The Pomp and the Pimp – why now should be the time we slash the civil list

25May10

As if my opinion of the British Royal Family could sink no lower, this weekend’s Fergie sting reaffirmed all of my republican sympathies and reignited my rampant enthusiasm for slashing the civil list.

Literally days after Sarah Ferguson was filmed accepting a princely sum for hiring out her ex husband, our sovereign is trotting out the traditional performance of opening parliament.

Today’s Queen’s Speech is a timely reminder that although parliament is changing amid the new coalition government’s talks of spending cuts, sacrifices and job culls within the public sector – one particular group of people continues to hold the system back clinging on to tradition, pomp and a sense of entitlement.

The ceremonial opening of parliament, with the procession, the ermine, the door slamming and the many knobs, irks me to the point of ranting (that much is demonstrated here).

Haven’t we graduated past all of this yet? Haven’t we evolved as a society enough so that those who have ‘titles’ don’t have to prove in ceremony to all of us common folk that they are of a greater stock worthy of pageant, inane custom and decorative splendour and that is why they have power?

I suppose that would be a valid claim to shut us little people up if it weren’t for the fact that our constitution no longer requires the sovereign to use her power in any way other than ceremonially.

Oh but she appoints new governments and her place is written into the constitution.

So cut out all of that tedious Royal Mile taxiing and let it be a matter left to the ministers and the (elected) Lords. Why should we continue to pander to this nonsensical tradition when decisions like these lie within the powers of the voter and the Prime Minister. Similarly, our constitution is ‘unwritten’ meaning that it is writ both in legislation (no single document) and its origins exist in common law. Constitutions can shift. It would hardly destroy the country by keeping the balance of democratic power within the very house of democracy in this country, The House of Commons.

But the Queen brings in a huge income for the country in tourism.

Good point. Think how much MORE money we could make from opening up Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle to the public. Balmoral could be the new Warner Leisure destination for this decade.

I digress. And I’m being facetious. Back to the ceremonial opening of parliament.

Indeed, the circus act is entirely ornamental and sentimental as not only does the Queen have no control over her speech, but she has no real control over the UK either. If she ever disagreed with the government’s decision on legislation there would be civil outrage.

The government and we as a people have an enormous mountain of debt to climb. And yet characters like Fergie are harping on about only living off £15,000 a year before closing a deal on a cool half million in pimping out her ex husband. The old camera-in-the-pot-pourri strikes again thanks to sleazy Sunday journalism. That aside, the information is in the public realm and Fergie’s little deal far outweighs a covert filming operation when it comes to the best interests of the public.

GMTV’s John Stapleton missed the point slightly when he argued that many people live on the above amount and less per year. The fact is it is £15,000 allowance. There is no way that a woman like Fergie, with connections, an education and a multi-syllabic vocabulary would have to ever accept a salary of £15,000. Even I’m on more than that and I basically know nobody. And in any case, her feeble mitigation is offset somewhat by her recently reported fee from Weightwatchers – a lucrative deal set to hoist her out of multi-million pound debt.

Great! If Weightwatchers will pay, that’s none of my business. After all we all have to earn a living. Just don’t tell us you’re living off £15,000 from the Privy Purse, subsidised by the Duchy of Lancaster and kept topped up by the Treasury. In administration alone, the Privy Purse is a parasite on the economy.

I have nothing personal against Fergie or indeed the Queen, although I think the blinkered views of many Brits needs an almighty revolution. New Labour promised us reform on a Cromwellian scale. However, Labour’s sour-tasting failure over reforming the House of Lords and indeed the Civil List prompted many to look to the Liberal Democrats for a more egalitarian and less tethered approach towards the Royal Family. Their will may well be muzzled by their new partners.

Even so, we have developed a system of government and distribution of power that has left the Queen behind. We treat the ceremony of it like wheeling out the Christmas decorations every year and blowing the dust off the fairy. I think it would be presumptuous to say that people care more about Christmas than the Royal Family but at least the former comes out of our personal income.

So, for a country so obsessed with bargains, chasing cashiers who have charged us without punching in the voucher code, budget supermarkets, Primark – why is it, that we can’t unhook ourselves emotionally from the most expensive household in Europe?

The Queen and her entourage of grandchildren, corgis and dithering fops costs the country a figure closing in on £40 million per annum.  Although that amount stretches out to a less frightening sum of money equivalent to a Snickers bar in a train station newsagent per person, to quote another British institution, every little helps.

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