Please come to my birthday party. It’s a really big one. My 90th! What a great thing to celebrate. To acknowledge how jolly busy my life has been, I’m inviting along all you special people who work for the hundreds of wonderful charities to which I lend my name. There’s just one thing. It will cost you £150 for the privilege. Each.
You would have thought that, by now, Elizabeth II would have learned a thing or two about PR. After the debacle following Diana’s death. After the insurance fiasco following the Windsor Castle fire. After It’s a Royal Knockout, for Pete’s sake. But no, here we go again, with Team Windsor once more weighing in for the gold medal in crassness. Doesn’t anyone who works in one of the Queen’s eight residences know that it is really bad form to charge people to attend one’s birthday party?
Here’s the summary of the events for the Patron’s Lunch, otherwise known (slightly patronisingly) as Britain’s Biggest Street Party, on the street otherwise known as the Mall. Ten thousand people from the 628 national and Commonwealth charities of which the Queen is patron will be invited. Each charity will have to pay £1,500 for a table of 10 people. There will be 1,000 tables. So the “bash”, which consists of a “hamper” lunch provided by M&S, some bands from the Commonwealth wandering around the Mall and plastic rain ponchos (just in case), will raise £1.5m in ticket sales.
Even that is not going to be enough, says Peter Phillips, who is organising the event. Yes, that one. The Queen’s grandson is in charge. Phillips, as director of Sports & Entertainment Ltd, admits he is being paid an “undisclosed” fee for organising the do, selling tickets and rustling up money from sponsors. So people who work for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Cancer Research UK, yes, even the Dogs Trust will pay a relation of the Queen to organise a party for the Queen, who when I last looked, was one of the richest women in the world.
Well, these things have to be paid for, I suppose. Portaloos and all that. Only usually the host of a party foots the bill. Particularly, one would have thought, as the publicly funded BBC will be broadcasting the event to the world. What a marvellous showcase for the Firm! All those charities, all those carnivalesque performers from across the Commonwealth, showing how diverse we are, showing just how hard the Queen works, and how she just “gets” her subjects. Guess what’s in the hampers, folks? Pimm’s, PG Tips and Wall’s ice cream! So we can all toast Her Maj with boozy lemonade and a cuppa while piling down glutinous fat, because that’s the sort of stylish nation we are.
Amazingly, some charities seem slightly lukewarm about shelling out hard-won cash so they can attend their patron’s big day. Ungrateful lot! But there is a silver lining inside that particular cloud, for charities can “sell on” 40 per cent of their tickets. Brilliant! Forget about the volunteers. Enter the resale market, where tickets will be flogged to people who might not be quite as well-heeled as the Queen (current estimate £1.9bn), but who won’t blanch at coughing up £150. Even if they have zero connections to the charity.
So this “once-in-a-lifetime” event quite probably will not be attended by the kind of people who work for Help Musicians UK or the Cleveland Bay Horse Society at all, but corporate fat cats who wouldn’t mind having a 90th birthday poncho as a souvenir. It’s just another perk for the constituency that simply utilises the UK as a deep goldmine of privilege and exclusivity.
The Patron’s Lunch is an event whose mealy-mouthed greed with regard to charities working for the underprivileged and steely focus on the bottom line from the most privileged family in the land is so gobsmackingly awful, it leaves one wishing Eurostar tickets for June were immediately available. Going anywhere. As one person commented on Twitter: “I hope it rains for the entire weekend.”
It’s almost as appalling as the notion of getting everyone to spend their spare time walking around with bin liners, picking up rubbish from the streets in an attempt to make our filthy nation look clean for our Queen’s big day, lucky people that we are. Oh, wait a moment…
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