“Some ideas are so stupid,” George Orwell wrote, “that only an intellectual could believe them”. Michael Gove’s suggestion that, in these straitened times, £60m of public money should be used to buy the Queen a new royal yacht falls into this category. It was a perfect example of what the novelist Joyce Carey once described as a “tumbril remark” – the sort of statement seemingly designed to ignite class war. Marie Antoinette’s infamous (and likely apocryphal) riposte to the news that the poor were suffering due to bread shortages (“let them eat cake”) is the most celebrated historical example.
Thankfully (and inevitably), Gove’s yacht has now been torpedoed by messrs Cameron and Clegg. The PM’s official spokesman has said it would be not be an “appropriate use of public money given the state of the nation’s finances”, while Nick Clegg has observed that a new yacht for the Queen is not top of the public’s “list of priorities”.
One only wonders why we have heard nothing from that bastion of frugality, the TaxPayers’ Alliance.