IT’S difficult to know where to begin when responding to the slurry of revelations about Prince Andrew and his close friend, the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Yesterday morning one BBC radio talk show host had reduced it to a parlour game. Who do you think was most credible, Jeremy Vine asked his listeners, Prince Andrew or Virginia Roberts, the woman whom he is accused of abusing as part of a sex-trafficking trade in vulnerable young women?

Others have begun to speculate on how much the British monarchy will have been damaged by this. Over the course of almost three decades perhaps hundreds of these women were passed around rich and powerful men like goodie bags at black-tie dinners, but this is already being reduced to secondary status.

Prince Andrew continues to deny that he ever met his accuser let alone engage in any sexual activity with her, but he was a frequent visitor to all of Epstein’s properties in which, according to multiple independent accounts, the exploitation of young women for sexual gratification had become normalised.

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The world inhabited by these animals is one where money and power has numbed them from the effects of their behaviour on other human beings. Yet, other women who have experienced sexual abuse in less rarefied surroundings will know that in most if not all cases, money and power also lay at the root of the assaults they suffered. Men who assault women will have no hesitation in using economic and political leverage to overcome resistance and then delude themselves into thinking that these encounters were consensual. There are hundreds of Jeffrey Epsteins being indulged all over the world who are given immunity from decency and kindness on account of money and power. Their names are known to police and politicians in countries that fancy themselves civilised. The names of their young female victims, numbering thousands, are never acknowledged but governments know about them all the same. No resistance is ever offered when the appropriate flag of convenience is raised.

There were many chilling moments during the Panorama investigation when you realised a torch was being shone on another world, one where basic human decency and compassion had gone to die. You knew too you were in the presence of unspeakable evil. One of these was when a delivery worker laughed ruefully when asked about the regular stream of young women and girls leaving and entering one of Epstein’s homes. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew about it, he said, and they all knew what was happening within those gated grounds. Yet none had thought to ask any questions.

As with the Harvey Weinstein (below) revelations, the wickedness had persisted in plain sight in front of many witnesses for decades but had only come to light when some of the terrified victims had found the courage to speak up. It’s not unreasonable to speculate that the money and power that was used to exploit women was also deployed to ensure that all of the witnesses knew to look the other way. After all, who cares about the fate of a few drugged and vulnerable girls when there are connections to be made and contracts to be secured? All those entertainers and politicians who pitched up at the Playboy Mansion (and may even continue to do so) all knew what was happening to the women who “lived” there, but the parties are still recalled with amused detachment by those who attended them.

The National:

In 2018 one of the UK’s most prestigious all-male charity dinners was exposed as little more than a posh Gropers’ Gala. The guest-list for the President’s Ball, held annually at London’s Dorchester Hotel, was like a roll-call of the UK political and financial establishment. It featured senior Tory politicians and advisers as well as party donors, all of whom seemed to be comfortable with

young women in short skirts serving them drinks. These women had all been prepped to expect a certain degree of “boisterous” behaviour by male guests. That’s boisterous spelt S-E-X-U-A-L-A-S-S-A-U-L-T.

The belated outrage that greeted revelations about the nature of this dinner followed a familiar pattern. The event was a fixture on the London social calendar for many years. Yet it had not been brought down by any self-acknowledgement that this was actually a sleaze-fest. Rather, in the age of social media and in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein fallout, it had been forced to shut as charities fell over themselves to hand back the money raised at its auctions. Presumably, these charities had also been represented at the dinner. Had they too been induced to avert their gaze and to justify this by pleading in mitigation that they were on a social mission?

Further down the social scale all-male dinners are still a regular feature of this country’s social calendar. No one is suggesting that they are occasions of sexual exploitation, but any bloke who doesn’t think that some kind of underhand currency is being traded at events where women are excluded is kidding himself. If nothing else, they are manifestations of abject male inadequacy.

THE Epstein documentary revealed a global mafia where the scions of grand dynasties and the anointed ones of industry behave like gangsters. And let’s not delude ourselves either here that, just because you might not have participated in any of the extra-curricular activities that were occurring around you, somehow this indemnifies you.

When these gatherings are known to include bankers, judges, senior police officers and politicians then you begin to understand how easy it becomes to pull levers and to grease palms to ensure that wrongdoing and criminality is conveniently overlooked. Virginia Roberts had made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police in 2015 and backed it up with documentation, but no investigation has subsequently taken place. A former royal protection officer speculated that ordinary citizens accused of such crimes would not have had to wait long before a knock at the door.

There is a reason why the presence is required of certain prominent men on the guest-lists of Epstein’s parties and the Playboy Mansion and the President’s Dinner. And it’s not merely to make the host look good. These powerful men attract other powerful men in a contest of male egos. Into the pockets of the rich they all go and into their little black books, to be called upon at some future date when their assistance may be required.

This is the currency of unearned privilege and no country where unearned privilege thrives can ever be considered civilised. It is part of Britain’s DNA.