In the wake of all these revelations about parliamentarians milking the system, what with their white goods, and their dog food, and their moats and their swimming pools, their multiple homes, it is curious that no-one has picked up on the grand scale of the corruption within the royal family. As with MPs, it is all perfectly legal and above board, in many instances, but why are we paying for Prince Charles to eat the food he eats and dress (or be dressed) in the clothes in which he dresses, and travel in the style in which he travels? Why are we paying for the Gloucesters and Kents? Why are we paying for the staff at Buckingham Palace, at Balmoral, at Sandringham?
Of course, nobody sees it as corrupt. Most people would vote to keep the royal family in place, just as they would probably vote for a return of the hangman. The royal family fills the pages of the newspapers every day, and nobody notices much that they too are milking the system. They will be oblivious of it, too.
Nor are they alone. As I mentioned ages ago, if you watch a programme like Masterchef, you spot hundreds of lunch-eaters paying whopping prices for expensive ingredients, apparently on a daily basis. Are they paying for these lunches themselves? Or are they charging them to expense accounts? One staple of Masterchef is that the contestants are required to cook for some highly select group – say, for instance, army officers at regimental dinners. Does the cost of these beanos come out of the pockets of the officers and their guests, or is the public purse paying for them to have slap-up meals like this?
The fact is, we subsidise a very substantial minority of people in privileged positions to eat, drink and be merry. We are forever having a national whip-round for their parties, for their pensions, for their travel arrangements, for the many services on offer to them. The subsidy is called income tax.
The gravy express at Westminster is not the only one running in this country, not the only one to carry a few passengers in luxury to which they will have become accustomed. There is something ludicrous about claiming for HobNobs and for trouser-presses, and something disturbing about claiming for interior decoration and garden furnishings. But Parliament is just one institution in this country which has started to rise above the law. Quite possibly because the law has also risen above the law. Who pays for the judge’s lunch? Who pays for the lawyer’s snack?
I only ask.