It is virtually impossible to find an accurate breakdown of the Queen’s wealth. The Sunday Times Rich List puts her net fortune at £340 million; but while a significant portion of the income this produces is clearly wasted on antiques in whom only the most pretentious and over-privileged in our society would ever find value, much of it, like Balmoral Castle, takes the form of great historical treasures – and they would need to be paid for by the public whether or not it went through the monarchy first. This does not of course account for the fact that most of these sites are, at present, closed to the public, or for the lost revenue in tourism that has resulted – but we’ll generously glide over that.
Nevertheless, according to the Independent, the Queen’s burden on the taxpayer during the last financial year amounted to about £40 million direct from the Treasury, or:
1,713 new nurses per year.
It costs about £70,000 for a nurse’s three-year training course on the NHS. Today, following a variety of severe cuts and privatisation efforts, waiting times in hospitals are back a decade; and with finances comparable to the Queen’s budget, the number of new nurses trained per year could be restored to the level it was at before the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition began in 2010.
11,810 grants for students from low-income families per year.
In this year’s budget, Osborne announced he was cutting student grants from the budget – entirely. That means that students coming to university from low-income backgrounds will receive nothing to compensate for the lifestyles enjoyed by those with well-off parental sponsors. The Queen’s annual income could pay for thousands in need of the full £3,387 grant.
A fund for 4,500 severely disabled people to live per year.
The Independent Living Fund – before it was obscenely obliterated this year – provided 18,000 several disabled people with the money required to enjoy a very basic standard of living, perhaps in mobility or care at home: life for disabled people – on average, and not even in the worst case – costs an enormous £550 per month more than it does for non-handicapped people. Even if one callously sets aside the disproportionate number of deaths since 2010 from Ian Duncan-Smith’s decision, essentially, to force disabled people to work, a commitment on the size of the Queen’s salary could allow for about a quarter of the ILF to be restored.
1,600 new teachers per year.
At a time in which there is a 10 percent shortfall in the number of teachers needed in the education system, one is an awe at Osborne’s obsession with pay freezes in those sectors where applicants are most desperately needed. Classes are growing and standards are in decline. Not that this would at all discourage the royal family, whose private tutoring is now being adopted by the upper middle-class in their quest to avoid shortcomings in their children’s schooling. The annual salary for a new teacher is £25,000 – which is often returned to the exchequer through tax, even for trainees.
Settling 1,500 Syrian refugees per year.
Any number less than the tens of thousands who ought to be settled in Britain is an utter disgrace. Still, the immediate cost of settling someone in Britain would probably amount to roughly £25,000 – which is to say nothing of the number, as Germany have somewhat cynically appreciated, who would contribute to the economy in the long-run through bolstered production and tax revenue. I don’t find at all tasteful to think in this way about human refugees – refugees, in this case, from a war that our government has done appalling little to stop. But the size of the Queen’s budget does underlie how utterly ridiculous is the Conservatives’ logic on the matter.
Is any of this in itself enough to justify deposing the monarchy? Not really – it’s pennies, and all of the above changes could be made to the treasury for what would amount to a tiny cost on the national budget. Besides, the entire point of social democracy is so ordinary people will not be dependent on the generous handouts of philanthropists and well-meaning churchgoers. But ask yourself – why do the Tories slice away at the NHS, as though it staff were moldy outgrowths, but make an elderly lady – who has never been held accountable to anyone – untouchable?
There is a reason that Elizabeth of House Windsor is romanticised for the glamour she has never deserved. The reflexive defence of her wealth under some ‘patriotic’ delusion stands for everything vested in this country’s tolerance for extreme fortunes which could never legitimately be earned by anyone, the same country that allows cynical scapegoats to be made of the vulnerable, forever fantasising about welfare abuse while billions of income silently disappears from the tax books. And in the case of Her Majesty, it is one worse: it is the fortunate of an unaccountable, unelected, hereditary snob wrought from a past most nations have long since set aside with the toys of their childhood.
In my dreams, Britain’s longest reigning monarch will be its last.
Of all the parodies of the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, the most ridiculous is the attempt to scare it away with the corpse of Michael Foot. It begins with the infamous ‘suicide manifesto’ of 1983; moving left as the country moved right, Labour’s crushing defeat in that year is invariably cited as hard proof of the British electorate’s instinctive hatred of socialism. However moral and correct a Labour under Corbyn would be, so the argument from ‘pragmatism’ follows, its achievements would amount to nothing more than an indefinite party of protest. If you wish to understand the future, take a glance at the past.
To put it politely – this is not how history works. Even discounting the nationalist euphoria surrounding the Falklands – a miraculous war which Foot himself had supported – as well as the SDP’s brutal and essentially narcissistic hacking of the Labour Party into two, the anti-socialism that motored working class Toryism in the 1980s has long been spent; it only really exists now as a ghost to beat down those for whom the reality of accelerating inequality and deprivation has thoroughly discredited any economic orthodoxies that once promised the opposite.
Foot’s ‘suicide note’ landed in the midst of counter-revolution. Following a decade of economic stagnation, Margaret Thatcher’s answer to administrative incompetence was not to reconstruct and democratise the state’s services, but to slash and privatise. Trade unions were bullied into submission; industrial warfare was not to be pacified, but defeated. Only with collective bargaining rights under siege and the market freed from the shackles of the public interest, so Thatcher promised, could people seize upon profit and advance their lot in life.
The ultimate goal of Thatcherism was, however, to break apart the collective working class by exploiting momentary panic; betrayal was inevitable. The middle-class have monopolised access to housing and higher education, depressing the opportunities of the very individuals whose vulnerability Thatcher had pledged to secure. As a result, the hopes invested in her politics of aspiration have decayed into cynicism and despair; UKIP’s myopic campaign against immigration rides largely on the residual anger of an old working class Toryism, aged, demoralised and disenchanted. If the antidote is to have any chance of success, it will have to be socialist and class-based.
But it’s so much bigger than UKIP. The vast majority of people today either chose not to vote for Thatcher or were not alive to do so; and with a smaller turnout at the 2001 election than for the better part of a century, it’s not a coincidence that so much of the white working class stopped voting once Labour decided that ‘we are all middle class’, as John Prescott loftily had his party’s rapprochement with neoliberal Britain. While having few of the policies to show for it, Ed Miliband’s leadership was, it’s true, something of a reach to the left; but with his entire campaign still underwritten by the propriety of austerity, Miliband’s Labour amounted to nothing more than some slightly naïve paternalism. Aspiring to govern for everyone, he inspired no one.
Believing that the right is guaranteed to endure will only ensure that it does. For Liz Kendall – the Blairite extreme with whose politics Cooper and Burnham incoherently flirt – the electorate, ‘the British public’, is just that classless and mentally impenetrable mass with whom debate is futile; its politics immutable, the pinnacle of democratic decency is not to argue and discuss but to accept uncritically the political centre as a diluted and arbitrarily nuanced vision of economic orthodoxy as it stands. In practice, this sends Labour into a futile chase after the Tory vote, inexorably retreating rightwards and cocooned away from the millions of people, especially young, either in desperate search of an escape from austerity or, in its absence, embracing whatever hollow comforts are offered by the nationalists of the day.
The British working class isn’t ‘instinctively’ anything – the right has been successful because it has waged determined and efficient campaigns for decades while the left has sat lost in a state of dismay. The working class has continued to fragment, but the entrenchment of social inequality and poverty has, in other ways, made it more physically tangible than in decades. Whether or not a Labour under Corbyn can recollect the shards of the labour movement won’t be known until it’s tried; but to throw aside the batten before the race has even begun is as disabling as it is dangerous, for both Labour and the country at large.