And so the country is safe for another five months. A month of doom and ConDem cuts gloom has been obliterated to the backwaters of the nation’s memory by the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s long awaited engagement.
The papers are going crazy, and I for one intend to break out the Union Jack, clear my diary and hurl myself head first before the all-singing all-dancing bandwagon steaming straight towards us. A perma-smile adorns my face; streams of patriotic tears burn my cheeks at every natural new pose; and I’ve bought up the entire collection of (limited edition) Daily Mail commemorative plates.
As pseudo-monarchism temporarily sweeps the country, it is hardly surprising that the – now suspended – Bishop Pete Broadbent was met with national outrage after he had the ‘nerve’ to dismiss the wedding as so much “nauseating tosh”, prophesising the wedding to last only “seven years”.
But what exactly is so ridiculous about his words? Agreed, they were made at the wrong time and showed pretty poor judgement of the public mood, but given the royal family’s marital history it’s hardly an unfounded remark to make. Do we really want or need another royal circus trundling into town, charging way over the odds and generally pissing everyone off well before it’s over? Should we not just congratulate them, and then move swiftly on?
A recent survey by the Manchester Evening News showed 61 per cent polled to be, at best, apathetic towards the wedding, and the same percentage thought that coverage was already “way over the top”. Yet more than just another chance to break out winning smiles to the national media; the story served as a perfect foil for the coalition. In a week where student ‘riots’; yet more spending cuts; and a massive Irish bailout threatened to plummet the nation into a pre-Christmas slump, the news of the most protracted royal engagement in history conveniently glossed over an otherwise inconvenient week.
Even the prospect of it overshadowing May 5th (the crucial national referendum) couldn’t dampen Cameron’s spirits, as he greeted the news by way of covering the security and policing costs of the day, topping it with a brand new bank holiday for April 29th. While schoolchildren and workers all over the country will rejoice at an extra day off, estimates of the cost to the British economy put damages at around £5bn in paid holidays, overtime and lost business. At a time of financial turmoil, announcing a national holiday is surely tantamount to shooting the British economy in the foot.
Granted, significant merchandise sales and profit will be made from the marriage; some sources put it at around one billion pounds. Yet this is nowhere near the amount that will be lost by not just an additional paid holiday, but the accumulative effect of three bank holidays in as many weeks. No matter how many Will and Kate themed tea towels and mugs we flog, we will still make a huge loss.
Of course the couple deserve their special day, and the families’ decision to foot the bill in the current financial climate is at very least a commendable symbolic gesture. Yet public ‘respect’ for the couple in the upcoming months may well be tantamount to a unrelenting media circus. And for those millions around the country detached and indifferent to the whole show, the response will be a resounding thud of apathy. Roll on April 29th!