Leading Article: Jobs for the royal boys and girls

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The Independent Online
SUE TOWNSEND'S play The Queen And I opened in the West End of London last night. Like much of Ms Townsend's work, it is a fantasy one step ahead of mainstream political debate; years after being written, her Diary of Adrian Mole, an exposure of the limited ambition in the life of a grey innocent, was adopted by Private Eye as the perfect metaphor for the Prime Minister.

In The Queen And I, a future Labour government abolishes the monarchy, establishes a republic and forces the Royal Family to live on a council estate, existing on the same benefits as their erstwhile subjects. This is, of course, an absurd proposal. Future Labour ministers would be far too concerned about knighthoods and peerages to bite the hand that wields the sword. But, as the House of Windsor presides over its own decline, republicanism, with its attendant notion of releasing the poor things from their miserable lot, is gaining momentum.

Ms Townsend's suggestion for the family's non-royal future, however, places an unnecessary burden on the rest of us. Freed of the responsibility they apparently find so onerous, the former royals should be required to find paid employ.

The Duke of York is already an officer in the Royal Navy; his wife would not have too much to learn to qualify as a chiropodist. After Noel Edmonds refused to present the National Lottery programme, the BBC had to recruit minor celebs to do his turn instead. Who better, then, to pick the balls every week than the minor celeb of the Royal Family - Prince Edward?

Princess Diana, a proven manipulator of the press and a pop fan, would sail into the public relations department of any record company. Here her wardrobe (stars-and- stripes blousons and knee-length jogging pants) would blend in perfectly; she might, however, be obliged to change her name to Roxy. Prince Charles, not shy of laundering soiled linen, meanwhile, would be welcomed as the service wash attendant at most launderettes: the Dot Cotton of the former Royal Family.

Only the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret, as of pensionable age, should be allowed state assistance. Even then, they should be encouraged to undertake useful voluntary work: many a Cub Scout troop would dyb dyb dyb, dob dob dob, with a martinet as vigorous as Prince Philip for their Akela.