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21 April 2016

Why is it unspeakable to be a republican in Britain?

It’s peak Britishness – we tolerate the Royal family alongside the other things we find a bit annoying but don’t do anything about.

By ruby Lott-Lavigna

I don’t like the monarchy. I don’t like the crockery plastered with their smug faces, I don’t like the Queen’s limp handshake that I have to watch on repeat whenever the news is on, and I certainly don’t like the hereditary leadership that epitomises everything that is wrong with the class system in Britain.

As the Queen gets older and we once again begin to get excited over a family we’ve arbitrarily deemed to be important, our tolerance of the royals never ceases to amaze me. Slowly but surely, as the family have become immersed in pop culture (Pippa’s bottom! Face Swap the Queen!) their presence as an insult to all modern democratic principles has been carefully hidden. It’s peak Britishness – we let them exist alongside the other things we find a bit annoying but don’t do anything about. What should warrant serious political anger is treated like a drizzle at a barbecue: it would be better if it wasn’t there, but hey, we still get our sausages.

Why are we not more outraged? Why do we all sit back and celebrate their lives without a good, old-fashioned riot? The mainstream press glorifies their existence and very rarely do I hear an outcry from my left-wing contemporaries when it comes to this travesty against social mobility that the royals embody. They have become so subsumed into contemporary British culture we’ve forgotten to get angry. Every coin we exchange, every note we use, every stamp we lick – there she is, the stoic face of our leader staring up at us. Have we just stopped caring because we’ve become so pacified to her presence? They’ve been hiding in plain sight, swaying policy in their favour and leeching money from a thinly-stretched state for years.

Failed hitherto for to call yourself a republican or muster some anger? Just take a moment and think about who pays for them. We do. We pay them for doing nothing. Think of every emotional breakdown you’ve experienced trying to make ends meet, every rent bill you might have had to fight to pay, and then think to the royal family, who because they were born at a certain time to a certain family, will never, ever have to face that struggle. Because they get free money. From us. The total cost of the monarchy per year comes to about £334m  – around the same as 15,000 new nurses. We could use the money to help our increasingly-privatised NHS. We could re-fund the Citizens’ Advice Bureau so more non-English speaking migrants could get legal help. We could go back to having a welfare system that offers some semblance of support. It’s not the solution to all financial issues, sure, but it’s a true irony that under a Tory government that justifies harsh welfare cuts using the mantra “you don’t get something for nothing,” the royals very much get something for nothing. And don’t tell me they’re good for our tourism. Chester Zoo is a more profitable tourist attraction than Windsor Castle (their most profitable residence) – and last time I checked a zoo didn’t squander public funds.

To stand up and be proud of our monarchy is to stand up and revel in unfairness. It is to celebrate the fact that in Britain, because you are related to a certain person and part of a certain lineage, you deserve a better life at the expense of others. It’s an archaic system that exemplifies Britain’s historic issues with wealth, class and privilege, and every time we celebrate them we buy into this myth that the royals are an untouchable truth of British culture. We need to call this out for what it is and what it has always been: an elitist institution exploiting the political system and abusing public funds, all premised on some notion of tradition and heritage. It’s absurd.

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So long hail our glorious leader on this pleasant day. Praise be to the Queen, and many happy returns. Let’s hope she gets all the hats and daffodils she desires.