Royal Wikileaks comment prompts Tory attack

By Ian Dunt

Prince Andrew’s role in the continuing Wikileaks saga has prompted a rare spat between Tory MPs and the royal family.

The latest series of releases from the website, published in conjunction with the Guardian, describes a meeting in which the trade ambassador spoke “cockily” about journalists, a fraud inquiry and the French.

During a brunch for Canadian and British businessmen in Kyrgyzstan attended by US ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller, the prince launched into an expletive-filled diatribe which “verged in the rude”.

On a discussion over a Serious fraud Office probe into a BAE Systems deal with Saudi Arabia – later cancelled controversially by Tony Blair – the ambassador wrote: “He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia.”

Comment: The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks

British businessmen at the meeting then mentioned that nothing got done in the country unless the son of the president got his cut. Prince Andrew said he had heard his name “over and over again” while in the country.

“At this point, the Duke of York laughed uproariously, saying that ‘all of this sounds exactly like France’,” Ms Gfoeller wrote.

Ms Gfoeller did have some praise for the prince, saying he treated her with “cordiality and respect”, but she mentioned that he approached all discussions with “unmitigated patriotic fervour” which became “almost neuralgic” when discussing comparisons between the US and UK.

She described his attitude as “astonishingly candid”.

In a remarkably forthright attack on a royal from a leading Tory, Sir Malcolm Rifkin, chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, said: “It was unwise and shouldn’t have happened. It was a flip remark.”

Labour MP John Mann also questioned the Prince’s judgement, telling Newsnight: “If these comments by Prince Andrew are accurate – and of course we don’t know that yet – then clearly it’s of public interest that they are out there, so that he can judge whether he is performing the role well and government can make that judgment as well.”

The row comes as a second day of leaks continues to throw the international community into disarray.

The new documents show that China is making efforts to disassociate itself from its close association with North Korea, and that leaders in the rising superpower would happily see the re-unification of Korea with Seoul as the capital. The revelation is disastrous for North Korea, which survives internationally on the basis of Chinese support.

Speaking yesterday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton launched into a scathing attack on the Wikileaks website, saying it had acted illegally and put lives at risk.