above politics’ is the illusion most zealously maintained by Buckingham Palace and only rarely do the real facts emerge and then frequently in a distorted form such as when the queen accidentally advised the Scots to exercise care when voting in the Independence Referendum. But we must remember the constitutional settlement where the monarchy gets to retain a privileged and wealthy existence (I have argued that they are actually addicted to it) in return for politicians using the archaic power of monarchy and to do their bidding when requested. The archaic power is operated through the Royal Prerogative and allows the Government to exercise autocratic control where the legal protections to citizens are at best unclear. This is a whole issue in itself, but let’s return to the Prince Andrew scandal.
Prince Andrew was appointed UK Trade envoy in 2001 but by 2011 his links to American convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein meant that he was stripped of this role, although reports seem to indicate that he continued subsequently in an unofficial capacity. His trips abroad were co-ordinated by the Government through UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) . During this time it became clear that the Prince was acting covertly for his own benefit and sometimes to the potential detriment of his funders – US! This was apparent through the reports that Andrew attempted to broker the sale or rent (at nominal rates) parts of the Crown Estate to Kazakh tycoon Timur Kulibayev. It is clear that this was not the only instance. But it is not limited to Andrew, all of the Windsors get used in this way. I highlighted the taxpayer funded trip to Bhutan by William and Kate during which they spent one day simply sightseeing. It seems politicians have not learned their lesson. Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Tobias Ellwood has said: “The Royal Family has always had a valuable role to play in helping to maintain our enduring relationships across the Commonwealth, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
But Mr Ellwood is only stating something we already know, that the Royals have aided massive arms deals with dangerous and putrid middle eastern regimes such as Bahrain. The relationship between the Royals and the Government is an unholy one and it a prime reason why the monarchy must be replaced by a transparent accountable system.