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Britain at its worst

5 May 2011

5:36 PM

5 May 2011

5:36 PM

It couldn’t have been a more extraordinary bank holiday for news and spectacle.
But now the fuss is beginning to die down it’s possible to compare and contrast the hysteria that greeted the Royal Wedding and the death of Osama bin Laden. There has been a certain amount
of squeamishness about the “frat boy” reaction to the death of the al-Qaeda leader. But I have to say I find the celebrations at the death of the 21st century’s most notorious
mass murderer far easier to comprehend than the astonishing outpouring of feudal deference for the heir to the heir to the throne.

The most nauseating image of all (and there were many) was the final arrogant flourish of Prince William driving his new wife from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House in a vintage Aston Martin. As
the sycophantic TV commentary informed us, this was Prince Charles’s car, lent to the young marrieds for the occasion. As a celebration of the unearned benefits of privilege and class it was
hard to beat. It was the defining moment of the whole event and a massive “up yours” from these two representatives of the undeserving rich.

At the Orwell Prize shorlisting debate last week the Fabians’ Sunder Katwala joined forces with the Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens to argue for the constitutional monarchy. His
shoulder-shrugging argument was persuasive. Sunder, as a recovering republican, argued that there was no good reason to believe that we would be better off without a monarchy and, in any case,
there was no popular consensus for change. I was almost convinced, but that was before the wedding.

William and Kate turned out to be the prince and princess of cheese, choosing to surround themselves with the representatives of international despots, right-wing politicians and ageing pop stars.
At a time of national austerity, the House of Windsor chose to parade its moral bankruptcy. This was Britain at its very worst.

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