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Former home secretary ‘left slack-jawed by Andrew’s racist comments’

Jacqui Smith, who served at the Home Office under Tony Blair, said the duke made racist comments about Arab people during a state dinner.

Duke of York (Michel Euler/PA)
Duke of York (Michel Euler/PA)

By Caitlin Doherty, PA

A former home secretary has said she was left “slack-jawed” by alleged racist comments by the Duke of York.

Jacqui Smith, who served at the Home Office under Tony Blair, said Andrew made racist comments about Arab people during a state dinner.

The claims come after the duke’s Newsnight interview in which he discussed his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and denied sleeping with one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre.

Speaking on the LBC election podcast she hosts with Iain Dale, Ms Smith said Andrew’s remarks to her “involved a comment about camels” and were “as worse as you could imagine”.

I have to say the conversation left us slack-jawed with the things that he felt it was appropriate to say Jacqui Smith

Ms Smith said: “I met him several times, including once at a state banquet where, after dinner, I and my husband and another Labour cabinet minister had a drink with him.

“I have to say the conversation left us slack-jawed with the things that he felt it was appropriate to say.”

The former Labour politician made the comments in Sunday’s podcast episode, and said she did not feel comfortable repeating what the duke said, adding: “It was a state dinner for the Saudi royal family and he made racist comments about Arabs that were unbelievable.”

Describing Andrew as “the worst end of the royal family”, Ms Smith added: “The fact he thought we might find these amusing was sort of a terrible situation to be in.

“I don’t think he’s very bright, I don’t think he really understands the way in which he behaves.”

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Jacqui Smith (David Jones/PA)

She also said she feels “ashamed” that she did not challenge the Queen’s son on his comments.

Responding to the claims, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “HRH has undertaken a considerable amount of work in the Middle East over a period of years and has many friends from the region.

“He does not tolerate racism in any form.”

On Monday, the Evening Standard published on its front page a claim by columnist Rohan Silva that the duke made a racist remark while he was a Downing Street aide specialising in the tech economy.

Mr Silva told the newspaper that when he asked Andrew if the government department responsible for trade “could be doing a better job”, the duke replied: “Well, if you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile.”

Sources have categorically denied Andrew used the word.

PA

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