What Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn think about the Royal Family

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer

Among all the arguments about Brexit and the NHS during Tuesday’s leaders’ debate, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were also asked about the Prince Andrew controversy.

The two prime ministerial hopefuls in the upcoming general election were quizzed about Andrew's friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who took his own life in jail while facing sex trafficking charges.

The Queen's second son has been accused of showing a lack of empathy with Epstein's victims and a lack of remorse for his friendship with the disgraced financier.

Photo by: zz/KGC-512/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 11/9/19 Members of The Royal Family attend The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance on November 9, 2019 at The Royal Albert Hall in London, England, UK. Here, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Charles The Prince of Wales, Camilla The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William The Duke of Cambridge, Princess Catherine The Duchess of Cambridge, Anne The Princess Royal, Sir Timothy Laurence, Sophie The Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex
Jeremy Corbyn said the Royal Family 'needs improvement' (AP)

‘Needs improvement’

Labour leader Mr Corbyn and his Tory counterpart Mr Johnson were initially asked if the monarchy was fit for purpose.

Mr Corbyn replied: "Needs a bit of improvement.”

Taking a more diplomatic slant, Mr Johnson said: "The institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, talks with Prince Andrew as they attend the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, London, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP)
Mr Johnson said that 'the law must certainly take its course' when asked to comment on Prince Andrew (AP)

Asked about Andrew specifically, Mr Corbyn said: "Before we discuss Prince Andrew, I think we should discuss the victims that are there because of what Epstein was doing.

"I think there are very, very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law, but the primary position ought to be the proper treatment of those people who were victims of the most appalling behaviour by apparently Epstein and many others.”

Mr Johnson said "all our sympathies" should be with the victims of Epstein, adding: "The law must certainly take its course.”

The Duke of York during day two of the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake.
Businesses have begun to cut ties with the Duke of York (PA)

Severing ties

Following the Duke of York’s disastrous interview with Newsnight at the weekend, his role in public life has suffered major setbacks as multimillion-pound businesses cut ties and universities review their association with him.

Multinational bank Standard Chartered has joined KPMG in deciding not to renew its sponsorship of Andrew's Pitch@Palace scheme.

London Metropolitan University is to consider the duke's role as its patron, while a student panel at Huddersfield University has passed a motion to lobby the duke to resign as its chancellor.

Prince Andrew's Newsnight interview has been heavily criticised (BBC)
Prince Andrew has been heavily criticised following his interview with Newsnight (BBC)

What Andrew said

During the BBC interview, the duke, questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, twice said his relationship with Epstein had some "seriously beneficial outcomes", giving him the opportunity to meet people and prepare for a future role as a trade envoy.

He denied sleeping with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage, and said an alleged encounter in 2001 could not have happened as he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.

The American accuser said the alleged encounter began with the duke sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp.

But the duke said he had a medical condition at the time that meant he did not sweat.

He said he had no recollection of meeting Mrs Giuffre.