Sometimes it’s hard to wrap one’s head around exactly what it is that cabinet ministers do all day. Sure, there are decisions to make and reports to read (and ill-fated radio interviews to give), but on a day-to-day basis we assume they sort of sit around pondering the issues and coming up with reasonable solutions.
But our current Government clearly can’t comprehend the idea of distributing wealth to allow for a safety net for the most vulnerable in our community, or showing the tiniest bit of empathy towards anyone other than old Etonians worried about the inheritance tax on their seven mansions.
This is why their latest bright idea involves ignoring the fact that our economy is teetering on the brink of disaster and Brexit is pushing us closer and closer to the edge, and instead planning to building a £100m yacht for the Queen.
The one saving grace, I suppose, is that they’re not suggesting the taxpayer shoulders the cost of manufacturing. For some reason they reckon they can convince private companies to cover it, in the hope that it will secure future international trade deals – but maintenance will still cost the UK an estimated £10m a year.
At the best of times, this is an extravagance we shouldn’t indulge until, for example, there isn’t a single person in the country experiencing homelessness, a single child living in poverty or a single citizen having to resort to food banks because they can’t afford to feed themselves. In the current climate, it’s not just outrageous; it’s catastrophic.
Don’t get me wrong, I like boats. I live on one, in fact. If the Queen decided to give up Buckingham Palace in exchange for a barge moored on Regent’s Canal, I’d find that perfectly agreeable.
But what we’re talking about here is a “floating palace”, which – if it’s anything like the previous royal yacht, decommissioned by the Labour Government in 1997 due to the exorbitant cost of running it – would require hundreds of Royal Navy personnel and a platoon of Royal Marines for security when the Queen is on board.
Apparently this show of excess will showcase the “best in Britain”. Essentially, Liam Fox argued, big companies build the thing for free, and then the rest of the world will be jumping at the chance to develop trade deals with us because they like the boat so much. Sort of like an outrageously expensive internship – except it’s supposed to make us look “powerful”.
The argument is so bizarre that I can’t help but hope it’s not genuine, if only to preserve the ideal that in order to run a country you have to have a modicum of common sense.
This feels more like the political equivalent of a midlife crisis, when a middle-aged parent sick of worrying about kids and mortgages and credit card bills just thinks, “F*** it, I’m buying a leather jacket and a Porsche”, and covers their ears singing “Lalalalala!” as loudly as possible when you gently try to remind them about their financial responsibilities.
Since the Brexit vote, the pound has sharply depreciated to its lowest in eight years, meaning we’ve essentially undone everything we achieved since the disastrous recession of 2008 that almost crippled our economy and plunged us into an era of austerity from which public services are still struggling to recover.
We’re in the midst of a housing crisis which shows no signs of improving, and young people are in the worst position they’ve been in for generations. Meanwhile, Theresa May’s shockingly awful “negotiation tactics” have led to a block on Brexit talks, causing uncertainty which can only cause further damage to our international standing.
Britain is the laughing stock of Europe. We’re the tiny arrogant nation acting on outdated delusions of grandeur, refusing to accept the reality of the mess we’ve got ourselves into. That we have a monarchy at all is just another example of our preference for posturing over making rational economic and social decisions.
If we spend tens of millions of pounds maintaining a yacht we've made businesses build “dor the good of Britain”, we’ll be ridiculed, and – rightly – further rebuffed. We’ll waste valuable resources we should be investing in public services which actually benefit the people already struggling, rather than investing further in a royal family which represents luxury for the few and nothing for the many.
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