Britain’s education secretary Michael Gove found himself at the centre of some controversy this week after suggesting that the Queen should be presented with a new royal yacht in honour of her diamond jubilee, a gift that would cost the taxpayers of Britain around £60 million. Quite apart from how ludicrous it is to consider such an ostentatious present in these frugal times, he also clearly didn’t think through how much effort it would require to wrap the thing.
Gove is just the latest example of a Conservative politician who is hopelessly out of touch with reality. The landed gentry image that the current crop of Tory ministers evoke isn’t that far off the mark; many of them are, in fact, extremely wealthy landowners. One imagines the life of a typical Tory like Gove revolves mainly around foxhunting, drinking brandy after foxhunting, and picking out new tweed jackets to wear while shooting the local urchins for sport. And also while foxhunting. Their home life is essentially like an episode of Downton Abbey, only instead of the frisson of unrequited love and stately elegance in the air, there’s just a stench of upper class disdain and an aloof ambivalence to the plight of anyone who doesn’t have a hereditary title. As well as the stench coming from the unkempt moat that was paid for by the taxpayer. Those things can be so hard to maintain.
However, this image is something that ‘Call me Dave’ is doing his very best to try to eradicate, by attempting to appear just as frightfully common as the rest of us. He’s stopped arriving at the House of Commons in that horse-drawn carriage of his, for a start. He now travels everywhere in a humble chauffeured Rolls Royce, which even has a sticker on the window voicing support for his local polo team, to show everyone how ordinary he is. He has also taken to wearing jeans around the house in the evenings, despite the jolly good ribbing he gets from his old Etonian chums at dinner parties, especially on Tuxedo Thursdays. He even went out to the supermarket to do his own shopping last week, but unfortunately had to return empty-handed after he saw someone in a hoody and got scared.
Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about Cameron and his ilk is that they seem to be unashamedly royalist. They just can’t get enough of archaic constitutional monarchies, they’re batshit crazy about them. The fact that the whole idea of a monarchy didn’t die out long ago along with smallpox, slavery and decent Robert De Niro films is a source of puzzlement, but not as perplexing as the fascination with the whole affair shown by the British, in particular. Any sensible person would treat such an uninteresting family of wealthy layabouts with mild indifference, but the fervour displayed by some royal enthusiasts lies somewhere between the shameless fawning of a screeching pre-pubescent girl at a Westlife book signing, and the obsequious, unquestioning adoration that one imagines may have preceded the consumption of all that delicious Kool-Aid at Jonestown.
The public histrionics that accompany the likes of last year’s royal wedding, or the death of Diana, show just how obsessed people are with the royal family. The Queen can’t even fart without some middle-aged woman from Wigan blubbering into a tissue and throwing roses out into the street at her for some reason. Oh look, it’s Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, she’s really rich and she owns all the swans. Who gives a shit?
Speaking of old Lizzie herself, surely there were some more interesting proposals put forward as to what to buy her to celebrate 60 years on the throne. If she were to get a yacht, Harry would have it written off within the week anyway after trying to invade France on it and crashing into the London Eye after a night out on the sauce.
Perhaps the Irish people could get together and present the Queen with a present to mark the occasion. How about offering to take Northern Ireland back from her? It would only be fair after the con that rascal Michael Collins pulled when he convinced the Brits they actually wanted to keep such a barren wasteland as part of their empire. Nobody had the heart to tell them all they’d get in return was an unruly shower of rally-driving, mural-painting sectarians and an astronomical annual social welfare bill. Come to think of it, taking back such a burden might be a bit too generous. Let’s just leave it until the next jubilee and then reassess the situation.
Failing that, maybe something simple like the new iPhone would be a welcome gift, something to bring the monarchy into the digital age and allow the Queen to get into social networking. I can just see the status updates now: Liz checked in at The Royal Variety Show with Prince Philip and CharliePrinceOfWales69xx. ‘One is very bored with these performing peasants. But totally worth it to hear Phil’s comments about the Asian dancing troupe that was just on. Rofl! #LittleYellowBastards.’
Although the yacht idea will no doubt never come to fruition, the fact that a government minister even proposed it in the first place is an indictment not only of a severe lack of judgement and common sense on his part, but also of a society stuck in the dark ages and still in thrall to its less than useless royal family. When the two most interesting things concerning the royals in the recent past have been jokes about Princess Diana and pictures of Pippa Middleton’s arse, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the importance of the British monarchy. Then the sycophantic royalists like Gove will just have to find another wealthy, tedious and completely redundant family to revere. I wonder if he watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians…