Londoners incessantly sequester funds from the rest of the UK with their ignorant anti-Brexit demonstrations and extravagant royal displays, the latest of which saw the knot-tying of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. Neither of these events bring any benefit to the poverty-stricken regions or make support for a second referendum more likely among those constituencies that voted Leave.
Royal weddings might indeed be a welcome source of intrigue and gossip in politically turbulent times, however the unacceptably high costs necessary for the policing of such occasions is a justified source of embarrassment to the Home Office, and a cause of discontent among underfunded regional councils. It’s no surprise that Thames Valley Police are loath to reveal any precise figures regarding their extortionate price tag.
Since austerity emerged in 2010 under Conservative governments, the taxpayer has funded three royal weddings, costing as much as £12million in total. Given that monarchical-related tourist revenue is absorbed by London and its surrounding regions, and only filtrates through to the rest of the economy through government spending, it becomes clear that royal weddings and events do little to benefit the UK’s regions in times of austerity. In fact — they are a facetious kick-in-the-teeth.
In contrast to areas suffering from disproportionate council cuts, such as the Northern heartlands, the Midlands and regions of the South West, places in London and the South East welcome royal occasions as a healthy boost to their local economy. Maidenhead Council — the constituency represented by Theresa May — scored financially from Meghan and Harry’s wedding. Everyone enjoyed the rapport — although there was some bad press when it was suggested that homeless people be removed from the borough in time for the royal visitation by the local council leader. The local authority spent £1.2 million on the affair, but reimbursement by central government diluted the total down to £92,891 — a figure more than met by tourist revenue generated.
‘Special grants’ for exceptional events can be used by local councils and police forces to fund royal weddings. No ‘special grant’ is available for Newcastle Council, however, which has been forced to cut spending on housing by 60.7 per cent in real terms since 2017, and cultural services by 60.7 per cent. At a time when the most economically deprived councils are visibly suffering, and are being told they must become self-sufficient, they are wondering — quite rightly — why a royal wedding is a special circumstance, but poverty isn’t? Why can London afford to continue engaging in culture — at an exceptionally high security cost — but many places around the UK cannot enjoy basic cultural or social entitlements under the auspice of austerity?
There’s another factor at play in London’s need for excessive policing costs and the application of ‘special grants’: their political marching. Protesting is a vital part of our democratic constitution and necessary in the process of making governments accountable. I personally voted Remain and hope for the emergence of a soft-Brexit type scenario following further political negotiation with the EU. However, since 2016, large numbers of political marches engulfing the capital have been outwardly hostile towards Brexit — by extension vilifying those who opted to end Britain’s union with Europe. This includes the most recent demonstration over the weekend of the 21st of October. The Telegraph noted that ‘more than 500,000 anti-Brexit campaigners have joined a central London protest calling for a fresh referendum’, or a ‘People’s Vote’, ending with a rally in Parliament Square.
There are many aspects of this sentence that are hard to swallow for the leave-backing regions, who themselves possess very little opportunity to directly engage with government, and see the demonstrations as an attempt to overturn their democratically-forwarded decision.
Like royal weddings, these protests cost the tax payer enormously. Aside from the costs of policing football matches, political displays are one of the biggest burdens to the Met Police — and by consequence UK taxpayer. Brexit is a catastrophe and I’d love more than anything to reverse the outcome of the vote. However, systematic protesting against the result by the population of London is a continued affront to the regions and ignores the complex reasoning for which people made the choice they did.
Gareth Snell, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent (one of the highest Leave percentiles in the UK), has reiterated his worry that Labour is being driven by its London, and more specifically Islington, base, represented by Corbyn, Emily Thornberry and a handful of other capital-based Labour MPs. He fears it is ignoring the democratic wishes of the rest of the UK. It denies the fact that voting Leave was also an attack on London elitism and over-centralisation of the nation’s economy in the capital. Demonstrations and royal weddings like the ones we have witnessed over the previous year do little to remedy this toxifying view.
London supplements the nation’s tax bill enormously and is understandably the centre of royal and political action. However, in a long decade of austerity and deeply conflicting politics, its heavy expenditure is intolerably oblivious to those areas feeling council cuts most acutely. The capital should be taking stock of its economic and geographical privilege and using its position to promote an integration of the country under a trading relationship that builds upon the result of the referendum, rather than alienating the regions even further. This is the only way to bridge political divides and stop the most disadvantaged in the country suffering under a regime that seems to remember its democratic obligations only when convenient.