I’m not exactly a republican but neither could I be called a monarchist. I don’t want to be ruled over by anybody, so if somebody is going to presume to do so, I guess I prefer it if that person isn't some vampish celebrity troll voted in by the British people. I’m not happy that our ruler is the descendant of some brutish psychopath who in the dark ages of English history used their might to seize power and oppress the people but, when the alternative is Vernon Kay, it really doesn't seem that bad.
Yet I read this morning that HMQ is about to come into some money. The Times reports that the Queen is to receive ‘£37.89 million from the State, a 5 per cent increase on this year’s Sovereign Grant of £36.1 million.’
Yesterday our Chancellor changed the rules so that jobseekers would have to wait seven days, not the previous three, before claiming benefit. It seemed spiteful, mean, and calculated yet typical of the man who once belonged to the Bullingdon Club where an entry requirement was supposedly to burn a £50 note in the face of a tramp.
The disparity here is of course a matter of scale. In terms of government spending, even £37.89 million is a sniff whereas Osborne will no doubt say that the changes to the rules will save the country hundreds of millions. To give it some scale: in 2006, the British Army bought 67 Apache helicopters for £2.5 billion, which works out at about £37 million each. So, one year of monarchy costs the same as one gunship.
It all makes me deeply angry, of course. As austerity bites the poor around the ankles, those at the top continue to get even more. Here in the north, we feel austerity more because the Tories know that locally their votes don’t matter. St Helens (which is my electoral constituency) has voted in successive Labour candidates since 1983 when the constituency was first created. Tories can squeeze us until we no longer have the energy to squeal and they know it won’t affect their vote in the rest of the country. In fact, it might make them even more popular among many who increasingly think that London and the South West should declare independence from the poorer parts of the UK.
Fractures like these become more obvious when times are tough. We’re all told to tighten our belts because a few pounds saved here and there will make a difference. Yet, a few million extra slipped to the Queen isn't supposed to count…
But there is, of course, an obvious solution.
We could simply replace the Queen with an attack helicopter. Not only could an Apache hold its own flyovers, it has a certain natural awe attached to it, plus it has more firepower than an 87 year old lady. Not only that, at £37 million a year, we could have a brand new Apache each year. And it’s surely a truer representation of what monarchy is about: an artificial sense of belonging imposed by a privileged few whose ancestors were at one point willing to back up the force of their arguments with the sharp end of a stick.