current affairs

Support for the monarchy is not what it seems

Written by Nicholas Bieber

It’s been over 400 days since the spectacular scenes of Union Jacks flickered rapidly up the Mall in a kaleidoscope of red, white and blue as the Queen saluted a thank you on her Diamond Jubi

It’s been over 400 days since the spectacular scenes of Union Jacks flickered rapidly up the Mall in a kaleidoscope of red, white and blue as the Queen saluted a thank you on her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Her Majesty has celebrated over 60 years now as head of the commonwealth, the second time it has ever happened in the history of Britain.This was a day when royalists across the country stepped outside, braving a typically washed out day, and celebrated the event with a good old-fashioned street party. This was a time which saw 8.5 million people sit to take part in the Big Jubilee Lunches with couples, families and friends sat at glamorous long tables all united as one.

It was a celebration which made a global audience realise just how much this country loves the monarchy, but is this what it seems?

Eight months ago a poll was set out by Ipsos Mori to determine how many people in Britain supported the Monarchy. Coming at the end of the celebration packed year which saw the Queens Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic games, the poll revealed the British public’s support was at a record high level.It showed that 79 per cent of the public favoured the country remaining a monarchy, compared to 16 per cent who wanted to see it become a republic and 5 per cent who did not know.These figures haven’t changed much at all since the first poll of this kind in 1993, which showed support for the monarchy was at 69 per cent and 18 per cent for a republic.

Pollsters described these findings as “probably the most stable trend we have ever measured.” The results also showed that support for the monarchy is highest among the older generations, with almost nine in ten of those aged 55+ saying Britain should remain a monarchy.

It also revealed that conservative supporters are most likely to be monarchists, with 96 per cent preferring Britain to remain a monarchy rather than become republicans compared to 84 per cent of Lib Dems and three-quarters (74 per cent) of Labour supporters.

So far, so good, or so it seems.

Despite the results, not everyone is a fan of the Monarchy. I spoke to Graham Smith, Chief Executive of the membership-based pressure group, Republic, who told me the monarchy doesn’t do anything for the country. “It is there to serve the interests of the few not the nation,” Smith said. 

Smith also disagrees with people who say that the monarchy brings in tourists from every corner of the globe. “The tourism claim is a myth without evidence and whatever vague benefit monarchists may suggest is outweighed by the lack of democracy, the lost opportunity to have a democratic political system that puts real power in the hands of the people,” Smith said.

Republic represents Britain’s estimated 10-12 million republicans, promoting the cause and also defending the rights of republicans to be heard.The group has about 20,000 supporters and members from across the political and social spectrum.They lobby politicians and opinion-formers, conduct a pro-active media campaign, comment on royal stories in the media, conduct talks and classes in schools and universities and provide information on republicanism.

Following a recent story in the Daily Express which revealed the Queen is to get a £2 million pay rise from April next year, Smith says the royal finances are out of control. Smith adds: “The increase has nothing to do with need or anything to do with proper budgeting and auditing processes. The increase is the result of an arbitrary increase in property prices for land held by the Crown Estate. The Crown Estate does not belong to the royals and has nothing to do with them – the only reason the link has been made between the Crown Estate and royal funding is to help spin the line that the royals pay for themselves. They don’t.”

The pay rise is a 5.2 per cent increase and has come at a time when the government is planning £11.5 billion of spending cuts. “The royals should hang their heads in shame as they take more money from the taxpayer while the taxpayer suffers a squeeze on their living standards and cuts to services and jobs,” Smith added.

This year, the royal finances have been reorganised with a new Sovereign Grant funding model replacing the Civil List, government funds for the Queen and her household’s official expenses, and grants-in-aid which paid for items such as royal travel and the upkeep of royal palaces. Under the new grant, the Queen receives 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate.

Six rises and falls in the royal finances 2012-2013

  1. Buckingham Palace accounts show the cost to the taxpayer of supporting the monarchy rose by just under £1 million to £33.3 million during the Diamond Jubilee year.
  2. The Queen’s official expenditure increased by £900,000 from £32.4 million during the 2011/12 financial year to £33.3 million in 2012/13.
  3. The taxpayer funds used to pay for official air and rail travel at home and abroad for members of the Royal Family fell by £500,000 from £5 million in 2011/12 to £4.5 million in 2012/13.
  4. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Diamond Jubilee tour of South East Asia and the South Pacific was the most expensive foreign tour, costing almost £370,000 when the cost of a reconnaissance trip by members of their household was included.
  5. There was also an increase in spending on property maintenance, money used for the upkeep of royal residences and other buildings, from £8.9 million to £9.1 million.
  6. The grant for 2012/13 was set at £31 million, including an extra million pounds to pay for Diamond Jubilee costs.

So when you next see floods of people take to the streets bearing Union Jack flags, which should be soon when Kate and William welcome home a new addition to the Royal Family, bear in mind just a few will be staying in bed on that day.

What do you think of the royal family and the finances received? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.