AndrewThe best part of 20 years ago I recall catching a snippet of a ‘documentary’ about perma-tanned harpies preying upon young footballers at the kind of social gatherings that so excite the authors of online headlines. None of those interviewed on camera expressed any signs of victimhood and were fairly brazen re their intentions when approaching said sportsmen. Not that they were a new breed, mind; had they been around 30 or 40 years earlier they’d have behaved the same around rock stars, who were the footballers of their day. Rock mythology of the 1960s & 70s is abundant with the user-names of groupies who were as much a fixture in the hotel rooms of the era’s musical aristocrats as the TV set poised to be hurled through the window; even though their roles reduce them to anecdotal footnotes in the overall story of cultural conquest, it’s something they themselves don’t appear unduly concerned about (if their kiss-and-tell autobiographies are to be believed, anyway).

Uncomfortable as it may be for contemporary commentators to accept, the fact is that some young women in their late teens and early 20s are predatory when it comes to famous, wealthy men – however physically unattractive, charmless and retarded such men might be. They take the commonplace craving for a man who will provide them with financial security to the max, pursuing their intended target with a ruthless determination that says as much about their own absence of probity as it does the moral compass of their intended. Therefore, should anyone really be surprised that the prospect of sleeping with a member of the British Royal Family might be regarded as an impressive notch on the bedpost of such a character? The sob story of Virginia Giuffre is a case in point.

Had any genuine non-consensual sex between the-then 17-year-old American and the Prince taken place, one assumes no out-of-court settlement would have sufficed; said ‘victim’ would have rejected a monetary package and would have demanded her day in court, to prove once and for all that she had been subjected to a bona-fide sexual assault for which the perpetrator being named and shamed was belatedly punished. As we all now know, however, Ms Giuffre (or her legal representatives) has accepted a payment from the Duke of York amounting to between £7.5 and £12 million. The result of this field day for the legal profession is that both parties can claim a hollow victory – Ms Giuffre playing the ‘MeToo’ card and receiving a pay-out that implies her alleged abuser has something to pay out for, and Prince Andrew sweeping the whole sordid business under the carpet with a handsome donation to the Giuffre hush fund.

It’s telling that the main topic to arise from the entire grubby affair is the source of the settlement paid out by the Queen’s favourite child. Ever since his ill-advised TV grilling by Emily Maitlis in 2019, Prince Andrew has undergone a humiliating financial dressing-down; his days as a ‘working royal’ came to an abrupt end following his televised summit meeting with the ‘Newsnight’ hostess, when his delusional arrogance was exposed to the nation and his numerous military titles were quietly removed as a consequence. The truth of his association with the disgraced, deceased pederast (not paedophile, despite the MSM’s tiresome assertion) Jeffrey Epstein has forced him into a grovelling apology, publicly disassociating himself from the glorified pimp and his effective ‘Igor’ Ghislaine Maxwell in order to save his own skin. The fact that his equally desperate ex-wife Sarah Ferguson has done likewise as she attempts to distance herself from the man who loaned her £15,000 in 2012 to pay off a debt amounts to jack shit in the eyes of HM’s subjects, who are being encouraged to feel aggrieved that their taxes are being spent to bail out Brenda’s son. And Andrew’s own income doesn’t necessarily paint a portrait of penury.

His Sunninghill Park Windsor residence – a wedding present from Her Majesty in 1986 – was sold-off through an offshore trust courtesy of the good old British Virgin Islands for £15 million in 2007; he also receives a Royal Navy pension of something in the region of £20,000 a year as well as a stipend from the Duchy of Lancaster revenues. However, the fact his post-Maitlis reduction in income (a loss of around £250,000) has cost him dear perhaps leads to speculation that Brenda herself will have to raid the piggy bank in order to cover Andrew’s legal fees and/or expenses for dining out with his daughters in Woking. Of course, the Queen’s income itself is a well-documented and endless source of fascination for Fleet Street; the thought that Brenda might be forced to root around her purse to fund Andrew’s pay-off to Virginia Giuffre is something which we are supposed to be getting hot under the collar about, though I suspect we’ve all known individuals whose mothers routinely come to the rescue of when indiscretions committed by their precious boys need burying. A current ITV series on the Krays has served as a reminder of how some mums will always turn a blind eye to their offspring’s activities if they contradict the perfect picture the matriarch cherishes in her head.

Mind you, Brenda has enough to worry about where her ageing sprogs are concerned; the first media missive launching her Platinum Jubilee year may have been an attempt to finally lay to rest any lingering Cult-of-Diana resistance regarding the late Saint’s replacement in the marital bed, yet any concessions to Queen Camilla have been somewhat overshadowed this week by the news that police are embarking upon a ‘cash for honours’ investigation into Brian’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation. His ex-valet was chief executive of the Foundation until last November, when he was reported for allegedly having offered an honorary knighthood to a Saudi citizen. Although HRH is not directly involved with the running of the charity, the news that Inspector Knacker is investigating an organisation of which he is president – under the Honours (Preventions of Abuses) Act 1925 – means another unsavoury story encircling a leading member of the House of Windsor threatens to deflect attention from Brenda’s 70 years on the throne.

In some respects, reaching an out-of-court settlement means ‘the firm’ will be spared the further embarrassment that would undoubtedly have arisen had the Duke of York been let loose in a US courtroom. His old man certainly couldn’t be relied upon to avoid saying the wrong thing in public, but Andrew’s capacity for putting his foot in it is now recognised as even more potentially disastrous. The Emily Maitlis interview was a sublime example of just how clueless he is when it comes to the huge divide between his own perception of himself and how he is perceived by the general public. From the pizza anecdote to the claim he is incapable of sweating, Andrew’s attempts to salvage a reputation damaged via his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein failed spectacularly and reduced him to a laughing stock. The fact he expressed no regrets over the Epstein connection during the Maitlis interview – something he has now finally backtracked on – didn’t help either.

As Ghislaine Maxwell is left to rot in gaol as the sole can-carrier for Epstein’s sex-trafficking empire, Prince Andrew may have evaded a similar fate, yet his association with such a sleazy pair is something that has not only cost him (or his ma) financially; it has also fatally scarred him as a public figure probably for life now. A token offer of a donation to support victims of sex trafficking has been received with both scepticism and outright opposition by charities, though Andrew’s advisers have no doubt viewed such a gesture as one of the few remaining avenues with the faint prospect of redemption left open to him. But it’s too late, anyway; the damage has been done and it seems pretty permanent. Even if he isn’t a ‘nonce’, the fact a sizeable chunk of the public now think of him as such is a belief from which there is no going back. If you come across as an already-unlikeable individual and then have that label attached to you, it’s pretty much over.

© The Editor




A good deal of what has constituted headline news over the past few days has been covered here before, and even if a story develops and takes on a different shape, a commentator can struggle to add something new to what has already been said. The nature of the Winegum – preferring to put most of what needs to be said on a subject into one post or perhaps a handful spread over several weeks – means there has to be a dramatic development in order for a fresh perspective. I suppose I could’ve written something about Prince Andrew; but I did that back in August.

Granted, HRH’s unprecedented act of television hara-kiri on Saturday night perhaps warranted a post; but social media spent most of the weekend doing what social media does best when it responds to a story by putting its most waspish hat on. I didn’t feel it was possible to top the endless spoof reviews of the Woking branch of Pizza Express. There were references to a surprising absence of sweat when enjoying an especially spicy pizza, a pizza that made such a deep impression it remained engrained on the memory whilst all around it utterly vanished, including meeting pretty young girls and having one’s photo taken with them. And at least we all now know what to do when ending a friendship – simply ceasing contact and ignoring their calls is not the way to do it; instead, you spend four days as their house-guest. Oh, and if you happen to be one of the world’s most recognisable public figures, with guaranteed Paparazzi snappers on your tail, you go for a stroll in Central Park. Stupid or arrogant? From everything I can gather it seems Prince Andrew is an unappealing blend of both.

Whether or not he enjoyed an intimate moment with a 17-year-old girl – an ‘action’ (as he would put it) that even US law (unlike the media) recognises as the action of a pederast rather than a paedophile – Andrew came across as a little boy who had done something naughty and would not take the George Washington route by owning up to it, instead digging himself a hole that grew deeper with each denial. Unlike Diana’s self-pitying confessional back in the 90s, Andrew didn’t come across as someone wanting the world to feel sorry for him – more someone who imagined the audience to be even stupider than him by believing him; and there’s nothing quite so funny as someone who thinks he’s smart and blatantly isn’t.

Just over 20 years ago, not long after Andrew’s equally nauseating ex had been exposed as a toe-sucker, brother Brian was present during the gift-wrapping of Britain’s final Far East imperial possession for its nearest neighbour. Despite Prince Charles’ scathing observations on 1997 events in Hong Kong, the transition itself was a smooth one; arranged well in advance, it had none of the spontaneous drama that had redrawn the map of Europe eight years earlier. Yes, there were bloody moments in Romania, though the brutal reprisals were mercifully brief; in East Germany, the armed enforcers of the system stood by and let it happen because they knew they were beaten. Just a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, there had been a reminder that people power can be ruthlessly crushed on the very streets it sprang from – a watershed that exacerbated nerves over the prospect of Hong Kong being absorbed into Mother China’s suffocating bosom.

A memorable episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in which the family accompany Marge’s ugly sisters to Beijing in order to adopt a baby sees Homer wander into Tiananmen Square and come across a plaque that reads ‘In 1989, nothing happened here’. That was probably not far from the official Chinese line for a long time, but the shadow of the student revolution that never was has no doubt lingered at the back of revolutionary Hong Kong minds ever since. Hong Kong youth born after the Handover, let alone the Tiananmen Square Massacre, know the potential risks involved in standing up to China, yet it would appear that many of them spearheading the current insurrection in Hong Kong now feel they have nothing to lose. There certainly appears to be a strain of nihilism governing the actions of some, and it’s difficult to see their brave stance ending in anything other than tears.

After months of disruptive protests, the siege of the Polytechnic University in Kowloon has taken events onto a scary new level. Watching scenes shot behind the campus barricades on TV, I was reminded not only of the improvised rebellion that marked the outbreak of the Northern Ireland Troubles fifty years ago – echoes of the DIY petrol bombs hurled from rooftops at the RUC; but the use of catapults recalled medieval sieges. So bizarre was the sight, I half-expected the protestors to launch a dead cow at the Hong Kong police from the battlements in the manner of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’. It was both darkly comic and disturbingly frightening, for you can foresee the awful outcome – and I suspect the 100 or so still rumoured to be holding out can too. It’s all so horribly inevitable.

Many have attempted to escape the fortress since the siege began on Sunday, but few have managed it; the police have completely encircled the campus and claim that over 600 of the protestors have surrendered. This was after police retaliated to the catapults and petrol bombs with tear gas. Around 20 years ago, I remember a resident of the shared house I lived in charging indoors in the middle of the night having evaded arrest (for what, I cannot recall); unfortunately for him, before he slipped their grip the boys-in-blue had sprayed some mace-like substance to disable him. He’d still managed to get away, but his face was on fire; as I watched him furiously splashing water on his pained countenance, I moved a little too close and was smacked in the kisser by a stinging force-field that caused me to immediately pull back. If that’s just a miniscule taste of what tear gas can do, its employment in Hong Kong shouldn’t be seen as the police treating the protestors lightly.

Of course, the constant fear throughout all of this has been the anticipation of reprisals from mainland China, though so far China – probably mindful of international opinion – has shown remarkable restraint, leaving the Hong Kong police to handle things. It’s possible the ending of the siege at the Polytechnic University could be the beginning of the end of this current wave of protests, though if it isn’t one wonders how much longer China will allow the situation to go on. And when one looks at the Kowloon campus and the fate awaiting those still there, it does tend to put the pathetic, privileged complaints of western students into perspective; this is real life or death stuff, not quibbling over the offensiveness of bloody pronouns.

Probably having one eye on post-Brexit trade deals, the response from the British Government over the chaos in the old colony has been somewhat muted; however, despite our intentions to uphold the ‘one country, two systems’ promise of the Sino-British Joint Declaration we were party to, there’s very little Britain can do. Besides, there are other political distractions over here at the moment. We have the first televised head-to-head of the General Election to look forward to on ITV this evening, restricted to a strict Boris Vs Jezza clash, with the High Court having rather amusingly denied Swinson and Sturgeon the chance to add some anti-democratic Scottish spice to proceedings. So, once again, it’s dumb and dumber. And if that prospect is as depressing to you as everything else hogging the headlines, let’s lighten the mood with two pictures of a kitten that sleeps like a human. Spread the love…







© The Editor


The only member of the Royal Family I’ve ever seen in person is no longer a fixture of said institution on account of the Grim Reaper. She was Princess Margaret, the Queen’s ‘Swinging’ sister who married a hip photographer and had a fling with a failed pop singer who became a gardener; she also (allegedly) had a penchant for marvelling at the notorious measurements of actor-cum-villain John Bindon – if the gossip from her one-time Caribbean hideaway of Mustique is to be believed. Anyway, nothing so scandalous informed the occasion in which I observed her zoom past in a black limo en route to open a new primary school around a mile from my own seat of learning at the time (1977). To me, she resembled an old-school movie star – like Greta Garbo; my memory tells me she was wearing white gloves and shades; but my memory is probably being its usual cheating bastard self.

Princess Margaret was easy to warm to depending on what you want from the lucky sods on the Civil List. If a hedonistic party animal who invites the likes of Peter Sellers into her bed, but also finds time to do her duty on behalf of charity and can be gently ribbed by the Pythons in the form of ‘the dummy Princess Margaret’ ticks the requisite boxes, so be it. Actually, that’s pretty fine by me. I always imagined Margaret would’ve been pretty entertaining company, not so heavy on the faux-social conscience lecturing that entered the House of Windsor with a certain Diana and appears to have infected the next generation with the kind of condescending designs for life best left in the ridiculous hands of Gwyneth Paltrow and co.

Then again, Brenda’s own children have been rather problematic in the public arena over the decades. Princess Anne came across as a bit of a saucy deb in her youth, but marriage and childbearing quickly gifted her with the sour-faced equine expression she’s worn (along with that curious Edwardian hair) ever since; Prince Edward has had to live with ‘It’s a Royal Knockout’ as his greatest cultural contribution for over 30 years; and what’s left to say about Brian that hasn’t already been said since his investiture as Prince of Wales half-a-century ago? Which leaves us with the man the Murdoch press once always referred to as ‘Randy Andy’. Ah…

In terms of content, the snippet of video footage from 2010 that emerged a week or so ago of Prince Andrew poking his head through the doorway of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan residence and waving goodbye to the kind of young lady that tends to be mysteriously attracted to silver-haired millionaires doesn’t say much, really. It’s more about the context, shot as it was after said dead ‘playboy’ had already served a custodial sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor and was a registered sex offender as a result. Bearing that in mind, one could say Andrew’s presence even at the time was questionable; in the light of more recent events, however, it looks ill-advised, to say the least. But, then, the Duke of York is not a man renowned for sound judgement.

There’s his on/off relationship with the equally unlovable Sarah Ferguson; the fact that the taxpayer footed the bill for the wedding of a daughter so far back in the line of succession that there’s more chance of Helen Mirren or Olivia Colman becoming the real Queen than her; and then there’s his dodgy acquaintances and business associates, the kind of company even Mark Thatcher would baulk at keeping. Jeffrey Epstein was merely one of many, though one with the potential to be the most damaging (even during his lifetime), regardless of the fact that the media still doesn’t recognise the distinction between paedophile and pederast.

What the rumours currently encircling Prince Andrew have proven yet again, however, is how much easier it is to believe the worst of an unloved public figure than a beloved one. When it comes to the House of Windsor, few elder members of the dynasty do themselves any favours in the eyes of the public, and Andrew is said to be the most pompous, self-important and arrogant of the lot, which – again – isn’t difficult to believe. He always strikes me as a bit thick, to be honest. The popularity he achieved back in his bachelor days as a soldier boy seems a very long time ago now; but let us not forget we are almost four decades away from both the Falklands War and Randy Andy’s brief, if sensational dalliance with actress Koo Stark, so that’s no surprise; the decades since have not been kind to Andrew’s public image, though he only really has himself to blame. The sordid stories doing the rounds at the moment seem to be being given credence mainly because Andrew rubs so many people up the wrong way.

For every person who regarded Jimmy Savile as a selfless charity fund-raiser and amusing eccentric, there were just as many who viewed him as a slightly creepy egomaniac with a remarkable absence of talent; both opinions held sway during Savile’s lifetime, though only one has been accepted as fact since his death – with other ‘offences’ posthumously taken into consideration, of course. Similarly, Andrew’s one-time friendship with Epstein, a figure whose after-life is being documented in terms that are now so boringly familiar, has given carte blanche for the resurfacing of long-standing grievances with a man it’s admittedly hard to like.

It goes without saying that the tabloid press is having fun with this story, but conspiracy theories and speculation naturally spread with far more speed online. Facebook in particular – which these days feels increasingly like the regional TV station to Twitter’s network channel – has seen an amusing abundance of the ‘I always knew he was a wrong ‘un’ attitude over recent days in relation to Andrew, with many commentators I’ve read lazily going along with assumptions that support their own lowly opinion of the man under the spotlight. As far as I can gather, no one in the real world (as opposed to cyberspace) has accused Andrew of anything on the alleged scale of his deceased acquaintance, just a discredited allegation he had ‘sexual encounters’ with the then-17 year-old Epstein masseuse Virginia Roberts/Giuffre back in 2001, something Andrew himself has unsurprisingly denied.

Personally, as long as he hasn’t done anything that has caused anyone serious harm, I couldn’t care less what a posh, pampered twit like the Duke of York gets up to behind closed doors. I can’t say I’m especially interested in him, even when his name is scandalously attached to the current contender for the Harvey Weinstein bogeyman-of-the-moment award. But I guess his unwise association with Epstein has played into the hands of Fleet Street’s endless baffling obsession with the Windsor’s and rekindled the press’s ceaseless determination to convince us we’re all so fascinated with the family that we want to read about them constantly. As far as I can see, we’re not.

© The Editor