Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Global Ambassador or Prince of Pratfalls?

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is under fire for his association with convicted sex offfender Jeffrey Epstein. This follows hard on the heels of his "Wikileaks' embarrassment when it was alleged that a US diplomat had reported on the Prince's remarks about bribery in Kyrgystan and the investigation into the Al-Yamamah arms deal.

His Royal Highness is no stranger to public approbation. Like almost every other member of the Royal Family, bar perhaps his mother, he has come under fire for his links, his behaviour or his comments. It goes along with having a high profile and a comfortable lifestyle, a circumstance coveted and often envied by many.

There's also no doubt that his role on behalf of UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) has been instrumental in securing valuable export contracts for UK companies. It seems likely that in purely financial terms, his work has made a large positive contribution to the UK economy, at little cost to the taxpayer. He takes no pay for his role, but his expenses are covered. I for one, don't begrudge the cost of his first-class travel and five star accommodation if it brings in business for British companies.

However, at some point his value may evaporate. It's the same as any celebrity that has an association with a brand, paid or otherwise. When things are going well, the relationship is good for everyone, but when a celebrity is caught (literally or figuratively) with their trousers down, they quickly become persona non grata.

It's hard to judge where Prince Andrew's reputation is going. His friends, and some government ministers are rallying round. Everything has to be handled very carefully because of his royal status. My guess is that he's been in a few private conversations with politicians and UKTI bosses, and he's been told to lie low and say nothing for a while. When the storm has either blown over, or reached a point where he has to leave his UKTI role quietly, a statement will be made.

As used to be said about a much earlier Duke of York, at the moment he's neither up nor down.

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