My plan today was to write a column supporting the honourable, overdue and courageous Equal Pay strike action planned by thousands of Glasgow City Council employees next Tuesday and Wednesday, 23rd & 24th October. That action will be the subject of my next opinion piece now. For I simply couldn’t stand anymore of the Royal Family pomp and ceremony being force fed down our throats by an ever more compliant and subservient mainstream media without indicating some form of protest immediately.
It was Prince Harry and Meghan getting married in May, Princess Eugene (who?) and Jack (who?) getting married on Saturday and today, 15th October, we have the aforementioned Prince Harry and his Royal wife announcing the arrival of another Royal baby next spring. Now I have nothing against weddings and children being born. Weddings are usually splendid occasions with much joy, laughter and tears while the birth of children is the most magical moment in any parent’s life. Both those joyous events do however come at a cost. Weddings cost over £17,000 on average while raising children is an ever increasing expense.
Unless, of course, you are part of the Windsor family in Britain, no matter how slight or distant the link. And therein is the problem. Every time there is a Royal wedding or new baby the cost to the taxpayer to support these rich benefit recipients rises. The hard austerity pressed public had to stump up £2.25 million for the marriage of a Royal nobody at the weekend and £1.25 million for the Harry and Meghan shindig in May https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/princess-eugenies-wedding-leave-taxpayers-13385960?utm_source=sharebar&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebar .
I heard the BBC’s Royal brown nose, Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell, (I kid you not that is his name) bemoan on breakfast news this morning that poor Meghan would have to take things a bit easier from now on as her and Harry were about to embark on a world tour which would include a “gruelling” 22 hour flight to Australia followed by a “tough itinerary of events”. ‘Gruelling’ and ‘tough’ are not adjectives I would attach to First Class travel with first class service, first class food and first class seats that transform into beds at the push of a button. Of course it will be a ‘gruelling’ experience choosing which films to watch during the flight in between meals and liquid refreshments.
And imagine having to exit the flight into chauffeur driven cars and being whisked to your 5 star hotel room without even getting to experience the delight of jostling with everyone to rescue your luggage from the arrivals carousel and waiting in a long queue at passport control? Then the endurance required dealing with the pampering and luxury lavished on them during the tour would surely test the toughness of any mere mortal.
The difference between a truly independent mainstream media and the slavish puppet of the rich and powerful that we have is the bold Nicholas should have been on the morning breakfast show lambasting the cost to the taxpayer of the two recent weddings, the cost to the taxpayer of the luxury tour and the cost to the taxpayer of another Royal baby to feed and fawn over rather than expressing concern about a ‘gruelling’ flight and ‘tough’ all expenses paid trip.
The Royals receive the best biggest benefits deal in Britain. They cost the ordinary taxpayer in excess of £345 million a year in grants, travel costs, security provision and lost revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster and Duchy of Cornwall which should go to the public purse but instead pours into the Royal purses https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/royal-finances .
The obedience and timidity of state run media in places like North Korea is often bemoaned by flunky pundits in BBC or ITV studios but the irony is these outlets are every bit as timid and obedient as those in alleged dictatorships.
Whenever I hear politicians or campaigners call for ‘us’, the public, to get tough with the ‘scroungers in society’ I cheer to the rafters. I concur. I agree. I second that plan of action, overdue as it is. For I too want to get tough with the ‘scroungers’. I want to abolish the Royal Family and all their inherited perks and privileges. I have nothing against them personally but I despise them as an institution. I believe they epitomise the inherent class snobbery, inequality of wealth and stench of upper class entitlement which pervades and pollutes the British Establishment. The idea that certain children are born to become Dukes, Duchesses, Lords, Ladies, Princesses, Princes, Kings or Queens is quite simply outrageous. The very existence of the Royal Family is an insult to our intelligence, never mind the cost to subsidise them in their obscene luxury.
I well remember the dilemma I faced in 1999 after winning election to the re-called Scottish Parliament, re-called after a 300 year absence. I wasn’t aware that to take up my seat as a representative for the people of Glasgow I first had to swear an oath to the bloody Queen. I have been a believer in and advocate of democracy all my adult life. That means Royalty and vested privilege is alien to me. How could I possibly declare an oath to an institution I abhor and do not believe in? The relevant Section of the Scotland Act 1998 was very specific:
“Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, Sections 84(1) and 84(2), a person who is returned as a member of the Scottish Parliament cannot take part in parliamentary proceedings until he or she has taken the oath of allegiance or made a solemn affirmation”. (http://www.parliament.scot/newsandmediacentre/17310.aspx )
How ridiculous was this? A new, modern Parliament is to be established on the eve of the 21st century and the first requirement of everyone elected to it is to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown? This made me angry. I examined the issue further only to find that our new Scottish Parliament was not just being trapped in the past with oaths of allegiance to the Crown it was actually to be more slavish towards the Crown than even the Westminster Parliament.
In Westminster there is also a requirement to swear the oath and Sinn Fein MP’s refuse to do so as they are Irish republicans and do not recognise the authority of that institution. They therefore do not take up their seats and serve their constituents from the North of Ireland constituencies they were elected to serve. I considered such a refusal to swear the oath. I discussed it with my family and close political comrades. The consensus was it would be futile as I was the only socialist elected and those who voted for me expected me to go into Parliament to fight against low pay, poverty and cuts to public services.
Then I discovered the Sinn Fein option was effectively unavailable to Members of the Scottish Parliament. The ancient and outmoded allegiance to the Crown was even more immersed into the Scottish Parliament than the UK Parliament. For refusing to swear the oath didn’t mean you couldn’t take your seat it meant your seat was taken away from you completely:
“On being returned as members, all MSPs are required either to take the oath of allegiance or make the solemn affirmation before the Clerk at a meeting of the Parliament. The form of the oath is set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and the corresponding affirmation, which may be taken instead, is set out in the Oaths Act 1978. An MSP may not participate in any other proceedings of the Parliament until he or she has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation. An MSP that does not do this, normally within a two month period of being returned as an MSP, will cease to be an MSP.” (http://www.parliament.scot/help/769_795.aspx )
What an incredibly backward step for the new Scottish Parliament to take. Each and every elected MSP had to swear the oath within 8 weeks of being elected or be removed:
“I (Member’s Name), do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law.” (http://www.parliament.scot/newsandmediacentre/99397.aspx )
As it happens over one third of the first batch of MSPs elected to the new Parliament in 1999 made some form of protest at having to swear that oath. No wonder. Think about how pathetic it actually is. The first thing elected MSPs who reject the authority and legitimacy of the Crown have to do is lie. They have to lie in public.
An academic study of the new Parliament noted my personal protest as the most controversial as I firstly declared what I was about to say was said under protest as I owed my allegiance to no unelected Monarch but to the sovereign will of the people who elected me and then, inspired by the Black Power protest of athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympic games in Mexico City, I raised my arm and clenched my fist while reciting the oath through gritted teeth. What a democratic abomination that a new and modern Parliament’s first act was to compel at least a third of those elected to lie in public. At least my protest is now a matter of public record:
“The socialist Tommy Sheridan undoubtedly staged the most controversial and provocative performance affirming only under protest and offering the clenched fist. He declared his allegiance to a Scottish democratic republic. In the end one third of Scotland’s new representatives had their individual interpretation of the oath put on their records.” (https://www.audimax.de/fileadmin/hausarbeiten/anglistik/Hausarbeit-Anglistik-From-Westminster-to-Holyrood-The-New-Scottish-Parliament.pdf p23)
Almost 50,000 people signed an online petition opposed to spending any public money on the Princess Eugene wedding at the weekend https://www.republic.org.uk/petition/royal-wedding-eugenie and popular support for the Royal Family has plummeted considerably in recent years from 77% who believed the UK would be worse off without the Royal Family in 1984 to only 51% who thought that in 2012 https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/win-argument .
The more people learn about the secrecy, corruption and dysfunctional nature at the heart of the Royal Family as an institution the more public support will seep away with the younger generation instinctively opposed to the grotesque privileges and inequality their very existence represents. The explosive revelation in the Paradise Papers leak last year that the Queen is effectively a tax dodger, no matter the pathetic excuses of her hired quislings, will further erode support and respect for the archaic body.
Even the supremely loyal aforementioned BBC Royal correspondent, Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell, was forced to appear angry when faced with the news that the Queen’s private estate invested at least £10 million in offshore funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to avoid being taxed, a fact that had never before been disclosed. He said:
“It is extraordinary and puzzling that her advisers could have felt that it was appropriate – for somebody whose reputation is based so much on setting a good example – to invest in these offshore funds.
“There will be meetings and questions being asked within Buckingham Palace this morning as the monarchy finds its reputation tarnished by association.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/does-the-queen-pay-taxes_uk_5a005b59e4b04cdbeb34b73e ).
The Queen is exempt from tax laws, exempt from Freedom of Information laws and gets to make voluntary contributions to the tax man despite being one of the richest people on the planet with an estimated wealth in excess of £67 billion https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/royal-family-british-monarchy-wealth-value-how-rich-money-queen-elizabeth-ii-a8067946.html . Her alleged contributions to society via business stimulation and tourism are vastly overstated and unproven with Chester Zoo, Stonehenge and the Roman Baths being much more successful tourist attractions and VisitBritain, the UK tourist agency, unable to find any evidence that the Royals stimulate tourism https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/monarchy-myth-buster/its-good-tourism .
Some people suggest a ‘slimmed down’ Monarchy but I am not interested in an Atkins diet or Low-Carb programme for the Royals. I just want democracy to triumph and the Monarchy as an institution scrapped completely. I demand to live as a citizen not as a subject.