Boris Johnson flatly refused to take sides in the row over the extraordinary Harry and Meghan row today as Downing Street insisted he has not even watched the bombshell interview – while Labour demanded a Palace probe into claims of racism.
The PM batted away questions about his views on the dramatic intervention by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as he hosted a No10 press conference this evening.
Mr Johnson said he had the ‘highest admiration’ for the Queen and the ‘unifying role’ she played for the UK and Commonwealth.
But he added: ‘I’ve spent a long time not commenting on Royal Family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today.’
Pushed again for his opinion, Mr Johnson said: ‘I really think that when it comes to matters to do with the royal family, the right thing for prime ministers to say is nothing and nothing is the thing that I propose to say today about that particular matter.’
However, climate minister Lord Goldsmith – a close ally of Carrie Symonds – did wade into the raging controversy, tweeting that ‘Harry is blowing up his family’.
‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets,’ the peer added in an apparent reference to a remark the Prince reputedly made about his wife.
Earlier Mr Johnson’s spokesman was pressed repeatedly on the allegations levelled during the interview – including that there were Royal concerns about what skin colour the couple’s child might have.
Asked whether Mr Johnson agreed with Labour there should be a probe into the racism claims, the spokesman said: ‘It is a matter for the Palace but the Prime Minister hasn’t seen those interviews.’
In contrast to Mr Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the allegations made by the Duchess must be taken seriously.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman batted away questions about his views on the dramatic intervention by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a briefing with journalists. The PM is pictured meeting US climate envoy John Kerry today
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have insisted their interview with Oprah Winfrey would be the ‘last word’ on them quitting as senior royals
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan hold Archie in Cape Town while visiting in September 2019
Climate minister Lord Goldsmith – a close ally of Carrie Symonds – waded into the raging controversy, tweeting that ‘Harry is blowing up his family’
Speaking during a visit to a school in Dagenham, east London, Sir Keir said: ‘It is really sad to see the family in turmoil like this.
‘The issues that Meghan has raised of racism and mental health are really serious issues.
‘It is a reminder that too many people experience racism in 21st-century Britain. We have to take that very, very seriously.
‘Nobody, but nobody, should be prejudiced (against) because of the colour of their skin or because of their mental health issues.
‘This is bigger than the royal family. For too many years we have been too dismissive and too willing to put these issues to one side.’
Challenged on whether it was acceptable to ask questions about the skin colour of an unborn child, the spokesman said Mr Johnson had previously said there was ‘no place in society’ for racism.
Tory MPs have led the backlash against Prince Harry and Meghan’s ‘appalling’ accusations of racism against the Royal Family as they accused the couple of ‘detonating a nuclear weapon’ with the allegations.
The Duchess of Sussex said ‘concerns’ were raised about ‘how dark’ Archie’s skin would be before he was born because she is mixed-race and Harry is white, but refused to say who made the alleged comments.
One Tory MP, who did not want to be named, suggested that the couple appeared to be ‘telling the Royal Family I’ve got this nuclear weapon and I’m going to detonate it’.
Another MP, Michael Fabricant said: ‘Every family is dysfunctional one way or another. The holder of every high position will have personal little secrets they want hidden. We are all human. Only HM Queen seems to float selflessly above it all.’
In the first interview last night, The Duchess of Sussex told Oprah she ‘couldn’t be left alone’ and told her husband she ‘didn’t want to be alive anymore’ before claiming the Buckingham Palace HR department ignored her plea for help because she wasn’t a ‘paid employee’.
In the first broadcast, the Duchess of Sussex said ‘concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born’ happened ‘in those months when [I] was pregnant’ with Archie.
However, when Prince Harry was asked about the exchange later he appeared to suggest he heard the alleged slur from a royal figure earlier, before he and Meghan got married. Oprah Winfrey says Harry made clear off camera it was not either of his grandparents.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (left) said the allegations made by the Duchess must be taken seriously. Shadow education secretary Kate Green (right) said the Palace should investigate
Earlier, shadow education secretary Kate Green said the claims were ‘really distressing, shocking’, adding: ‘If they are allegations of racism I would expect them to be treated by the Palace with the utmost seriousness and fully investigated.’
She went on: ‘There is never any excuse in any circumstances for racism. And I think it is important that action is taken to investigate what are really shocking allegations.’
Prince Harry today claimed racism drove him and Meghan out of Britain and the Queen was too busy to meet him as he piled on new insults to his family in a series of unseen clips from his bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview.
The Duke of Sussex accused the Queen of snubbing him after she was allegedly overruled by royal aides when she tried to invite him and Meghan on a trip to Sandringham after they announced they were stepping down.
Harry said he received a message from the Queen saying he wanted them to visit ‘the moment you land’, but he later got a message from his private secretary at the time saying the trip had been cancelled.
Harry said he then rang the Queen from Frogmore cottage and she said: ‘Yes, there’s something in my diary that I didn’t know that I had.’
The prince claimed the exchange showed that even the Queen could be overruled by aides, despite them giving her ‘very bad’ advice.