Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Charles and the Monarchy

Prince Charles and Clarence House were yesterday triumphantly proclaiming that the Prince costs each person in Britain only three and a half pence a head. Good for him. Three and a half pence too much, as far as I'm concerned.

The question about the monarchy has nothing to do with whether Prince Charles provides value for money for the services he performs for the country (and, by the way, given that he has personal expenditure of £21 million, I somewhat doubt that he does). The question is whether it is right for someone to be so handsomely rewarded - from the public purse - for a position that he holds purely by the accident of his birth.

If Prince Charles truly represented value for money, then we would know that not only was Clarence House being run as efficiently as possible, but we would also know, beyond doubt, that Prince Charles was the best man to perform the public duties that he does. No-one can say this for sure, because he performs his public duties without having to worry about a better man coming along to take his job. He doesn't have to worry about being sacked, because his position as heir to the throne is held until either he or his mother starts pushing up the daisies. There is no way of the public ensuring that Prince Charles is not unnecessarily wasteful of their money.

In short, the actual cost per head is not the issue at hand. If three and a half pence per head was a suitable sum of money for one man because of who he is, why do we not all receive it? It's little more than a cheap point designed to head off concerns that the monarchy is expensive. Well, I see no reason why one man should be given £21 million for personal expenditure - and a man to put toothpaste on his toothbrush, for crying out loud! - purely because he was born as the eldest son to the Royal Family. Quite simply, it is an outrage against meritocracy. And if Clarence House was to represent value for money, we'd have a selection procedure that made sure we had the right man for the job.