Boris Johnson faced an awkward moment tonight as he was grilled on live TV over the crisis engulfing Prince Andrew.
The Prime Minister was asked if the Duke of York was “fit for purpose” in a live studio showdown between himself andJeremy Corbyn.
He said “the law must take its course” after the Duke refused to show remorse for his friendship with paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
But he did not comment further – and defiantly defended the monarchy itself as “beyond reproach”.
Tonight’s ITV debate came a day after the Tory leader laughed off the Duke’s Newsnight interview, saying aid “nice try” when he was asked about it.
This time, he was cornered by host Julie Etchingham in the first live TV debate of the election – and he andJeremy Corbynhad very different answers.
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Asked if the monarchy was fit for purpose, long-time Republican Mr Corbyn said: “Needs a bit of improvement.”
Yet Mr Johnson said defiantly: “The institution of the Monarchy is beyond reproach”
The pair were then asked if Prince Andrew himself was fit for purpose.
Mr Corbyn said: “Before we discuss Prince Andrew I think we should discuss the victims that are there because of what Epstein did.
“And I think there are very very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law.
“But the primary position ought to be the proper treatment of those people that have been victims of the most appalling behavior by apparently Epstein and many others.”
Mr Johnson then answered – and could be seen choosing his words carefully.
The Prime Minister, who said in August he has “seen the good” Prince Andrew can do, said: “All our sympathies should be obviously with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein.
” And the law must certainly take its course “.
Prince Andrew has faced questions over his judgement in maintaining a friendship with the disgraced billionaire, who was found dead by apparent suicide in his *** in New York in August.
Epstein – who was found dead in his cell this year – was awaiting trial over sex trafficking charges.
In 2010, the prince was photograp hed walking with Epstein in New York’s Central Park – two years after Epstein’s earlier first conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
General election 2019
BBC viewers reacted with disbelief to Prince Andrew’s description of Epstein’s behavior as “unbecoming” and the use of his New York flat as convenient as he denied ever meeting 17 – year-old Virginia Roberts
The Duke also insisted he could not have had sex with Roberts because he was at Pizza Express in Woking on the supposed night, and besides her claims of a sweaty dance were untrue because he was medically unable to sweat.
It came as the pair clashed on ITV in the first live TV debate of thegeneral election.
The leaders of the UK’s two major parties went head-to-head in an hour-long debate hosted by Julie Etchingham in Salford’s MediaCityUK.
It gave Mr Corbyn an opportunity to make up ground on the Conservatives as opinion polls showed (Labor) trailing behind.
But Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon branded Mr Johnson a “scaredy-cat” over his refusal to debate her, saying she would face him “any time, any place”.
The Lib Dems and theSNPlost a High Court battle to have their leaders