Frances O’Grady, first female general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, was giving an important speech on the woes of the working class and the growing divide between haves and have-nots in Britain. Just minutes after she warned of a return to a “Downton Abbey” society, the BBC’s live coverage of O’Grady’s remarks were interrupted for what was deemed to be a critical newsflash that could not wait: the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant.
People watching the speech on the BBC news channel heard, “Are we going to settle for a nastier and poorer Britain—a Downton Abbey-style society, in which the living standards of the vast majority are sacrificed to protect the high living of the well-to-do?”
Next they heard that Prince George was going to get a royal brother.
At a time when the living standards of the vast majority of people are getting crushed so a few at the top can enjoy luxurious lifestyles, you might think salivating over royal goings-on would not be allowed to take priority over the speech of one of Britain’s most significant female leaders. O’Grady talks about how chief executives earn 175 times as much as the average worker, about the pain of those who have little being forced to use separate “poor doors” in apartment buildings, and the return of virulent class prejudice. But evidently that is far less interesting than the anticipation of one more aristocrat who will enjoy a gold-plated lifestyle, mostly at public expense.
The royal spectacle does bring in tourist dollars, so there’s that. But many object that the monarchy sucks up revenue which might be better spent on, say, unemployed Britons, instead of providing luxuries to people whose activities could only generously be described as “work.”
Recently, the British House of Commons‘ public accounts committee released a report that said the queen received 31 million pounds, or about $50 million, from taxpayers for 2012-2013. Apparently that wasn’t enough, because overspending caused the royal Reserve Fund to shrink to a million pounds during that period. Maintenance of the royal familiy’s many palaces, helicopters, round-the-clock security detail, and a thousand other items that keep the show going tend to add up very quickly. The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William will welcome their baby into lavish apartments at Kensington Palace, recently revamped at a taxpayer pricetag of 4 million pounds. Before Prince George was even born, he was worth a billion dollars. The average Briton is now worth about $236,000.