Janet Street-Porter: There's no big secret about Burrell's flaws

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The Independent Online

The inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, becomes more like a television reality show with every passing day. We have heard from healers, servants, solicitors and former friends, but there is no doubt that her former butler, Paul Burrell, was determined to be the star turn.

Reading the accounts of his testimony reminded me of the many hours I spent with Mr Burrell in the Australian jungle when we both participated in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2004. Mr Burrell likes to hold court, and he certainly gave the impression that he wasn't just the Princess's "rock"– now he was telling us he was at the "hub" of her daily life.

Since I'm A Celebrity, when he blubbed bucketloads during a bush-tucker trial, Mr Burrell has led an exotic existence. The misguided decision to prosecute him for theft of items belonging to the Princess was dramatically halted when the Queen remembered a crucial conversation with him. Since then, Mr Burrell has exploited his royal connections by endorsing wines, rugs and china, and making television appearances. His website promotes the "Kensington" bed and a teapot named "The Royal Butler".

I always thought there was something fundamentally flawed about a man who deserted his long-suffering wife and two gorgeous sons to work all day, every day, listening to the musings of a glamorous, rich, lonely woman. He missed all the critical years of his sons' education. He now lives not at his home in Cheshire, but at the family's luxury property in Florida, bought with the proceeds from his memoirs. There, his royal connections certainly open doors socially.

You couldn't help feeling that Mr Burrell viewed the inquest as yet another opportunity to flog copies of his two books, The Way We Were and In The Royal Manner, his tome on entertaining, which contains 50 recipes (including cinnamon ice cream) that he claims were popular with his royal employers.

Much has been said about Mr Burrell's extraordinary self-belief but he certainly got his come-uppance when ordered by the coroner to go home and find some important papers and a diary he had conveniently forgotten to bring to court. In them, he claimed, the Princes had told him two special "secrets" – which he did not feel he could reveal to the world at large, as they were privileged information. Sadly for Mr Burrell, he was cut down to size when he returned the next day with a notebook containing some jottings about the history of servants, six letters from the Princess and a journal that he compiled after Diana's death.

When questioned further, Mr Burrell seemed to get very confused about how many "secrets" he knew and what they actually were. He also revealed that there were differences between what the Princess actually wrote to him about her fears for her life, and the account he gave of the same letter in his book. In it, he also claimed that the Queen told him there were "dark forces" at work in Britain.

In the witness box, he had to admit it was an error and that the Queen had never uttered those words. He still managed to ease in a spot of self-promotion, dismissing the theory that there was a plot to assassinate the Princess with the words: "Knowing the royal family as I do... that would be impossible".

Knowing Mr Burrell as I do, we can assume that, on the basis of his less than stellar turn in the witness box, most of his memoirs about life with the Princess are twaddle conjured up by his overwhelming need to validate himself.

How EMI hit the wrong note

Guy Hands, the venture capitalist who has taken over EMI Records, has some rum ideas, calling in Tony Blair's favourite "blue-sky" thinker and former BBC boss John Birt as a director. Birt, once called a "dalek" by the dramatist Dennis Potter, is not known for his people skills. The new bosses at EMI have proposed that some artists be paid a day rate or a salary rather than a mega-advance. In spite of acts like Lily Allen, 85 per cent of EMI releases are unprofitable, according to the City, the main value of the company lying in music publishing. In that context, Robbie Williams' strike does not really matter, but shedding popular UK chief executive Tony Wadsworth was a PR disaster.

* The line between business and government gets more blurred each day. The donors to Peter Hain's leadership campaign include a trade union who represented workers in factories under threat of closure in Wales, a diamond dealer, and Isaac Kaye, who was chairman of Norton Healthcare when the company allegedly participated in a price-fixing cartel which over-charged the NHS for drugs. Two former directors of the company are set to stand trial later this year. Now it emerges that Trade Minister Lord Digby Jones has a large share-holding in i-clean, a company working for several NHS trusts. Jones was a director of i-clean before Gordon Brown recruited him to the Government, but only disclosed his shares to the parliamentary authorities this month, weeks after the PM announced that millions would be spent on a "deep clean" of our hospitals. If Mr Hain can just be considered "incompetent" by Mr Brown, then Lord Jones can easily excuse himself by claiming an "administrative error". No wonder we don't trust politicians.

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