Earlier today I blogged about British Education Secretary Michael Gove’s call for Queen Elizabeth II to be given a new yacht to mark her 60th anniversary on the throne.
Gove’s idea has been run up the flagpole and no one has saluted.
His boss, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman told The Guardian this afternoon, Clearly there is a difficult economic situation, there are scarce resources, and therefore we don’t think it would be an appropriate use of public money at the present time.”
As I said in my earlier posting perhaps the Russian oligarchs who have made London their home could have a whip round and buy the Queen a new yacht.
What do you give to the monarch who has everything – or at least as much of everything that a modern constitutional ruler can expect to have?
This year marks the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne. That’s 60 years of presiding over massive change, not least in how people perceive the Royal role and how much they are willing to pay her to play it. The British tax-payer funds her official duties and pays for staff to carry them out.
Anyway, it’s not the best year to have big celebrations. The Conservative-led coalition government’s austerity measures are beginning to bite. Government spending is falling and unemployment is rising.
So when the Education Secretary Michael Gove called this weekend for people to give Her Majesty a new yacht it was not the smartest piece of politics. Especially when the Royal Navy is losing ships to austerity cuts.
But Gove, a former columnist for Rupert Murdoch’s times newspaper, was adamant in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, “In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”
But then the Queen’s yacht has been a political football during the last decades of her reign. One of the early acts of Tony Blair’s Labour government was to retire her last one, the Britannia, back in 1997. She’s done without an ocean-going vessel since then.
Gove says £60 million ($91.8 million) will do the trick. I don’t know, Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich’s yacht, Eclipse, cost a reported $300 million. Perhaps Gove could ask Abramovich and some of the other Russian billionaires who have found Britain a congenial (and safe) place to live to chip in 20 million each and give the Queen the present she deserves.