I went to town to see the Queen*. I could tell you, as the Daily Mail describes, that she looked “stylish in pastels” or I could gush that “Her Majesty and Prince Philip stepped off the royal train at Victoria Station to rapturous applause from more than 800 flag-waving fans“
The reality, though, is I walked past Albert Square watching the people holding their camera phones aloft, and I couldn’t be bothered waiting for her to appear. The reality is also that it seemed of little interest to most Mancunians.
I won’t be allowed to miss out on the hysteria though because the Manchester Evening News promises a souvenir supplement on Saturday. The city is told with excitement that Queeny tucked in to “steak and venison pudding [...] served with celeriac mash and buttered savoy cabbage” which was “as all being prepared, cooked and served by town hall staff.”
It sounds like a fine meal and in the glorious surroundings of Manchester Town Hall – built in the mid-1800s to brag about the city’s wealth rather than tackle the slums. I wonder, though, if any of the town hall staff serving up the grub are worrying about potential redundancy or whether they can afford their next meal.
I can see, of course, that Jubilee fever is intending to take our minds off mass unemployment, the destruction of the NHS and the fact that we fund her family’s existence as well as the bonuses for fat cat bosses in banks. It tried much the same in 1977: when firefighters went on strike over pay, there was an International Monetary Fund bail-out, an oil crisis, the Labour government faced a vote of no confidence by Liberals and the Queen wanted us flag-waving for her Silver Jubilee. I didn’t then and I won’t now.
The crowd outside Manchester Town Hall was small as I passed. I like to think that fellow Mancunians see no point in standing in the streets – sunny or not. One website run by journalism students states that HRH was welcomed by “thousands” adding, “hundreds of children, parents and celebrators waved flags”. It also reports on anti-monarchy protesters greeting the Queen.
I can honestly say when I passed it was more like dozens – even the cabbie said he was surprised by how few had turned out, especially considering the sun was shining on this rainy city for a change.
The city’s streets weren’t lined with flag-waving royalists when I walked them. In Albert Square I saw some tourists taking photos; workers having their lunch in the sun; students milling about before they go home to wherever and, of course, photographers up on a statue to ensure a clear view of Her Maj – not a cheering crowd wanting to catch a glimpse of a pastel-wearing parasite.
Because, whether she’s in pretty pastels or polka dots and purple, it’s hard not to resent the expensive tour of an unelected monarch visiting a city facing tough cuts, potentially shedding 50% more jobs than Tory councils and with an average wage of less than £2,000 as the cost of living soars.
It is also particularly upsetting when one considers that the Save the Children revealed in february that 27% of the city’s children live in severe poverty. Its campaign previously called on the Chancellor to Chancellor to announce an emergency plan in the next budget to channel new jobs into the poorest areas and increase financial support for low-income families.
It says that single parents and families are living on less than between £7,000 and £12,500 a year. Meanwhile the Royals are given hundreds if thousands, according to the British Monarchy website. Even Prince Andrew receives £249,000 per annum.
*I didn’t actually go to see the Queen. I went to the People’s History Museum.