Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Royal Wedding And An Inconvenient Truth

So, full disclosure as always, I'm a royalist. I know, it's mad. I've tried being a republican! I've gone through my political beliefs and found there is no sensible reason for me to be a royalist. I've told myself this in the sternest of words. But I just can't help myself. I have an irrational loyalty to Her Majesty. This reluctant royalism does mean I'm very sympathetic to republicans. I agree with you on the political, constitutional and democratic arguments. You win.

However after the (wonderful) news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton yesterday I saw so much stupid on Twitter that I feel compelled to correct some extremely loose understandings of this country's constitutional arrangements with regards to the Royal family's finances.

Don't think of this as some royalist argument in favour of keeping the Royal family, it's not. This is simply a post to put some facts straight. After you've read this, you can have no excuse for continuing to spread these lies.

Why are we paying for an over the top Royal wedding during this time of austerity?

Simple answer: we're not. As this article states (although ignore the bit at the end it's very misleading and I'll show why later), it's likely this money will come from the Civil List, Her Majesty's "reserve fund" (savings from previous Civil List payments) and/or Her Majesty's personal wealth. After the 1990s media disasters, the Palace has learnt it's lessons. It is unlikely to ask the Commons to approve any further spending during an austerity drive, as it has from time to time in the past.

What if it does and doesn't the Civil List get paid from our tax money? Why are we propping up these rich, unelected toffs?? 

This is a false presumption. I know, it's commonly said the Royal family "cost" every person in the country 50p (or more precisely now, 69p). This is not true. Certainly the "costs" that the Government pays are about £40 million. These come from grants for maintenance and from the Civil List. However, these costs don't come from our taxes! When George III ascended to the throne, it was decided that, in return for surrendering the Crown Estates to the Government, the Government would pay his personal living expenses through the Civil List. The profits the Government makes far exceed the amounts given in grants, through the Civil List and through security costs. So the Royal family is actually a profitable venture for us and they can, on the accession of a new monarch, change those arrangements. So it might be best we keep them on side during this age of cuts! 

But hasn't the Civil List been stopped?

Yes. To make the historic arrangement more explicit, the Government will, from 2013,no longer be paying the Civil List or grants but instead pay a yearly one-off payment called the Sovereign Support Grant specifically from the profits of the Crown Estate. In the meantime, the Royal finances have been reduced greatly. 

So. Please stop carping on about the costs of the monarchy. If you want to get rid of them, not only will we have to pay the costs of a President but we'd also lose our profits from the Crown Estate. We'd be looking at a couple of hundred million pounds lost to the Treasury. So remember that and stick to making sensible democratic arguments against the monarchy. Financial arguments make you look ridiculous.

No more "Stop the wedding, build a hospital instead" type tweets please. Deal?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


DeWayne said...

Trade you our "Imperial Presidency" for one Royal Family Jay!

I think we pay 20x what you spent in 2008.

What do you have?
1 Monarchy the most storied in history.
2.Multiple palaces.
3.cost 40 million pounds!

Priceless Bargain!

Jae Kay said...

Better yet, unlikely your President, we make a hundred odd million on top in profit too. Without even talking about tourist revenue.

Good times! ;)

Paul Brownsey said...

There is a good political argument for a hereditary monarchy.

If we need a head of state, it is a good idea to have one distinct from the politicians, whose behaviour is usually pretty squalid (like that of many LibDems over tuition fees). In countries where the head of state is also a working politician, it is too easy for the politicians to wrap themselves in the flag and channel patriotic feeling behind them. Here that effect is diluted. (By the way, I hope to see the day when some medal-winning sportsperson, invited to a reception at No 10, will reply, "That's the head of state's business, not yours, Prime Minister. I'm not going to allow you to garner second-hand glory by rubbing yourself up against me and my medal.")

"OK. Then let's have an elected head of state."

Yes, but look who might stand! I know people point to Ireland and their impeccable liberal presidents, but remember that in one of those elections pop singer Dana stood on a reactionary platform. I fear that if we had an election for head of state here there would be Lab, Con and LibDem canadidates (thus nullifying the idea of a non-political president), plus, say, Peter Andre, Anne Robinson, David Starkey, Ann Widdecombe and that bloke from Big Brother who had sex with a pumpkin. I rest my case.

So a family trained to head-of-stateship is perhaps the best of a bad bunch of possibilities.

This needn't involve retention of all the tradition and mythmaking that presently goes on. The next monarch need not be the eldest son but just someone from the family pool with aptitude. There need be no insistence, as there allegedly was in the case of Charles and Diana, that the heir's bride must not have slept with anyone else because no-one but the king must be able to say, "I slept with the Queen." Yes, more should be done to 'Scandinavify' the monarchy. Still, it's the least-worst option.

Edis said...

I believe the 'Civil List' is met out of the Crown Estates money. The various 'Grants In Aid' are not, these I believe are from the taxpayer pool.

The Coalition Government is abolishing the Civil List and the various 'Grants In Aid' and from 2013 the Monarch will get a single Monarch Support Grant capped at the Crown Estates revenue level.

This is expected to lead to substantial cuts in the Monarch's budgets.

Jae Kay said...

Yes, but the Grants In Aid plus the Civil List still don't come to the total profits of the Crown Estates. So we are still in profit.

Capping the grant at the Crown Estates Revenue level would be a substantial increase, it's being capped lower than that.

radical royalist said...

Thank you for setting the facts right.