Friday, 29 June 2007

62p? Not from my money!

62p - that's the amount, according to the official reports at least, that the Royal Family costs each UK taxpayer in a year. Oh good, that might make you think. They're not as pricey as I thought...I don't mind keeping them around if they're that cheap to put up.

You wouldn't be alone if that's what you did think. A quick look at the message boards attached to the BBC's news story on the Royals shows many people seemingly convinced that the Queen et al are suddenly good value for money. Together they cost the UK public £37.3m last year, according to the Queen's public accounts.

If you look more closely, you'll find that the cost is closer to £150m. Graham Smith, the campaign manager for Republic, an organisation which I support and which shouts a lot for an elected head of state, has pointed out that the Royal Family's costings take no account of the tax breaks they enjoy or the cost of providing their security. Putting it rather nicely, he suggested that "this blatant spin would put Alastair Campbell to shame." Not that criticism of ten years of Tony Blair's Labour government is something I'd endorse, you understand.

But the problem with the Royal Family goes beyond their cost - it just happens to be the quickest and easiest way of showing our growing distaste for them. A monarchy - constitutional or otherwise, let's be clear - shows the UK as being stuck in the past, still obsessed with the idea that some of us are born above everyone else at birth, entitled to privileges and benefits while others suffer in poverty.

Republic's arguments for an elected head of state are certainly convincing, and are head and shoulders above the counter arguments that come back in favour of maintaining the status quo. An elected president would just as well maintain the standing 'above party politics' that the Queen is so often credited with doing. And to compare the prospect of a president with George Bush's standing just isn't fair - no-one knows we'll get someone like him, and I'm not sure the current situation over here is any better anyway.

The trouble at the moment is that, while she's not the favourite person of most Republic supporters, the Queen is in the country as a whole fairly popular. Queenie and her abstinence from meddling in politics, not the overall idea of the monarchy, is what keeps her and her parasitical relatives in the public light and living at the public expense. Charles, I suspect, won't be so safe. With him will come our time.

UPDATE: Peter Tatchell's barking up the right tree in his fantastic comment for the Guardian here.

1 comment:

Chairman Mo said...

Oh here we go...let's be a liberal fascist. 'The trouble at the moment is that...the Queen is...popular'. How very democratic of you. The people endorse the Queen and monarchy, but as democratically-minded liberal socialist I really feel that as a whole they are too thick to make their own decisions and as such need my own particular concept of so-called pluralism thrust upon them for the good of humanity as defined by me and me alone.

Oh and by the way, some people are born above everyone else. It's called natural selection. 'Victory is to the strong and the weak must go to the wall'. Yeah and the UK is so obsessed with that idea. I mean, honestly, I can't even walk down the street without people blocking my way and demanding that I swear allegiance to the aristocracy.

'Stuck in the past' eh? Well, maybe democracy doesn't work, Chrissy. And £150m isn't exactly a lot when you consider that the UK's GDP is around one trillion. The Monarchy doesn't hurt anyone. Saying it should be abolished on the basis of an insignificant cost to the public is ludicrous. It's like saying art galleries and museums should be abolished because not everyone visits them and therefore shouldn't have to pay taxes. Although I'm sure you'd agree with that as part of your ridiculous, morally prescriptive, self-righteous pseudo-liberalism.