Values for our money: Riled by the Royals on tour

 

Share

On Friday, Clarence House's Instagram account posted a picture of Prince Harry with an adorable-looking eight-month-old boy, Matias Gonzales Torres, in a kindergarten in Santiago, Chile. The fourth in line to the throne also attended a wreath-laying ceremony in the South American country. Earlier in the week, he had spent time at a football project for disadvantaged youngsters and a children's hospital in Brazil.

All of this activity is very admirable in a young man who is usually more prone to parties than parades. Yet when we learn that Harry also found time to watch England's final group World Cup match against Costa Rica, why does it feel like our tail is being tweaked, our chain pulled, our shoulder chomped?

Last week, the Royal Household published its accounts. There are two ways to look at what they revealed: first, that the cost to the taxpayer of keeping the Royal Family in the manner to which they are accustomed has risen by 6 per cent in a year, twice the rate of inflation; that the cost of upkeep of the palaces has soared by a whopping 45 per cent, including revamping the Kensington Palace apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, complete with two kitchens. The second way to look at it is that the Royals are costing you and me just 56p each a year, and given the amount of tourism they attract and what this must bring to the economy, this is actually excellent value for money.

I am not an ardent royalist, but I have tended to look at this perennial story in the second way – 56p a year is not a lot, and the royals do add to our national interest. But when I see Prince Harry enjoying a World Cup freebie at our expense, it does seem that his trips to the schools, hospitals and charities that are wrapped in as part of the package are a little bit cynical.

During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Harry and Prince William, as he was then, visited projects for their charities, the Tusk Trust and Sentebale, before soaking up lavish hospitality at an England match. I am in no doubt that the two young royals are passionately committed to the charity work they do. But to someone like me, who feels generally relaxed about the cost of the royals, it is starting to jar that this awareness-raising charity work is tagged on to the best freebies around. The royals may be cheap, but they should also set the right tone – and this isn't it. If they were "fact-finding" MPs on some Commons committee, we'd be outraged.

Next month is Prince George's first birthday, an opportunity for the nation to divide between strident monarchism and republicanism. Perhaps it can also be a moment for the Royal Family to reflect on whether they are really striving to live up to the high standards that the phrase "value for money" demands.

Growth requires roots

This week, the Labour party will attempt to shift focus from David Cameron's European calamity on to the economy, and how the would-be government would rebalance growth away from London's powerhouse into the regions. Lord Adonis's growth review for Labour will be published on Tuesday, and will recommend that £6bn of Whitehall spending is distributed to the regions, three times the current coalition's amount.

It is not enough to have enthusiastic, Boris Johnson-like mayors – as George Osborne advocated last week – to champion their own cities. It needs money, yes, but also a more strategic transport infrastructure – and not just HS2. Cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds need to become specialist economic powerhouses in their own right, just as (admittedly on a bigger scale) the US has New York, LA and Washington with their differing specialties.

Adonis's report will back the continuation of Local Enterprise Partnerships, but this cannot be the same bureaucracy of the same officials spending more money. Ironically, to truly achieve devolution in England, it needs a central, national strategy.

A right to remember?

Last week, Google started removing links to individuals who now, under EU law, have the "right to be forgotten" and want their past to be stripped from the search engine. The new law is, I believe, a dangerously retrograde step and the start of official censorship.

Among those who have requested "take-downs" are said to include a former MP who wants something from their past removed so they can present themselves, box-fresh, to the electorate. This is outrageous. However, I understand that the European Commission is looking at the issue and may come up with a new law, some years down the line, which holds out the prospect of reform.

Gender breakthrough

Alarmed at the extent of gender-specific toys on the market, ministers have met retailers and manufacturers to discuss how to make all toys appealing to both sexes.

There is clearly a link between the sort of things girls are encouraged to play with at a young age and the shortage of women in the Stem – science, technology, engineering and maths – sectors. But there was a beacon of hope for women in science last week: 21-year-old Jo Armstead, a medical student at Newcastle University, who made a breakthrough in research for the treatment of cystic fibrosis while on work experience at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. I wonder what toys she played with.

Words from the helmsman

The Lib Dems are advertising for a General Election project manager, salary £35,000-£45,000 (depending on experience of hopeless causes). OK, I am being a little bit unfair. But I notice that the successful individual will attend "both executive and full General Election Committee ("Wheelhouse") meetings". What can that possibly be? Well, it turns out that Paddy Ashdown is the party's general election campaign manager, and he once quoted Mark Twain's observation of a sign in the wheelhouse of the Mississippi paddle boats which read: "Don't speak to the helmsman – don't spit on the floor." Ashdown added: "It's a good motto for ex-leaders."

twitter.com/@janemerrick23

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
 

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral