Last week Ed Miliband audaciously promised a mansion tax on homes worth over £2m and was rightly praised.
In the end though, he was too pusillanimous and timid to take the final, logical step, a palace tax. So the policy would make, say, the CEO of Marks & Spencer pay the tax on his home, but not the Queen who “resides” in eight or so palaces, or Prince Charles who occupies many fine abodes, and all those other princes and princesses and sundry living in royal mansions. Yes, mansions. Unlike the poor, the spoilt Royals won’t pay bedroom taxes either. OK, these opulent residences, even if properly taxed, would not swell the national revenues much. But it is the principle. Why should this clan be, and expect to be, excused from all laws trying to make the country fairer and more equitable? They could volunteer for inclusion, but they don’t, because they know their subjects, from left to right, the poorest and most wretched, to those with money and power, are happy to indulge and adore them. Which is why millions were generously spent on the Jubilee during the recession and the monarch showed off her diamonds in a special, and especially crass, exhibition. Punters queued up, paid up and gawped at the gems, a Queen’s best friends.
This in a country where last week, senior academics and children’s charities warned that child poverty was increasing rapidly and asked the government to urgently review its approach to this crisis. Week after week we hear of businesses collapsing and layoffs. The young, our future, have no jobs to go to or dream of. Suicide rates, especially among middle-aged men have risen by 15 per cent since 2007 and some experts link that to the recession. I see many more homeless people on our streets and hopelessness on the faces of people living in tough neighbourhoods.
Incredibly, in these hardest of times, the adulation and glorification of royals is reaching new heights or depths, more accurately. Last week, BBC Radio4’s Woman’s Hour – one of my favourite programmes – broadcast their list of the nation’s most powerful women. The Queen, who inherited her position and is apparently just a figurehead, came top. OK, she deserves some respect because she’s been around a long time, performed her duties and lived through some major historical changes. However, the judges simply endorsed their own, unexamined royalist sympathies and that of the BBC which rarely gives republicanism a fair hearing. The choice also exposes that the big Establishment lie that the monarch has no clout. She does, and uses it when necessary and without accountability. In January, we learnt that the Queen and Prince Charles were given powers to veto legislation 39 times and that she blocked parliament debating air strikes on Iraq. As for political neutrality, it’s a joke. These are natural-born old Tories with no empathy at all for the other parties.
The Audience, a new play by Peter Morgan, opens next month. It’s about the Queen and her “frank” views of her successive Prime Ministers and yes, she is played by Helen Mirren. Audiences will love it for sure, her royal self humbling elected and accountable leaders who worked and fought for their positions.
The population is so brainwashed now that they can’t think clearly and rationally about the institution or its dysfunctional family. It is, as the theatre director Richard Eyre says, a cult which denies “the light of reason”, an altar before which the people metaphorically cross themselves, “crook the neck... bend the spine, bob and curtsey”. More disheartening still is that the liberal intelligentsia, arty types, serious writers, even scientists, who claim to be smart atheists, succumb to this cult.
Recently, at Madame Tussauds, female visitors voted on the man they most fancy. George Clooney came first and Prince Harry second. And all because they believe the Kate and William fairy tale. More seriously ( and embarrassingly), the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, daughters of Prince Andrew, girls who wear funny hats, have been appointed British trade emissaries, now that Andrew himself has been grounded because of his dubious mates and dealings. Just why and how this decision was made, has not been explained. It’s that blue blood again. As the inimitable Will Self wrote in Prospect: “The monarchy infantilizes the public and squats like a fat toad atop the still-existent hierarchy of class in British society.”
That hideous tradition of obsequiousness has allowed the Royals to keep their financial affairs secret for too long. Now the Public Accounts Committee headed by the formidable Margaret Hodge is about to scrutinise their tax affairs. The Queen’s accounts will be audited for the first time and Prince Charles, who regards his Duchy of Cornwall (53,000 hectares) as his private, economic fiefdom, may pay more tax, maybe lose some valets and button his own shirts. Hodge is performing her public duty and honourably, though she is going where angels fear to tread.
Britons now understand that hereditary peers are an anachronism, but refuse to see the same applies to the state funded Royals. They won’t abandon their blind faith or imagine the alternatives. No system is forever. There is a better, fairer way to run a country. At least let yourself think about it.