Downing Street has refused to distance itself from a minister’s claim that Prince Harry is “blowing up his family” – but declined to comment after confirming the prime minister had watched the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he had watched the two-hour interview but said he had no further comment to make.
Amid crisis talks at Buckingham Palace, No 10 said it would not be drawn into any judgment on the allegations of racism made by Meghan or the state of her mental health that she described after her marriage.
The duchess said that while she was pregnant with her son, Archie, an unnamed member of the royal family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
However, Downing Street did not criticise comments from one of Johnson’s ministers – the Conservative Lord Zac Goldsmith, who accused the prince of “blowing up his family”.
His comments came in a tweet in response to ITV News’s royal editor, Chris Ship, who said the couple “dropped bomb after heavy bomb on Buckingham Palace” in the interview.
Goldsmith, a minister for the environment, said it was “not ‘Buckingham Palace’ – Harry’s family” and then tweeted: “Harry is blowing up his family … What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
Asked a number of times whether Downing Street wished to distance itself from Goldsmith’s remarks, Johnson’s spokesman declined to do so. “You have the PM’s words from the press conference last night and I won’t be adding any further to what he said,” he said.
At the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Johnson said: “I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth. I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today.”
Labour has called for an investigation into the racist remarks apparently made by a senior royal. The party leader, Keir Starmer, has said Meghan raised “really serious issues” of racism as well as by speaking about her suicidal thoughts, for which she said the palace told her she should not seek outside help.
The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, told Sky News: “If there are allegations of racism, I would expect them to be treated by the palace with the utmost seriousness and fully investigated.”
The silence from Downing Street comes in contrast to the US president Joe Biden. The White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised Harry and Meghan’s courage when asked if the US president had watched the interview.
“For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage. That’s certainly something the president believes.”
Asked whether the prime minister believed it had taken courage for a public figure to speak openly about feelings of suicide, Johnson’s spokesman again declined to comment.