Got £150 to spare? Admittedly it’s unlikely you’ll have that amount of cash to waste, what with zero hours contracts, DWP sanctions, and the increasing insecurity in the job market, but if you did have £150 that you don’t know what to spend on, then you could always spend it on the richest woman in Britain who is too much of a tightwad to pay for her own birthday party. Don’t know about you, but the last time I was invited to a birthday party I was only asked to bring a bottle, not to pay for the catering and the portaloos.
Things clearly work differently when you’re the richest woman in the country. Possibly that’s how you get to be the richest woman in the country, by getting everyone else to pay for you. You certainly don’t get to be obscenely wealthy by caring about poverty. It’s certainly worked for Liz and her family, who haven’t knowingly paid for their own toilet paper since the Restoration of the monarchy. They’re even using the birthday bash to enrich themselves, as it’s being organised by one of the Queen’s grandsons. That’s one who is actually her grandson. Princess Anne’s boy is getting an unspecified fee for all his hard work in persuading the plebs to part with cash and pay for the party that his granny won’t pay for herself.
Probably she’ll be having a birthday bash that the royals do pay for themselves. That will be a private affair attended only by members of the Queen’s family. And Prince Harry will be there too.
This year, the richest woman in the country is going to turn 90. That’s lovely in an old-lady-hasn’t-died-yet sort of way. Mind you, your chances of getting to 90 are certainly improved when you’re obscenely wealthy and still manage to get paid tens of millions a year in benefits. In celebration of the fact that a rich old lady is still a rich old lady, all sorts of events are being promoted in a pathetically transparent attempt to convince us that we’re all in this Britishness lark together. We are all in it together, it’s just that the establishment are in the money while the rest of us are in the shit.
Talking of crap, there’s “Clean for the Queen”. The government wants us all to go and clean the streets so that everything’s nice and shiny for Liz and she can continue in her delusion that the world smells of paint and disinfectant. You can even buy a special T-shirt for the occasion just so that you won’t be mistaken for someone who’s been sentenced to community service for glassing a guy during a fight in a pub, or worse, mistaken for someone who’s been told to clean the streets or their benefits will be sanctioned.
Those of us of a helpful disposition could point out that once upon a time in this benighted kingdom, people were actually paid a living wage by local authorities to clean the street. Perhaps if we returned to a society where we valued public services other than waving at the plebs from a carriage then the more cynical amongst us – that would be me – would be less inclined to point out the patronising hypocrisy of asking people to pay for the privilege of cleaning streets for an obscenely wealthy family. I always pick up the dug’s crap when he does a jobby in the street and I put it in the bin. Clean for the Queen makes me want to pick it up and post it to Buckingham Palace.
The most sickening aspect of the £150 birthday bash is that the invitees are the charities that Liz is patron of. It’s churlish to complain really. When an immensely wealthy individual who has a connection to your charity asks your charity for £150 a pop, money which could have gone towards helping the poor or disabled or finding a cure for a horrible disease, and instead to spend it on a party that she can’t be arsed paying for herself despite her £1.9 billion fortune, and on making her already privileged grandson even more privileged, then you’re being well and truly patronised.
For your £150, you’ll get a place at a trestle table in the street, a part share in a hamper containing quintissentially British products, and a paper flag. Huzzah! You may get waved at by some minor inbred type that even Nicholas Witchell would struggle to recognise, and if you’re really unlucky you’ll get interviewed by the state sycophant in chief himself. Nick will ask you some thought provoking and penetrating questions, like just how marvellous do you think the royal family is? Are they simply marvellous, utterly marvellous, marvellously marvellous, or like Nick do you wet yourself in marvellous excitement every time someone says Duchess of Cambridge.
The whole do is going to be broadcast on the BBC, as part of its public duty to provoke a mass outbreak of projectile vomiting. The only other places in the world where such arse-licking is dressed up as serious news are North Korea and some online video channels specialising in kinky pornography. At least in North Korea it’s free, in the UK, you’re legally obliged to pay for it if you have a telly.
The royal family in the UK are what passes for a sense of national identity. Britishness is vacuous and meaningless and the UK operates to privilege the rich and well connected, and so it’s entirely appropriate that Britishness is symbolised by a vacuous and meaningless family who are famous for their wealth, their privilege and their connections. The news on Friday was full of the news of the first British spacewalk, the first time that an emblem of Britishness has appeared in a vacuum. But that’s only true if you don’t count the vacuum between Prince Charles’s ears.
One of my main motivations for voting yes in the independence referendum was so that one day we might get a referendum on the future of the monarchy. A Scottish parliament is quite likely to offer that at some point, but there’s as much chance of getting one from Westminster as there is of Nicholas Witchell admitting live on the BBC news that the royals are a bunch of useless balloons who have never done a day’s work in their lives. In the meantime, I can think of a lot more than 150 better things to spend £150 on.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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