Over the years, I have been a fierce critic of Prince Charles. Yet now an inquiry has ‘damned’ him over his misguided backing for a bishop exposed as a serial paedophile, I find myself in the unusual position of being his defender.
Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, was convicted in 2015 of abusing 18 boys and young men.
By then, he had been a friend of Charles for more than 20 years — despite Ball having been cautioned by the police in 1993 for gross indecency and resigning from the Church in disgrace.
Prince Charles and Peter Ball are pictured in 1992. Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, was convicted in 2015 of abusing 18 boys and young men. To his credit, a mortified Charles has spoken of his ‘deep regret’ that he was deceived by Ball over so many years
Charles saw him regularly and corresponded with him, telling him he was the victim of ‘monstrous wrongs’ and giving him money. The bishop prayed with the Prince at Highgrove and became Charles’s long-term mentor.
The Prince claimed that he never realised Ball’s 1993 caution carried an admission of guilt. But that seems naïve, particularly for a future head of the Church of England.
Peter Ball was a well-known figure in the church at the time of his 1992 arrest, for eschewing ecclesiastical robes, dressing as a monk, and sleeping on the floor
And yet still I defend him. Because I, too, was taken in for years by a notorious paedophile — called Rolf Harris.
I was his friend for 16 years. He came to my parties, sent me cards and cartoons. I went to his shows with my mum and dad, who also got to know him, and we were treated like VIPs, welcomed with his great bear hugs.
And to my shame, I stuck by Rolf when he was accused of child abuse. I was utterly convinced of his innocence at first and said so in this newspaper. Only when I saw all the evidence did the scales fall from my eyes.
Today, I realise he used me, even groomed me, to ingratiate himself into my group of friends and fellow journalists who might be useful to him. Just as Bishop Ball targeted Charles.
Some will say Charles was complicit in an Establishment cover-up.
But any criminal psychologist will tell you that a serial sex offender grooms those they believe will protect them and give them cover, just as they groom their victims.
Think of Jimmy Savile, a friend to royals and prime ministers.
I am convinced Charles was a pawn in Ball’s vile game. So, too, were many others — from Archbishop Carey, who allowed Ball to return to his duties after his 1993 caution, to senior judges and politicians.
To his credit, a mortified Charles has spoken of his ‘deep regret’ that he was deceived by Ball over so many years.
Like me, he has learned to his great cost that you can be too trusting — and that even the canniest of us can be duped by evil men.
And to my shame, I stuck by Rolf when he was accused of child abuse. I was utterly convinced of his innocence at first and said so in this newspaper. Only when I saw all the evidence did the scales fall from my eyes
Cover up, Sharon
The irrepressible Sharon Stone reprises this 1992 Basic Instinct no-knickers pose for the cover of Vogue. In another snap she is age-defyingly, magnificently topless. Brave woman.
Yet, at 61, she might take the lead from other women who are actually working in Hollywood: Meryl Streep, 69, Diane Keaton, 73, Mary Steenburgen, 66 — they all keep their clothes on.
The irrepressible Sharon Stone reprises this 1992 Basic Instinct no-knickers pose for the cover of Vogue. In another snap she is age-defyingly, magnificently topless. Brave woman
The original bunga bunga girl
Keen to ‘do right by the lesbian community’, producers of Suranne Jones’s new drama Gentleman Jack hired an ‘intimacy director’ to get the sex scenes right.
Jones plays promiscuous Anne Lister, who is described as a ‘pioneer of gender fluidity’.
All jolly good, but it’s based on Lister’s encrypted 1830s diaries, decoded years after her death — ‘going to Italy’, apparently, means full sex.
And that was long before former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi’s debauched ‘bunga bunga’ parties!
Keen to ‘do right by the lesbian community’, producers of Suranne Jones’s new drama Gentleman Jack hired an ‘intimacy director’ to get the sex scenes right
Shame of a chimp and a chump
Veteran wide-boy radio presenter Danny Baker says he wouldn’t have been fired so quickly if he were one of the BBC’s ‘more clubbable’ broadcasters.
He may have a point.
No one who posts a picture of a couple leading a fully-dressed chimp down the steps days after Meghan and Harry’s baby Archie was born, with the caption ‘Royal baby leaves hospital’, could join any club we’d want to be members of.
David Beckham has been banned from driving for using his mobile phone in the car. His lawyer said it would deprive his children of the joy of dad doing the school run. True.
But it will prevent other people’s kids being hit by a reckless oaf more intent on his phone than their safety. That knighthood Becks believes is his right just took a back seat — again.
How delightful to see Meghan, hitherto always impeccably turned out, resembling an ordinary new mum — tired, no attempt to disguise her post-baby bump, but with a beatific smile.
Yet the image that endeared her most to me was the close-up of her hands touching Archie’s little head. A hasty manicure with uneven polish and uncut cuticles — it was perfectly imperfect.
Meanwhile, Harry says the joy of having a child brought back the pain of losing his mother, Diana.
I hope it also causes Meghan to think about her estranged father. Harry can do nothing about his mum, but Meghan could still make a lifetime of memories with her dad.
How delightful to see Meghan, hitherto always impeccably turned out, resembling an ordinary new mum — tired, no attempt to disguise her post-baby bump, but with a beatific smile
Ahmad’s real joy
Like millions of other Spurs fans, I was dancing deliriously after Lucas Moura scored the winning goal in the 96th minute of extra time to send the team into the Champions League final.
Social media was awash with videos of kids dancing around their living rooms. The next day, the BBC ran a clip of a five-year-old Afghan boy dancing with joy, and I assumed he was also a Tottenham supporter.
It turned out Ahmad had lost his leg in the war at eight months old and was celebrating his new prosthetic limb.
Rather puts things in perspective.
- In the six months running up to our revised scheduled exit from the EU, MPs will have spent half that time on holiday, including an extra 11-day Whitsun recess they’ve just been given. Only the Tories will be working flat out — on how to get rid of Theresa May.
- Since 2016, two Tory PMs and two Defence Secretaries have vowed to end the witch-hunt of Armed Forces veterans. Now Penny Mordaunt, declares it is her priority as the new Defence Secretary. Good intentions but, once again, I fear it’s just weasel words.
- Ambitious Amber Rudd tells her leadership rivals to stop parading their wives in their campaigns. Chief rival Boris Johnson won’t worry — he hasn’t got a wife to parade any more. And his squeeze Carrie Symonds, 30, is hardly a vote winner in Tory heartlands, engagement ring or not.
Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch attended New York’s Met Gala revealing his eco-friendly suit was made of bamboo fabric and a shirt of ‘peace silk’. No worms, it’s claimed, were harmed in its production.
Such a self-satisfied celebrity is vegan Ben that, if he were made of chocolate, he’d eat himself. But only if it was originally sourced, dairy-free and 85 per cent cacao.
Surely the most shocking thing about Madonna attempting to go incognito at an airport was not her faux burka but that she was wearing Birkenstocks, the sandals of the living dead.
The finale of Line Of Duty was the most watched show on TV this year. Adrian Dunbar turned out not to be the bent copper ‘H’.
For his millions of love-swooned followers, a spoiler alert. He is not a haggard cop beaten down by duty — but, in real life, slim, handsome, charming and erudite, as I discovered last Sunday morning sitting with him on the sofa drinking coffee — alas not my sofa, but in the green room of BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Mother of Jesus, he’s a keeper!
Among the items auctioned in the £1 million sale at Christie’s on the 40th anniversary of Mrs Thatcher becoming Prime Minister were her two Bibles and a hymn book.
They fetched £4,375. Daughter Carol must have her reasons for flogging off her mother’s things, but it bewilders me.
I have all Mum’s seven battered tiny Bibles dating back to her childhood. I wouldn’t sell them for £1 million.