A right royal Charlie

spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume
Columnist

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The Prince of Wales today publishes his accounts, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate that he is a regular tax-paying, frugal-living philanthropic guy. Next, he’ll be trying to convince us that the Comedy Terrorist is a really funny bloke.

Publishing these accounts is part of an unprecedented PR campaign designed to repair the Prince’s image after last year’s fiasco – the collapse of two royal butlers’ trials amid revelations of dubious goings-on inside the royal household.

In the name of making his affairs more ‘transparent’, the report is supposed to show that he paid top-rate income tax on his earnings from the Duchy of Cornwall last year. It is a wonder that it didn’t also claim that Charles could have his tax return completed and ready to fire off ‘within 45 minutes’.

Given the number of personal staff we are told Charles employs (97, a fourfold increase in 20 years), somebody could surely have warned him that dodgy dossiers are subjected to intense scrutiny these days. The Times has breached royal security to reveal the guilty secret hidden within these apparently transparent accounts: that the Prince exploited a special arrangement with the Government in order to avoid paying up to half of his tax bill for 2002. It is all perfectly legal. But in the long tradition of British royalty, he is a tax dodger, sorry, avoider. Few people will be shocked to discover that, as Charles’s earnings have soared, the proportion he pays in taxes has shrunk. As an American billionaire once said before she was convicted of tax evasion, only ‘the little people’ are expected to pay proper income tax.

What is worse is the pathetic attempt to pass off Prince Charles as a hardworking, underpaid chap who does a lot of good work for charidee, and plays polo only because it’s in a good cause. It is a sign of the contempt in which Comical Charlie’s camp holds ‘the little people’ that it should offer us such risible propaganda.

Yet we get the royalty we deserve. Even though the Royal Family has plenty of critics these days, most are either too conservative or too cowardly to demand the abolition of the monarchy. Instead, the call is only for the royals to ‘modernise’ and become more ‘relevant’. In which case, these gestures aimed at making Charles look more like a People’s Prince are the most far-reaching reforms we should expect.

It is obvious enough why Tony Blair should manage to forget about the monarchy when talking up his campaign for constitutional reform. The constitutional device of the Crown prerogative gives him the authority to declare war and much else without needing to consult the little people in Parliament. But that is no excuse for others who should know better than to follow his lackeyish lead.

Last year the radical think-tank Demos offered the lily-livered suggestion that the Queen might abdicate in favour of Prince Charles, in order to keep the monarchy in touch with the kids, Ma’am. As the Fabian Society prepares to publish its big commission report on the monarchy, its biggest leaked proposal is that the Queen should pay inheritance tax. If these are the most daring alternatives on offer, it is little wonder that Charles’s number-crunchers should imagine some creative accountancy will keep the little people happy.

Publishing the royal household accounts recently, Buckingham Palace proudly announced that the monarchy costs every subject a mere 60p a year, ‘the price of a loaf of bread’ (although it wouldn’t buy you a small uncut from Prince Charles’s Duchy Originals organic range). Now Charles is at pains to emphasise that, in the words of every affronted middle-class Brit, ‘I pay my taxes!’

But the arguments for and against the monarchy should not be degraded to a base question of economics. It is not a matter of whether Charles goes about with holes in his polo pants, collecting, coronet-in-hand for charity, or whether he lives in isolated splendour with Camilla behind the SAS security that the Queen is now reported to want. In fact, the debate about the monarchy is not really about the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William or any of them. It is about what sort of free, democratic 21st-century society the rest of us might want to live in.

Even the powers-that-be at stuffy Wimbledon have abandoned the tradition of players’ bowing to the royal box. But there are many players in the world of politics who seem happy to continue bending the metaphorical knee. As he harrumphed over the Comedy Terrorist incident last week, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was toadying like one of those weird royal butlers.

However big the holes in his accounts, the Prince of Wales is secure enough in his castle so long as new Labour remains infused with the spirit of the valets.

This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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