The former special adviser to Amber Rudd and spokesman for Liz Truss was hired by Prince Andrew in September to mastermind his PR fightback – but left by mutual consent two weeks ago after his advice to reject the Newsnight interview request was ignored. It was reportedly suggested that Andrew should instead focus on charitable work and then agree to two newspaper interviews next year. His Twitter profile says he is now a director at Finsbury Global, a strategic communications firm that specialises in “creating, sustaining, protecting and rebuilding reputation capital”.
Private secretary to Prince Andrew and director of his Pitch@Palace Global operation. It is understood that Thirsk clashed with Stein and pushed hard for Andrew to do the interview in the face of his initial scepticism, persuading him that it was the best way to draw a line under the rumours about the nature of his relationship with convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. A former banker, she joined Andrew’s office in 2012. Described by one colleague as a “force of nature” who thinks “the Duke has done nothing wrong … All he did was go and see his friend.”
The lead presenter of Newsnight who was widely praised for her forensic interview technique and had practised with editor Esme Wren standing in for Andrew in rehearsals. Speaking before the interview on Friday’s Newsnight, she told fellow presenter Kirsty Wark the interview was “very uncomfortable”. “It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be sitting in Buckingham Palace, opposite the Queen’s son, Prince Andrew, and quizzing him about his sexual history,” she said. “After Epstein’s death, the talks intensified – we had to make it clear it would be no holds barred.”
A BBC journalist since 2003, she joined Newsnight in 2011, where she is prized for her ability to secure hard-to-get interviews. Her LinkedIn profile says she is “used to persuading reluctant individuals to participate in a globally renowned news programme”. The former barrister and European debating champion has previously booked interviews with former FBI director James Comey and former US president Bill Clinton, and was described on Saturday by Newsnight editor Esme Wren as “indefatigable”.
• This article was amended on 18 November 2019 to correct descriptions of Epstein’s offending.