Imagine the scene at Windsor Castle this weekend. The Queen, not known for talking intimately with her children, will be desperately hoping that someone can come up with a suitably face-saving solution to the Andrew problem. With two royal weddings in the next few months – always good for boosting the popularity of the monarchy – the last thing the palace needs is for the Andrew saga to continue to throw up grisly publicity.
Last week, it emerged that Sarah Ferguson had asked the Prince to get his pal, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, to pay off some of her debts. In typical Sarah fashion, though, the whole episode was really all about her, not Andrew. She sobbed: "My whole life is charity and children's books and I just did not think this through." You can say that again.
I rarely agree with Fergie, but on this occasion there's a grain of truth hidden in the gush. I've met Andrew and he's certainly not rude, stupid or unpleasant. My overwhelming impression was of a decent enough bloke, not intellectual by any stretch – but since when has that been a crime? – a bluff, pretty unsophisticated fellow who doesn't seem to have anything meaty to do and who is a bit lonely. His job as the UK's special envoy drumming up trade, he more or less volunteered for. That's why it's so difficult to sack him.
The problem with bunging princes in the armed forces is to find them another job to do when they eventually retire. As the Andrew débâcle proves, being trained as a helicopter pilot or marine commander is not necessarily the right preparation for a new life as a diplomat or salesman for prestigious businesses. The same dilemma awaits Harry, and possibly William, if Charles refuses to relinquish the throne.
Since 2001, when he was released from active service, there's not really been a strategy for Andrew. He's got titles, lots of honorary roles, but nothing like a real job. All he's got is a bloodline. No wonder he's attracted a lot of hangers-on best described as rich trash, women who look good and flatter him, and dubious wheelers and dealers from countries with troubled recent histories.
Hilariously, one of his bosom buddies is Goga Ashkenazi, a Kazakh millionairess, whose expression looks a bit like that of a startled carp. The father of her child is the son of the president of Kazakhstan, and there was much comment when he paid £3m more than the asking price for Prince Andrew's house next to Windsor Great Park. Goga is even more useless at PR than Fergie, telling The Times that Andrew had sent a message to her BlackBerry, confiding that he was very worried he might lose his job. She said he was "a lovely man" and claimed that the £15m house (which lies unoccupied and dilapidated) is to be turned into "a charitable school for Kazakh children".
Whether they will be airlifted into to this luxurious part of the Home Counties from their homeland or sourced within the UK remains to be seen. The Palace swiftly denied that Andrew had made any contact with Goga since the scandal started.
By the end of the week, our former ambassador to Tunisia and Qatar was calling for Andrew to be sacked because he was causing "serious damage". Human Rights Watch announced the Prince needed retraining, and should stop promoting trade with Azerbaijan, where the president (Andrew visits regularly and enjoys goose shooting with him) has been accused of torture and rigging elections.
Andrew can't go on doing his job because he has become the story. And it's starting to look as if penniless UK is so desperate for business we're happy to meet crooks, money launderers and torturers. That can't sit comfortably with David Cameron's stance on human rights.
So what can Andrew do next? Physically, he's a dead ringer for Michael Crawford, so there is a chance to understudy as the Wizard of Oz. I don't think he can sing, though, and in Andrew Lloyd Weber's new musical, the Wizard has two excellent new songs. Perhaps he could mime – after all, it's not harmed Cheryl Cole's career.
Andrew wears a uniform well, in fact a lot of his disastrous antics in countries few of us are likely to visit seem eerily reminiscent of one of my favourite films, Carlton-Browne of the FO, starring Terry-Thomas in an immaculate blazer. That's it – he can promote British tailoring.
Simpering on a sofa is perfect PR for Dave
David Cameron has had a bumpy ride recently. The SAS got arrested by a bunch of Libyan melon farmers, public sector workers threatened to strike over plans to cut their pensions, and our police were incandescent at the news their bonuses were getting the chop. Sensibly, Dave didn't submit to an in-depth grilling by Paxo, but opted for a cosy chat on The One Show sofa, where Christine Bleakley lookalike Alex Jones asked him if he was happy. Yes, really. No wonder Dave soon relaxed into the warm bath that is a light soapy One Show interview, swiftly interrupted by Alex, who announced "what we did was, we went to Greater Manchester". When a woman complained that her mum would lose desperately needed help with her disabled sister, Dave was sympathetic: "If you max out a credit card you have to deal with your debts." But, Dave, I wanted to scream, these poor people probably can't even afford a bloody credit card. Alex/Christine simpered nicely and the whole event was a huge PR triumph. Content: zero. Brand enhancement: 10 out of 10. Bit like Dave's dopey happiness quotient.
Cannes you believe their cheek?
Last week I wrote about Official Bollocks – the language used by councils and civil servants to obscure what they actually do, to make them sound important and justify their ludicrous salaries. My attack had little effect: at a time when local authorities are making huge cutbacks, 100 councillors flew out to Cannes for a property fair. Cannes, whose port is packed with multimillion pound yachts, is one of the most expensive resorts in the Mediterranean. Hotel rooms, even at this time of year, cost several hundred pounds a night. So why waste this money? Apparently it's a "forum for networking". Once, you met a business contact for a beer. Now, you enjoy the South of France and "network" over a delicious glass of rosé. All right for some.
Every picture tells a story
One of the companies who print the nation's holiday snaps has revealed that the British take more photos of their pets than of their children.
In fact, we take more pictures of our cats and dogs than we do at big family events such as weddings and Christmas.
I don't have pets, but when I looked back through the photos stored on my computer, I discovered I had taken more pictures of the snowman I made back in December than of any festive visitors.
Last summer, on holiday, I took quite a few self-congratulatory snaps of a particularly good meal I had cooked. There's just one snap of my companion, with a book over his head, on the lounger.
At least, I think it's him ....Reuse content