Loss-making Earl says UK hates success says Edward

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The Independent Online
THE EARL of Wessex sought to calm a storm last night over claims he made in America that the British "hate" successful people.

In a statement issued through his television production company, Ardent, Prince Edward moved to quell the criticism mounting after he told an American newspaper that he found business attitudes there "a breath of fresh air" compared with home.

"Those who know me or the programmes that Ardent produces would realise that offending the British public was the very last thing I would have wanted to do," he said.

Prince Edward's comments were made during an interview with The New York Times, published on Wednesday. Like the rest of the American media, the Times has been following his tour of film and television companies in the US aimed at gaining commissions for Ardent.

He contrasted his warm reception in the United States with attitudes at home, claiming "they hate anyone who succeeds", and adding: "There was a much greater openness and willingness to take us for what we are here. Over there, there's more baggage, if you understand that expression."

The reaction was swift and angry. John Cryer, the Labour MP for Hornchurch, said: "Here is a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth who has never had to do anything for his wealth. To knock the millions of British people who slog their guts out, and who for the last 20 years have had to work longer hours for lower pay, is absolutely crass and offensive."

Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, said: "Obviously Prince Edward has his views. I would have thought he should be a little more cautious in what he says. I don't think it is a good thing for him to knock Britain or people in Britain."

Last night, Prince Edward said: "Anyone who has the opportunity to read the full article ...will see I had no intention of offending my country or the industry in which I work and the author, James Sterngold, has gone on record to support this.

"I was in the US as a British businessman marketing a British company on what proved to be an extremely successful trip." When he made his comments, Prince Edward was riding high and was possibly off-guard. He had been feted by the rich and powerful in American television and had succeeded in clinching a number of deals, including one reportedly worth pounds 350,000 to produce a documentary on the Queen Mother. Television executives have been queuing up to meet him. Mark Zakarin, the vice-president of Showtime cable channel, said to one journalist: "Did I tell my wife before I went to the first meeting that I was meeting a prince? Sure I did!"

There was sympathy for Prince Edward's views among the British business community. Ruth Lea, the head of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "It's the same old story, that too many people are just waiting for him to fail."

Some, however, questioned Prince Edward's suggestion that he was "successful" at all. Since its inception in 1993, Ardent has lost pounds 1.7m. On its launch, he declared "making a royal programme would give the wrong impression. I don't want to trade on that association any more than I intend trading on my title." Since then, however, Ardent's high-profile productions have had royal themes.

Prince Edward receives pounds 141,000 a year from the Queen. Last year, he received pounds 59,000 as a director of Ardent, in spite of losses of pounds 142,000.

Leading article, Review, page 3