56p might not sound like much. If you follow the Royals' interpretation of their cost to the state, it's practically negligible. How lucky we are to be subjects to so reasonable a monarch who charges us less than the cost of a packet of Smarties for the privilege: her own, that is. The actual amount is £35.7million. Of course, this sum is measly by comparison with those other unelected scroungers in the House of Lords who cost us £1.35 each per year, or £87m. But even then, who could baulk at such loose change? (Yes, yes, I know it's democratically absurd but it's only a quid or so you tight gits!)
The usual retort to any questioning of monarchical finances is to cite the economic benefits which the monarchy brings to the UK. Although contentious, it is suggested that these gilded scroungers contribute £500million to the UK economy each year via tourism. Or, now that we're reducing figures to the teeny-weeniest possible amount, that's £15.85 per second. That means we're making approximately £464.3million profit just by sticking a crown on this woman's head and pretending that she's special. Those gullible tourists!
There are several false assumptions underlying this argument, however. Indeed, how dare any mere subject question an institution which makes a profit? Trouble is, that same calculator-logic which acknowledges only numbers and not, you know, democratic accountability, which we're at least supposed to pretend is the basis upon which our society is built, is the same logic that underpinned European expansionism and the trade in human beings in the 19th century and before. That, if it's profitable it's permissible.
If we think £500million per year is too big a price to pay for the, at least, notional concept of the equality of all citizens, then we might consider the compensation which the state paid out to slave owners in the 1830's for something similar. In total, approximately £20million was paid out by the UK government as part of the abolition process. That's almost £1bn in today's money, twice the amount that the monarchy allegedly contributes. And yet, this sum is seen to justify the continuation of inherited power.
Another fallacious aspect of this debate is the idea that the monarchy must remain in place for that tourist income to continue. Tourists will not stop visiting the UK government's assets, which the monarchy occupies, just because the monarchy no longer exists. A glance at a portion of the income from Shakespeare tourism shows that the absence of the protagonist does not inhibit tourist activity, but on the contrary. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust estimates that their activities in the Stratford-on-Avon district alone raise £335million for the local economy.
With increased access to current royal buildings, brought about by the absence of the squatters, it's reasonable to expect income to increase from tourism. As Heritage Lottery Fund research shows, heritage tourism is worth £26.4billion to the UK economy each year, of which the monarchy is currently a minimal contributor. If anything, these assets are underexploited and could actually be costing us even more money in potential lost income.
Royalists erroneously fixate upon the economics of the monarchy believing that it is justification for an institution for which no democratic case can be made.
We are also told how apolitical the Queen is, despite her holding private weekly meetings with every prime minister for over half a century. The truth is that we don't know what her political views are, but we can't be so naïve to believe that she doesn't hold any or, indeed, express them. Why one family should have direct access to the highest echelons of power that is denied the majority of us (those who can afford dinner with David Cameron - and could stomach his company - aside) is a question with no democratic justification. At least Charles I claimed to have god's support. You don't often hear that one anymore.
Perhaps this is an unfair characterisation. Indeed, if one were to believe the Daily Telegraph, the Queen is practically a serf. As they described in 2011:
This year alone she has presided over a royal wedding, immediately after which she undertook her first visit to Ireland...Hardly was she back in the country than she was entertaining President Obama...For none of this is the Queen paid.
Imagine that! She went to her grandson's wedding and didn't get paid! (Apart from all her expenses throughout her entire life, that is.) And then she threw a party for Obama. Oh, the poverty!
The visit to Ireland was no doubt important but the truth is that Ireland has engaged with the difficulties of its history in a way that the UK has still yet to do. It would have been more significant had we sent our first elected head of state to a fellow republic rather than an antiquated emblem of our continued commitment to the social class system.
There's always fear about how it ends - a collective self-consciousness that the last time involved dissociating the monarch's head from his shoulders. No need for that nonsense this time. Just stick her in a bungalow to live her retirement out in peace and dignity, and free the country to go forward in the same manner. And, for that matter, stimulate more income in the process.Suggest a correction