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WHENEVER proposals arise to raise the minimum wage, guarantee social care to the elderly or return gas, electricity and water to public ownership, commentators stress how many millions or billions that would cost.
The same doesn’t apply to Britain’s archaic and parasitic monarchy. It only costs us 69p a head, we are told.
The implication is that only an embittered skinflint would begrudge such a pittance every year to preserve an institution that brings in tourism, offers pageantry and is even portrayed as central to our democracy.
Hereditary monarchy is actually the antithesis of democracy because it enshrines the principle ruling out every British citizen from aspiring to be head of state because that job is already marked out for the eldest son of one lucky family.
Nor can the supposed capacity of the royal family to bring in tourists from countries that had the good sense to cast off their own monarchies decades or even centuries ago be given credence.
As Tom Walker’s Jonathan Pie character points out, Chester Zoo brings in more visitors, but no-one suggests a private plane for the gibbons.
Britain’s Prime Minister, the apex of parliamentary political power irrespective of personal qualities, has to stand in line behind the monarch for the right to use the RAF Voyager aircraft — paid for by taxpayers — for state business.
The House of Windsor is a right royal racket, with a steadily increasing number of hangers-on hopping on board the gravy train, opening things, shaking hands, chatting inanities, being given flowers by carefully rehearsed children and agreeing gracefully to expect nothing in return but lifelong luxury.
As Privy Purse keeper Sir Michael Stevens puts it, “there are three generations of the royal family at work together in support of the Queen.”
More accurately, it’s three generations of one family with an air of entitlement to be cosseted by taxpayers while building up their own private wealth and property.
The monarchy is a symbol of class-divided Britain where many scratch to earn a living while a tiny elite live off the fat of the land.
It’s time people in this country felt able to raise themselves from their knees and rely on democracy as citizens rather than accept their place as subjects.
Turning a blind eye to torture
THE parliamentary intelligence and security committee concludes, after a three-year investigation, that MI6 was aware that prisoners “rendered” to the US security services were “inexcusably mistreated.”
It was already clear that large numbers of detainees were subject routinely to torture, to give the mistreatment its correct name.
If British or US troops had been handled the way Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans and many other nationalities were in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram air base, Abu Ghraib prison or the many secret interrogation facilities in other states, the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, MPs and media would have called it torture.
None of this was a secret to Tony Blair’s New Labour government, which made a virtue of its subservience to Washington.
For Jack Straw, who was responsible as foreign secretary for MI6 and the GCHQ listening post from 2001-06, to claim to have been unaware of the “activities and the approach of these agencies” is incredible.
Well-documented claims were in the public sphere, but he chose not to investigate them for reasons not hard to speculate over.
Britain’s security services have developed into a state within a state precisely because of the failure of politicians to subject them to necessary scrutiny.
This scandalous political failure must be brought to an end.
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