Voices: Does anybody want one of my ‘stuff the jubilee’ badges?

·3-min read
There could be a way of integrating the royal family into a more meritocratic society (Richard Best)
There could be a way of integrating the royal family into a more meritocratic society (Richard Best)

You not taking the extra day off work, then?” was the question, presumably rhetorical, although it is hard to be certain of the intent. I imagine they knew that we weren’t being tested on our loyalty to the House of Saxe-Coburg, sorry Windsor, before being allocated a buckshee day’s leave. As is so often the case, the question was in response to another, which happened to be: “Does anybody want one of my ‘stuff the jubilee’ badges?”

I wanted one.

I will be taking the day off work, for sure. But I won’t be attending any village fete adorned with union jack flag bunting, or tucking into a cream cake alongside my neighbours. Nor will I enter my terrier in the Best Jubilee-Themed Outfit class in the dog show.

And while some people react with wide-eyed incredulity to the existence of Brits who believe the jubilee of Her Maj is not something to be celebrated, I am equally gobsmacked by the fact that so many working-class people are still buying into this celebration of an anachronistic institution that, for me, cannot be separated from much of what is shameful about our country’s history.

It’s not just about a refusal to celebrate a lineage that has reigned over an empire constructed on foundations of war, enslavement, plundering and pillage, though – if that weren’t enough.

For me, it’s really about there being a class of people to whom we are supposed to bow, scrape and tug our collective forelock. That there is somebody who is elevated so far above the rest of us that they can choose how much tax to pay. It’s about the fact that we have people – presumably made of the same flesh and blood as the rest of us – who get to wear the title Sir or Dame. It’s about the fact that we have hereditary peers. That someone’s donations to a political party effectively buy them the right to gain an elevated social status.

Get the idea?

And for all that people say about the honours system being much fairer these days, and being able to cite the dinner lady from their local primary getting a gong, the overwhelming majority of people get little or no recognition for their public service beyond what is sadly, and unfairly, low pay.

Because in a fairer society and one that does not reward existing privilege, we would have a day off to celebrate the hospital cleaners on minimum wage, the single parents working two or three jobs to put food on the table, the classroom assistants helping our most vulnerable children… the list could go on, and on.

But throwing millions of public money into a celebration of one of the world’s wealthiest and most privileged individuals – when we hear daily tales of loyal subjects unable to eat properly or heat their homes – surely removes any doubt that our priorities are wrong.

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It’s nothing personal. The Queen has of course devoted her life to public service. I am happy for her and her family that she has lived a long and healthy life. But I’m not glad that she reigns over us; I’m not glad that there seem to be backdoor channels by which this family is able to exercise power and exert influence.

There could be a way of integrating the royal family into a more meritocratic society, of course. Some royal families around the world have done it. It doesn’t have to involve curtseying, or hereditary tax breaks for that matter.

Write an opera and give us a day off to sing it for the millions of unsung heroes, put the royals on PAYE, and I’ll be up a ladder in a heartbeat, hanging the bunting with the best of them and dressing my Jack Russell like a corgi.

But for now, I am pinning on my badge.

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