So Michael Gove thinks the Queen deserves a wee present to celebrate 60 years of reigning over us. Handily, his choice of gift – a new yacht – has a £60 million price tag. Geddit?
Feart that Ma’am’s big mo’ is going to be overshadowed by the Olympics, he thinks the Queen’s “highly significant contribution to the life of the nation and the Commonwealth” deserves a “tangible” gesture to “mark the significance of this occasion with fitting ceremony”.
I’ll resist the instinct to play the chippy Scot and mump about the reference to nation singular. And I’ll swallow my bile at such fawning sycophancy.
Instead I’ll simply question the cost of the gesture. £60 million? By public subscription? Good luck with that mate. Just don’t expect Scotland to raise its proportionate share. There is little chance of Scots raising £6million to buy a funnel or a stateroom, no matter how much the deferential press try to whip up the campaign. There might be a majority in favour of royalty up here in the frozen North – though the last big vote on the issue some years ago did result in Scotland being the only part of the UK to favour a republic – but I’m not sure we like the Queen enough to stick her hands in our pockets to buy her a new toy. Not even for the bath.
No, as the glorious @SophiaPangloss tweeted, we’d be more than happy to send her one slightly used, listing old one back. Few would miss it.
I am blessed in my professional and personal life to know many remarkable people, but none are so remarkable than the families who battle disadvantage and adversity on a daily basis. Who despite having officialdom flung in their face, whom society expects to deserve the crumbs we give them, are unfailing optimistic, cheery and upbeat. No matter what indignities are heaped on them, they refuse to give in, demonstrating resourcefulness beyond measure. They are extraordinary people simply trying to live ordinary lives. And we make it so damned hard for them.
Mostly because there isn’t enough money in the pot.
In the last few weeks, I’ve heard about a woman who took to her bed for three days with her children when her power meter ran out of credit and she had no money to buy any more. I’ve read about a young family who would like to buy nice things for their children but they can’t afford to, not when their rent is £450 per month and their income is £600. I’ve watched friends agonise over making the right decision for their child, even though it goes against everything they thought they believed, because the education system refuses to provide their child with the support they are entitled to and needs to learn successfully. I’ve marvelled at the humanity of an individual who has been dealt a rotten hand in life spend much of his time helping and campaigning for others worse off than he.
I’ve listened to families tell me how they had to wait months to receive a welfare benefit they are entitled to because the system demanded they provide documents they did not have in their possession. I’ve seen more beggars on the streets of Edinburgh in the last few months than in the rest of the year put together. I’ve helped a pensioner who has difficulty walking and problems seeing and hearing to cross a busy road and into her house because the carer didn’t come and she needed to go and buy milk. And I’ve witnessed a child in holey plimsolls and spit-through jacket pilfer an apple from a local supermarket because he did not have enough money left over from his parent’s messages to buy one.
All of which could be solved by there being more money in their pockets and in public services.
Yet, Michael Gove thinks I, and all the people I have mentioned above, should dig deep to provide one of the world’s richest women with a nice present to show our gratitude for all that she has done for us.
Sorry, but if a collecting tin is rattled under my nose, I’ll decline. Politely of course.
And continue to hope that the only lasting legacy from this Diamond Jubilee malarkey is a republican one.