Saturday, 19 May 2018

Royal Weddings, Fawning Media and Republicanism

Well, it’s over, thank goodness. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, an American actress, were married in Windsor today, so maybe we can get back to real news stories in the mainstream media. The BBC goes into its hushed tone, that it dusts off for every Royal news story and tries to make it seem as though everyone in the country is held rapt by the event.

This week, every conceivable angle to the story has been reported. London’s Evening Standard has run multi-page stories devoted to stories about the couple, everything from Harry’s army career, how they met and a look through the bride to be’s wardrobe of outfits and tastes in home furnishings. One piece called the marriage, ‘a modern day fairy tale'. Everything you could possibly want to know about the event and its surrounding trivia. Yawn!

The media has been quick to claim that the wedding, will bring tourists flooding into the country, with all their spending in support of the British economy that it will bring. But the truth is, that royal weddings tend to lead to less tourists coming to London in comparable times of the year, as foreign tourists stay away from the weekend in question. The same was true of the London 2012 Olympics when tourism in London fell.

This does demonstrate the sensitivity of the establishment and media though, to charges of wasting public money, especially when austerity is being forced onto the country for an eighth year now. It has been reported that the couple will pay for the private part of their wedding themselves, but I doubt this would be the full costs, things like policing and so forth. Not to mention that Harry’s money is from the civil list anyway, paid to the royals by us taxpayers. The official costs will not be released, but estimates put it at around £32 million.

Perhaps the most ridiculous claim this week came from international trade secretary, Liam Fox, who said that the marriage will be good for a future US/UK trade deal. I doubt it will make the slightest difference to trade deals, but you have to admire the chutzpah though.

Rough sleepers have been cleared off the streets of Windsor, being temporarily housed on hired buses, but will be back on the streets again tomorrow. The intention was not an act of kindness to the homeless, merely a desire to remove the eyesore of these people spoiling the view. These two very different worlds cannot be allowed to be shown at the same time.

The media always manage to find members of the public who are excited by these events, but I think the number of British people interested in the royals generally has probably fallen over my lifetime. Around where I live in London this week, there has hardly been any bunting or union flags being displayed in the area. A big contrast to Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981, which was very visible with street parties and much flag waving. The population of London has changed a lot since 1981 though, with many more Londoners having been born outside of the UK, but even amongst the UK born, I sense a growing ambivalence to the monarchy.

So, is there hope for lifelong republicans like me, that we will see the end of all this nonsense in the near future? I have to say, I doubt it. There may be a window of opportunity when the current queen passes on, as I think the British people think on the whole she has done a good job, but for the rest of the royals, I suspect that is not the case.

But generally the British seem to think a constitutional monarchy is the lesser evil of an elected presidency, another politician, almost certainly. I could go along with a much reduced civil list and more public use of the royal land and property portfolio. And make their weddings private affairs, but a republic, is probably not likely anytime soon unfortunately.

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