The Diamond Jubilee: Elizabeth’s 60 years draining the state
Anti-monarchy protestors on Sunday staged a demonstration on the banks of the Thames ahead of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Among the protestors was the chief executive of Republic, Graham Smith, who said “the hereditary system is offensive to all the democratic values this country has fought for in the past. The jubilee represents a celebration of everything we, as republicans, oppose”.
North Ayrshire Labour MP Katy Clark is among many Labour MPs who have refused to pay for a present for Elizabeth to mark her Jubilee celebrations. Katy Clark MP said: “I have never thought we should have a Royal Family as they are the ultimate symbol of inequality and class division. Compared to many other countries we live in an incredibly class-ridden society with huge inequalities in wealth and power”.
I can’t help but agree with Graham Smith and Katy Clark MP. Their sentiments certainly echo my own opinion, a head of state appointed by the feudal process of primogeniture goes against every democratic principle that our country stands for. In my eyes, partaking in the Diamond Jubilee is not just a celebration of Elizabeth’s 60 year reign, but a celebration of something far more sinister – to me, it’s a celebration of the ingrained inequality and class segregation within our country. It seems to me that the monarchy represents the worst of Britain: a class structured society governed by select elite whom are out of touch with the rest of the country.
Despite doing little and achieving even less, it seems the Royals expect respect and deference from us. The most brave, talented and accomplished working class woman and man are expected to praise the royals for their military service and charitable deeds. But is their use of charities and the military to bolster their own reputation really just used as a smokescreen to deflect attention from the real issues? Engaging in what can only be described as hobbies – to them – could be done without royal titles and without any cost to the state. After all, the royals are paid astronomic hourly rates for jobs they did not even have to apply for, neither are they at risk of redundancy. The Royal Family are the very antithesis of meritocracy.
Contrary to media rhetoric, the monarchy does not act as a stabilising and unifying influence on our lives. The monarchy does not have the power to prevent or stop war, oppression, inequality or divisive political policies. Stability and unity are the products of a democratic country where power is vested in the people to elect an accountable Government and head of state. This is exemplified by the USA, a republic and one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the world.
Pageantry and tourism is irrelevant to our constitution. While some enjoy the quaintness of North Korea’s pageantry, our state is not based on pageantry. Neither is our state based on tourism. In any event, the Royal Family does not generate the majority of our tourism. Of the top 10 tourist attractions in Britain collated by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, the only place of interest with direct royal association is the Tower of London.
The tourist argument is often used to distract people from the real issue that the monarchy is not value for money. According to the Civil List, the total official spending by Elizabeth which was paid for by the state in grants and the civil list in 2011 was a whopping £32.1 million: £13.7 on the civil list and reserve, £11.9 million on property, £6 million on travel grants and other grants and £0.5 million on communications and information grants.
This figure does not include the cost of security as well as many other expenses. Republic estimates the annual cost to be at least £202.4 million; ten times more expensive than its German counterpart. Unfortunately we will never know the true cost of the Royal Family as Elizabeth’s accounts are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation and her accounts are not scrutinised by the National Audit Office.
What we do know is that Elizabeth’s own personal fortune is about £310 million according to Forbes magazine. The royal art collection is worth up to £10 billion. The value of the Crown Estate’s property portfolio is £7 billion. The rural part of the Crown estate is a cool £1.05 billion. The value of the Elizabeth’s personal share portfolio is £90 million. The value of the marine estate is worth £587 million. Windsor estate is valued at £186 million.
Elizabeth continues to cost the taxpayer millions a year at a time when unemployment figures have reached the highest in 17 years, 1 in 4 children live in dire poverty and benefits are slashed for the ‘undeserving’ poor. £32.1 million could be better utilised to support those most in need rather than throwing money at an unelected head of state which is the ultimate symbol of inequality.
We need not despair for there is another way: an election to decide if we want Elizabeth as our head of state. After all there is an alternative to a royal family, an elected head of state and a new democratic constitution that puts power in the hands of the people. A republic will give the people of Britain a choice and a voice.Tagged in: diamond, Elizabeth, II, jubilee, Queen, royal family
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