So I should be packing to fly off to Washington DC to attend the G20 Youth Diplomatic Summit with 200 others, but on June 3rd, smack in the heart of the UK’s Diamond Jubilee four day weekend I am drawn to publish my tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Her Majesty three times in my life (once at the Opening of the Scottish Parliament when I was Chair of Scottish Youth Parliament, second time at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party after I won Big Brother and a third time in Pall Mall at a Commonwealth Day Reception.) Each time has been amazing. She is shorter than you think but perfectly formed and always immaculately dressed. She commands a magnetism and charisma no one else I have met has. I was no nervous meeting her in Parliament the first time, I found myself uttering the words “orite Mam!” I was mortified, reminded me of that infamous Mr Bean sketch. The most recent time she also commented at how large I was haha!
The main reason I am so patriotic over this Diamond Jubilee is because I have seen first hand the amazing impact she has on people across the world. The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of countries, bound together by values and common aspiration, not economic might of political demand. Although the second largest union of countries on earth, the Commonwealth uniquely brings together a diverse range of cultures, economies, peoples and governments, all with an equal voice and governed by consensus. The ceremonial stewardship and stability the Queen brings to this crucial network is immense.
I was in Australia with the Queen last year, and the place was so alive to her. Kids right through to pensioners were moved and touched by her presence and engagement, you could see the visit would leave a positive and life long impact in their hearts and minds. Also having been to Malawi, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Singapore and elsewhere, the esteem and honour by which they regard the Queen is amazing. Many of these people are the poorest on earth, yet they look to the Queen as a beacon of duty, hard work, positivity and values. And quite right. In a time of so much turmoil, isn’t a positive role model a good thing? The way the Queen acts as a non-political, non-military progressive force in the world is unique and essential. She is one of few people that can hold global regard alongside the President of the USA and the Pope. Yet she spreads nothing but good will, cultural exchange and positive values.
The same goes at home. Anywhere she goes the crowds flock. The solace she brings to communities, hospitals, charities and individuals is phenomenal. She offers stability, consistency and is a bedrock in an otherwise whirlwind world. And the millions she generates for our economy is crucial in a recession, not to mention the millions she pumps directly into charities, most recent being the Diamond Jubilee Trust (and de facto the Royal Families wider charitable contribution including huge movements such as The Princes Trust.)
In short, I must say, wee Liz, regardless of your job, the way you individually as a person have taken on the role, having been ushered due to an untimely death to serve country at only 25 is astounding. Congratulations and long may yer lum reek!
Now I would like to say that the above was something more original and creative than a romantic view of the Queen and the Royal Family – but it wasn’t, and I don’t care. But let me be frank, I have not always bee a raving fan of the Royals, in fact quite the opposite. A bunch of self appointed rich wigs who live in our Castles and Palaces and have every need duly attended to merely because of birth right. This surely isn’t fair I hear you cry. How can they ever relate to the people, and how can that ever be justified when 25% of young people live in poverty and communities remain socially isolated all over this island?
Well let me attempt to answer that as I see it. The first two points are short. Number one, they influence only positive in the world. The Queen can exercise no real political influence any longer, so those “off with there heads” days are long gone. She does not undermine the quality or depth of our democracy at all. If anything she strengthens it! She is the only person that remains able to individually hold a British Prime Minister accountable – every week to be exact. The second point is there is no genuine alternative. Would you really want a Republic? With another election to hold, more politicians and to devolve our history or parliamentary democracy in aid of an American or French system? Heck no.
And thirdly the economic nonsense that is thrown around on this issue frustrates me. Firstly let’s note the UK GDP has went from a 1952 level of £15,983 million compared with £1,507,585 million in 2011. That’s an increase of 9332%. Now of course that wasn’t The Queen or the Royal Family, but they play a key role in it! Yes they earn money from the public purse, and on the face of it they are expensive. But actually it was Parliament who democratically opted to pay the Royal Family – they realized their importance. If you go back to King George the Third, it was then that he offered a deal to Parliament. That deal was simply help clear his debts, sustain his live and all the profits which his estate generates could go to Parliament and the State. (we should remember the Queen personally owns Balmoral and Sandringham – not the Crown or state)
So how much do those Royals cost us? £40million a year to be exact! That’s about 65p per person per year. However the money we generate in return dwarves that number. Revenue from the Crown Lands alone (Palaces, parks etc) brings in £200million every year. That is £2.60 for each of one of us 62million, and is £1.95 profit on top of the 65p they cost us. In effect, they help keep our taxes lower and public services up. This isn’t even taking into account the millions they generate from tourism. (the biggest fans of The Queen is surely the Americans, and they bring in a staggering £7000million per year to the UK coffers!)
So there you have it. The Royal Family don’t only make the UK unique in the world and maintain a national personality, and bring solace to millions but they are a jolly good investment too.
Now go get your bunting and Victoria sponge, and raise a toast!