Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks and the British royal family

When I'd read that Prince Andrew, in a recent cable leaked through WikiLeaks, claimed that British geography teachers were the world's best geography teachers, I immediately thought of this scene from one of my favorite movies, Hope and Glory:

(Forever now, I'll associate Prince Andrew with "the pink bits.")

As a journalist, albeit not one who deals with such heady subjects as foreign policy and national politics, I'm fascinated with WikiLeaks. Should we be hailing Julian Assange as a hero? Or is he opening a door we really shouldn't open? I'm going to keep my (largely unformed) views to myself as the purpose of this blog is to entertain and not harangue.

I did do a bit of poking about to see if there was anything juicy to report in Anglo/American relations, and thus, here we are with Prince Andrew. One of the embassy cables released this weekend reports of a two-hour meeting between Prince Andrew, acting as a special trade representative for Britain, and a group of Canadian and British businesspeople interested in setting up business in Kyrgyzstan. (The U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan was present at the meeting, the sole American.) The American ambassador was not impressed with Prince Andrew's conduct during the meeting, where she claims he ridiculed journalists, the French, and geographically inept Americans and then criticized investigators from Britain's Serious Fraud Office for poking their noses in a Saudi BAE deal with which there were reports of kickbacks. On top of this, she claims he was rude.

Naturally, American news organizations have put a negative spin on Prince Andrew's supposed boorishness ... hey, he insulted not only Americans, but journalists, but the British press isn't too happy with him, either. (He actually named Guardian journalists in one of his rants.)

I've always questioned why Prince Andrew has this role. Beyond his affiliation with the royal family and a military officer's background, I can't figure out what else he brings to the table. Is he a brilliant strategist? Has he made millions setting up businesses around the U.K.? Is it his mean game of golf?

On the other side, the Guardian quoted Andy Scott, the director of international and UK operations of one of Britain's top business lobbying associations, who said, "He (Prince Andrew) is a good ambassador representing the UK. The royal family connection is very helpful. In a market such as China the presence of someone of his stature really counts."

Some in Britain are calling for Prince Andrew to resign his post as special trade representative for Britain in light of these WikiLeak revelations. What do you think? Do you think it was right for WikiLeaks to publish the report of this meeting, a report that was never meant to go public? Or do you think it's yet another instance of a royal putting his mouth where it really doesn't belong? Add your comments below.


  1. The wikiLeaks are very, very interesting indeed but cannot see why Prince Andrews 'border line rude' remarks are making any news at all. We have the Saudi King wanting Iran bombed, China calling North Korea a spoilt little child and would now support a unified Korea controlled by the south, yet the British media are making a big deal of Prince Andrew.

    By the way I only just watched Hope & Glory two nights ago, an excellent film! :)

  2. Why is Prince Andrew doing what he does? According to Fergie in that ill-fated meeting she had last year which was caught on a hidden camera, Andrew can open many doors for people wanting to do business in the UK. And by the sounds of things, he's got a nice little business going on the side too!


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