Hold the page! I was going to post about equality of outcome versus equality of opportunity, having failed to put this subject to rhyme and include it on my poetry blog (http://simonsworlds13.wordpress.com), but that will now be my next post here followed, probably, by an appearance of Agile Workers on The Odanglesex Chronicles.
What has changed these well-laid plans?
Michael Gove has proposed UK taxpayers fund a new royal yacht as a gift for Queen Elizabeth II to mark her diamond jubilee.
Explanation for non-Brits: Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Education in our coalition government. Elizabeth II is our monarch in our constitutional monarchy, which has evolved gradually from a constitutional monarchy in which royal and parliamentary power tussled, to one in which the monarch is a figurehead.
Further explanation for non-Brits: public expenditure is being cut year on year over what now seems bound to be at least a seven-year period. Gove is a Conservative: his Liberal Democrat coalition partners have reportedly expressed their reservations and the Labour opposition have been critical, althoughn the quote doesn't come from their struggling leader.
Well, in the total scheme of things, sixty million pounds plus is small beer. Gove says the diamond jubilee is a "momentous occasion" and argues that paying for a new royal yacht (there hasn't been one since 1997) would be a mark of respect for the queen.
Well...as a history graduate I have some practice in judging whether something is a momentous occasion. The end of the Second World War was a momentous occasion. So was the creation of the internet, the end of South African apartheid and the coming of majority rule, the agreement of an international climate change deal (however weak) and the economic crash of 2008. All those were momentous. The royal diamond jubilee is not momentous.
I do respect Elizabeth Windsor. She's done a very difficult job well for a very long time and being constantly in the public view, with no escape unlike politicians and even pop stars, must be extremely stressful. However, I respect a lot of people and they don't get yachts for it. Very few of them could afford the upkeep. Gove suggests the yacht would be a "longer lasting legacy" than street parties and the like. Well, yes, because a party is over in less than a day; but yachts of this sort don't last a lifetime. If the money is available, what about an arts centre or some homeless people's hostels? Or the sort of yacht kids from poor families could learn sea skills on?