New Internationalist

Pass the sick bag, it’s Jubilee time

It’s been a bad year so far. A really bad year. What with the old-Etonian-led Coalition Government hell-bent on destroying the welfare state – including our treasured NHS – benefit cuts, high unemployment, tuition fees through the roof, hardly any affordable housing, school budgets slashed with teachers leaving in droves and Margaret Thatcher still breathing we now have to endure the Diamond Jubilee ‘celebrations’ and the Olympics.

And though we are constantly being told that in this age of ‘austerity’ we have to take the swingeing cuts to public services on the chin, the cost of putting on these events is phenomenal.

The cost to the taxpayer for the London Olympics could hit £11 billion ($17.4 billion), rather than the expected £9.3 billion ($14.7 billion), according to a recent government watchdog report.

Apparently it might not end there as the assistant commissioner of the Met, Chris Allison, admitted a few weeks ago that he has no idea how much it’s going to cost to keep the Olympics secure – which has already increased from £600 million ($947 million) to £757 million ($1.2 billion). And, to add insult to injury, Dow Chemicals is sponsoring the games.

For those of you who don’t know, on 3 December 1984 in Bhopal, India, more than 25,000 people died after inhaling poisonous gas that leaked from large tanks from the nearby plant containing the lethal pesticide methyl isocyanate. Tens of thousands innocent victims have subsequently suffered, and continue to suffer, appalling injuries and birth deformities. Union Carbide, the company responsible for the mishandling of the tanks, is now owned by yes, you guessed, Dow Chemicals.

They are responsible for the dire medical and environmental situation in Bhopal and only they can make proper restitution to the more than 570,000 people affected. Dow Chemical’s Olympic sponsorship legitimizes its abnegation of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Bhopal victims, thereby perpetuating the denial of basic rights to thousands of suffering people.

But who cares when the great British public is being given the chance to ‘feel good’ about themselves, and ‘proud’ to host – and pay for – the Olympics?

Then there’s the Jubilee. Ah, the monarchy. How much that lot have cost us over the years has yet to be calculated. And the total cost of this current jamboree is not easy to find either – but the Department of Culture Media and Sport has estimated that the extra Jubilee bank holiday alone is likely to cost the economy around £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion), although in an impact assessment it noted that this figure could be as high as £3.6 billion ($5.7 billion).

And all this not including money being spent by central government and local councils. Indeed the total cost of royal travel alone (in 2011) much of it funded by the government, was £7 million ($11 million). This when many people can barely afford one family holiday a year.

North Tyneside Council is facing a budget cut of approximately £17 million ($27 million). One of the poorest regions of the UK is having to cut back considerably with all the appalling social consequences this will bring, but we’re still throwing millions of pounds at one of Britain’s wealthiest families for a few holidays and a boat (Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has proposed the public donate a new royal yacht to the Queen as a mark of respect during this year’s diamond jubilee celebrations).

It gets worse. The recent Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle included a merry mix of tyrants and dictators among those invited, one of which being the despotic ruler of Bahrain, Hamad Al-Khalifa. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘Inviting blood-stained despots is a kick in the teeth to pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners in these totalitarian regimes.’

Furthermore, Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against the Arms Trade declared the Queen’s invitation, along with supplying the Al-Khalifa regime with arms, sends a message that the British monarchy approves human rights abuses. Now there’s a surprise.

I couldn’t care less that the pampered Mrs Windsor has lived to a ripe old age. And I resent having to pay for her and her family who are a bunch of corrupt, outdated, hypocritical parasites who belong to the dustbin of history not in a modern, democratic society. Instead her ‘subjects’ continue to fawn over them, help pay for them, touch their metaphorical forelocks and wave their silly little flags whenever the opportunity arises.

Pass the sick bucket. I’m going to puke.

Photo by dannybirchall under a CC Licence.

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  1. #1 Lesley 22 May 12

    Go, Alan! You have such a way with words... saying it like a lot of people don't dare to. Well done for putting it all in context.

  2. #2 Scott 25 May 12

    Sadly, I’m afraid we’re witnessing the end of an era of Liberal Democracy both in the US and Europe as well. (The latter depresses me in particular, as I always viewed most Europeans as being too smart to fall for the Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand inspired versions of ‘Free Market’ capitalist jingoism Americans are all too susceptible to being taken in by). But all of the social reforms and business regulations written back in the 1930s and onward to both ensure nothing like the Great Depression ever happening again and to expand on the Social Contract implicit in a lot of New Deal legislation... which served the US well for over two generations and helped to usher in something of a golden age... has been quietly and systematically dismantled since the Reagan years. (And, in your country, a lot of the same since Thatcher’s time).

    Central to much of the problems in the US has been how, in the post-Watergate era of Nixon’s fall, an awful lot of moneyed ultra-Conservative interests apparently vowed nothing of the sort would, or could. ever happen again, and while nobody was watching, they quietly began buying up and consolidating most US media from the late 1970’s onward, helped and made possible, in large part, to Reagan-era deregulation of Roosevelt-era laws governing ownership of mass media. In my opinion, there is little to any independent, non-corporate owned Press left in the US at this point, perhaps aside from a few Internet sites and a few token hours of liberal TV opinion on MSNBC and Al Gore’s tiny cable channel. But even the Liberal channels have allowed themselves to fall into the trap of letting the right wing frame most issues. Not only is it nowadays probably all but impossible for the Press to pull off another Watergate or a My Lai investigation, but through the constant repetitive droning of essentially single sided propaganda, most Americans seem to have been brainwashed.

    A good example of this media-inspired GroupThink is the current (and quite recent) popular view of Government workers making vastly more money than people in the Private Sector. Now, you and I both grew up pretty much knowing that the road to riches didn’t lie in being a school teacher, a cop, a fireman, or a Social Security Administration bureaucrat here in the US. But after thirty years of union busting in the US, and the average worker losing much if not all of their health benefits and pensions, along with their wages stagnating and actually dropping in recent years... the only people with any real Union benefits left are Government workers, and ironically, public employee unions were always considered something of a joke when compared to more, shall we say, muscular operations like the UAW or the Steelworkers.

    But in today’s era, the corporate-owned Press has spent the past couple of years hammering away at the notion that teachers and cops and such are on this huge gravy train the rest of us not only don’t share, but are in fact paying for with our allegedly high tax rates. So now, the last bastion of middle class US wage earners are now being also laid off in droves, having benefits slashed, and generally being cast as some kind of social parasites in need of being lowered a peg or two since THEY get things WE don’t.

    But portraying Government workers as riding some kind of gravy train was largely the work of the Corporate-owned Press, and to my astonishment, it actually seems to have worked. The average person I talk to today now really believes that public employees need to be brought down to their ‘own’ level... while utterly failing to see that, in fact, THEY were brought down below the level of relatively lowly Government employees over the course of the past 30 years. Amazing how the propaganda principles outlined in Mein Kampf and put to work by the likes of a Goebbels or a Hess still work in their Neanderthal simplicity as they now have minimum wage WalMart cashiers all goose stepping to the tune the Plutocrats are playing for them. But I suppose having demolished a Public Education system once the envy of the world down to where the average High School graduate is functioning on about a 5th grade level, I guess that task wasn’t so hard to accomplish after all. Ten year olds tend to believe what you tell them to believe.

    But, they’ve been working at systematically dumbing down the US electorate, and repeating the same lies on all three major news outlets since the 1980s now, and it’s finally bearing fruit for them. It’s been a sad process to watch, but again, a rather brilliant and a certainly effective process.

  3. #3 Alan 28 May 12

    Have just read a brilliant piece in The Independent (28 May) by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I urge everyone to read it. Hopefully it will have more effect than my meagre blog. I keep banging on about it but the Tories are getting away with murder and hardly anyone seems to care. And the Jubilee is almost upon us with all that is costing us, the taxpayer (the real cost of these celebrations are being kept from us).

    As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says: The political strategy of no bread but great royal circuses is working.

    Pass the bunting!

  4. #4 Pucci 29 May 12

    exactly. though she's not Mrs. Windsor, she's Frau Mountbatten, even worse methinks.

  5. #5 Adam Green 30 May 12

    I enjoyed this Brooker style rant and thoroughly agree. Alas, even friends of mine have claimed in pub discussion that the royals are a benefit to our country, plucking numbers out of the air relating to the income resulting from tourism. I would like to examine these numbers more closely!

    It might be interesting to perform a stunt, stick with me here, whereby we get a load of Jubilee sick bags made and then disperse amongst the crowds watching the queen. We then need a way to make ourselves feel queesy enough so that the ’celebrations’ will push us over the edge. What would be better actually would be a synchronised puking so that the sound, and indeed smell, is released in one joyful chorus.

    Thanks Alan...

  6. #6 Fraser Gemmell 30 May 12

    Exactly. Could not have put it any better!!

  7. #7 Alan 30 May 12

    Thanks for your brilliant suggestion Adam! Would take some organising but would cause one hell of a stink (literally!). Actually there are sick bags for sale on this site:

    The 'celebrations' are almost upon us. I think all we can do, despite the appalling apathy out there, is keep fighting for a fairer, decent society even if the term 'pissing into the wind' often springs to mind.

  8. #8 Dave Brothers 30 May 12

    This article alone has stopped me from buying products from the shop. It is a disgrace to the British and pure outdated socialist propoganda.

  9. #9 Adam - London 02 Jun 12

    Oh for god's sake! I obviously repect all the views on here and understand that some people are for the monarchy, others are not. Personally I love having the monarchy and the big pomp and ceremony each year, really cheers me up and look at all the people that turn out for the Trooping of the Colour each year? Not to mention all the people that turn up to celebrate the big royal events! Surely we should also take into account that millions of people love the monarchy as well, otherwise no one would turn up to these things every time. I except that costs relating to the monarchy should be reduced and downsized, but for me, I am proud of them and think when things like the Jubilee come about we should just, relax, take a moment and just enjoy the fact that millions of people have come together....just to enjoy something.

  10. #10 mrs L Jones 03 Jun 12

    I read your article thoroughly and agree with everything you said.
    It is nice to see other people who have views the same as mine.
    I wish society would wake up and smell the coffee and see
    What a waste of time the royal family actually are! And how parasitic they are!
    This country is in a damn recession, but they waste tax
    Payers money on royal weddings and jubilee celebrations.
    Not forgetting the olympic games, all of these things are
    Cripling finances in britain.
    We should be able to choose where our taxes are spent
    Ourselves, hospitals, helping people less off and in dire poverty,
    There will always be the wrong people pulling the strings, milking it
    For what they can get for themselves. Its good to have a moan,
    And it makes you feel better.

  11. #11 Alan 03 Jun 12

    Thanks Mrs Jones for your comments... yes, it is good to know there are some who feel the same way about the criminal inequalities in our society and how the House of Windsor epitomises those inequalities. While more and more people are living in poverty, disabled people deprived of benefits, pensioners barely able to heat their homes, unemployed claimants having their benefits capped, the NHS being sold off Elizabeth II enjoys a massive personal wealth estimated at £300 million and has millions more of taxpayers money spent on her and her family every year. But this, apparently, is acceptable to the mass of the British public.

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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