Monday, 3 January 2011

A better use for 62p, Or: A Royal wedding? That's all we f***ing need

What would you do with 62p? It's not a lot, is it, but off the top of my head, I could spend it on a small bottle of water - although what's wrong with water from the tap? This is probably not the best way to draw your attention to the fact that in 2009
The Queen and the Royal Family cost the taxpayer 62p per person - a drop of 7p...
I gleaned this information from a report in the Daily Telegraph. I don't know why the Royal Family costs us anything. It's not like they need 62p more than I do. I can only guess at how rich the Queen is, but I think with some judicious sales of assets and better investment advice she could probably plug the £7.9 million gap in funding which British taxpayers provide for the Civil List. In any case, do we agree that we need everything that is paid for from the Civil List? Wikipedia says it covers
some expenses associated with the Sovereign performing his or her state duties, including those for staffing, state visits, public engagements, ceremonial functions and the upkeep of the Royal Households.
And, besides the Civil List, the Royal Family get further money from the state:
The cost of transport and security for the Royal Family, together with property maintenance and other sundry expenses, are covered by separate grants from individual Government Departments.
With everything else I do, I don't have time to be a boned-up republican, but I shall certainly spend time this year paying more attention to this area of national life.

It's not the angle I would choose to moan about, but the Daily Telegraph today has a story about business worries that the Royal wedding on Friday 29 April will cost the country £6 billion in lost productivity, as workers enjoy extra holidays. Only £1 billion will be generated by additional tourism and sales of commemorative knick-knacks.

And then we have to go through the whole rigmarole again, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, in 2012. David Cameron couldn't ask for a more timely gift.

I remember the Golden Jubilee in 2002. People made a great fuss of the Queen allowing pop stars to posture on the roof of Buckingham Palace and the projection of pictures onto the front of the building. The whole thing was really tacky and didn't cost her a thing, except in lost dignity - which mostly went years ago. In return, she and her brood get to live the life they love and play a murky constitutional role upholding the power of the super-rich in this country and around the world.

Oh, yes, and hold a cherished place in the hearts of most of the citizens of the UK and many further afield.

For years, naturally, I was one of those loyal subjects. The first thing I saw on television (the set belonged to a woman my mother cleaned for in Finchley) was the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969.

When they got married in 1973 I had a poster of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips on my bedroom wall.

In 1977 a friend and I celebrated the Queen's Silver Jubilee with a tea party for our toys.

In 1981, when Diana and Charles wed, I was on an archaeological dig in Gloucestershire run by republicans. My friends and I smuggled a radio in to listen to the wedding in secret. I was in London on the day in 1986 when Fergie and Andrew married and I actually waved at her carriage - shameful!

And, the thing I feel most ambivalent about, I was sad when Diana died in 1997, and went for a morose walk around Peckham Rye to share in the general mourning. (A dark period in my life in many respects.)

And now? I still feel that tug on my emotions; I still worry that there is something puritanical and miserabilist about thinking that I'd rather my 62p a year were spent on maintaining our public services. Or that the relationship of Wills and Kate ought to affect me not at all. Or that the Queen and her family should give up all their wealth in order to live like normal folk. They could donate it all to meeting some of the needs of the desperately poor around the world, like the people of Togo being treated by the Africa Mercy medical ship I saw on a television programme the other night.

It's shaping up to be a year for resisting those sort of sentimental pressures and cleaving to what you think is right.


Don't Call Me Dave said...

The alternative to a Constitutional monarchy is an elected President. Do you really think that would be a better alternative or more cost effective? I think the pros outweigh the cons by a very substantial margin on the question of whether the monarchy is good for Britain.

baarnett said...

It's worth watching the Queen's first TV Christmas message, here.

Oh, the cut glass vowels!

baarnett said...

DCMD: I don't think it's the Queen, and the direct line of descent, that's the problem. It's the hangers-on, the pagentry, the fact that there has been no clearout of the dead wood for hundreds of years.

We are a mature democracy, and I don't believe we would be at each others' throats if we didn't have the stability, the moribundity, the scerosis, of the current constitutional settlement.

David Duff said...

Skipping quickly past all the anti-Royalist tosh - one only has to consider the prospect of, say, President Prescott to turn you into an ardent Royalist - let me seize upon your mention of the Mercy Ship charity.

About three years ago I heard a talk given by one of their volunteers and, given my general shortage of funds, they have now become my charity of choice. For a start - and it's a considerable one - none of their volunteers are paid, indeed, I believe most of them pay their own fares to reach the ship. Doctors, nurses, dentists, physios plus, of course, all the people needed to support the hospital ship, cooks, cleaners, laundry men and women and so on - all volunteers, all unpaid. They also carry with them agriculturists, engineers and the like, to go inland and help the villagers. In places like Liberia which was in a non-stop civil war for years many of the old skills which used to be handed own have now been lost and need to be re-taught.

The Africans carry their sick relations on their backs, sometimes for days, to reach the port when news spreads that the Mercy Ship is coming. Please, check them out and if you can, send them a fiver (less than the price of a couple of pints today) or more if you can afford it.

Rog T said...


an ancestor of mine, Chidiock Tichborne was executed for his part in the Babington plot, being hung, drawn and quartered.

I've never been overly keen on royalty as a result. What could 62p buy you. Well a couple of Sheltered Housing wardens in Barnet maybe? Whilst her Maj probably won't die of neglect for want of £7.7 million, maybe one or two elderly and vulnerable people in Barnet will.

I know what I think is a better way to spend the cash I earn.

Rog T said...

Oh and as for David Duff. What would be wrong with President Prescott if he was elected? A it too working class for you? I suppose it's OK if the buffon is Eton educated is it. I suppose that the decades of insulting behaviour displayed by Prince Phillip are OK because he's a toff. I'm no fan of Prescott, but everything he achieved he did so by his own efforts and I'm sure he worked a damn sight harder to get where he did than any of the current cabinet.

Moaneybat said...


Norway Sweden Denmark Spain Holland 'Germany.' Did I say Germany? theirs is in the UK and given that their regime was 'changed' twice, the Deutsche are quite succesful without a Royal Famly. It would still be good for Britain given the pomp and ceremony of a Monarchs duties every summer the money would still roll in. Might I ask you, what Constitution are you referring to? The one that Law & Politics students know or, the one the vast majority like me, whom don't know the way it works.

Mr Duff, Sir,

As you're on the side of the Anglo-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha that became the House of Windsor in 1917 or thereabouts. In case you did not realise that Prescott (Cambridge, I think) has long gone and so has has Twinkle-Tongue Blair. Did you see our recent 'Presidential' style debate that gave us a a pair of 'Hung' tosh?

vickim57 said...

Dear DD,

it's hard to know where to start with what you say. If you want to feel inferior to someone on account of your birth, that's up to you, but don't tell other people that they must. The Queen and her family are no better than the rest of us and considerably worse than some. Why should they be treated any better?

It's true what you say about the Mercy Ships being staffed by voluntary labour and funded through charitable donations. But your own description shows that relying on such a set-up is inadequate. Mercy Ships can only meet a small part of the need. On the programme I saw they explained how they have to turn a lot of people away.

That's why we need things like the NHS, and why there should be one in every country. I do believe that there is enough wealth in the world to meet everyone's basic needs to healthcare, shelter, food and education.

I think that we will have to rearrange our affairs to get the wealth to where it is needed most. Pointing out the absurd disparity in wealth and poverty that exists is part of achieving that.

The Royal Family are not the whole problem but they are part of it; abolishing monarchy would be part of - only a small part, but an important part - of ridding the world of the obscene poverty that exists in many countries. How many dodgy rulers in countries like those served by the Mercy Ships draw some of their legitimacy from the acceptance of monarchy in the UK, and from the connections that they can make with other 'royal' personages? Quite a lot.

I don't want to talk too much about the 'who would you rather, Prescott or Queen Elizabeth?' debate. But I don't see why we need a powerful 'head of state'/president at all. Many countries only have a very token head of state. The person/party/politicians elected in a democratic vote decide should what actually happens. I would like a lot more democracy; clinging on to feudal remnants is to face the other way.

Moaneybat said...


I don't think the Duffs of the UK or his generation give a flying fish about the "relative" democracy they live in, He'd like a police state run with absolute power. I'll refer you to your Dec 19th post "Put the kettle on mother,"

My old dad who saw Korea and Malaya never came out with the rubbish quoted by the charitable Mr Duff, but here's what old Duff had to say. "More or less where I am today, sunk into my armchair, cheering on the 'old Bill' and cackling with glee every time I saw a baton hit the target. Once the police have re-mastered the art and craft of dealing with rioters, HMG can give them even more powers."