Britain's Deficient Democracy
Windsor Clan Pulls A Fast One
People Lose Again as Feudal Family Increases Take
A mood of austerity may be stalking Britain, but the champagne is still flowing at Buckingham Palace Financial Times
Britain's parliament has given in to the Windsor clan and has set back British democracy by allowing the feudal family to reclaim some of the revenue from the Crown Estate, a vast real estate holding valued at £8bn that generated a surplus of £240.2m in 2011-12 and that belongs to the people.
From 2011 the clan are to be given 15 per cent of the Estate's profits in place of the grants that have been paid since 1760. But if property prices fall, the clan will not lose out. It's income is guaranteed not to fall, no matter what happens in the property market. According to the Financial Times "The princely budgets will never be lesser than the previous year's. When the Crown Estate does well, royals win: when it does not, taxpayers lose". The Daily Mail has estimated that this could eventually mean the Windsors taking £68m a year, twice their current take, as wind farms increase the Estate's revenue.
After many years of trying, the Windsors, with the shameful help of the government and opposition parties, have clawed back some of their lost feudal wealth and privilege.
The royal family must have been getting the champagne out when we conceded this
The Financial Times quoted a "government source" as saying that "The royal family must have been getting the champagne out when we conceded this. They have been trying for decades to persuade ministers to do it".
250 year of history was overturned
According to the Daily Mail, a conservative newspaper, the decision to change the funding arrangement, which was announced without fanfare, was a "masterstroke" by Charles Windsor's chief adviser, Michael Peat. According to the newspaper "250 year of history was overturned" by the decision to allow the Windsors to get their hands on income that has been recognised since 1760 as belonging to the people of Britain. In 1760 the German side of the family had not yet emigrated to this country.
One could say they have pulled a fast one
The Windsor clan has been pressing to receive income from the Estate for over 100 years. Charles Windsor, who is due to become head of state on the death of this mother, has pushed for it for 20 years. But until now the Windsors’ claim that the Crown Estate belongs to them has been resisted by governments of all parties.
A Mail source told the newspaper that "Charles (Windsor) has always believed the money from the Crown Estate as taken away from the family. Now they have got it back. One could say they have pulled a fast one".
An independent and vigorous monarchy
Bur this is about more than the money. It is also about the freedom that the money will give members of the feudal institution. And it is about a rolling back of the democratic progress that has reduced the privileges of the Windsors and expanded the rights of the people.
The new concession will free the family from the limited accountability to the people it has had. In a related development the government has made the Windsors exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so that their activities in general will be shielded from public scrutiny.
In his biography of Mr. Windsor, Jonathan Dimbleby quoted people close to him as saying he believed that the income from the Crown Estate would help create "an independent and vigorous" monarchy.
Philip Hall, author of Royal Fortune - Tax, Money and the Monarchy, told the Financial Times that Windsor "probably more so than the Queen, seems to be staking out some kind of new role".
There is a major constitutional issue with appearing to say that (Elizabeth Windsor) owns all this stuff when she doesn't
And because the Windsor believe the Crown Estate is not the property of the people, the new arrangement will allow them to lie that the feudal institution costs the people nothing. According to the Financial Times Windsor staff find it "unedifying" to have to justify their spending of the money the people give them.
Rupert Ponsonby, a Conservative legislator-for-life, told the House of Lords that the new funding proposal was "appropriate because the Crown Estate remains the property of the Queen as sovereign". A "government source" refuted this, telling the Financial Times "There is a major constitutional issue with appearing to say that (Elizabeth Windsor) owns all this stuff when she doesn't".
Sovereign Support Grant
The proposed change in the form of public handouts was announced in October. Chancellor George Osborne said the feudal family would be allowed 15% of the Estate’s profits by means of a "Sovereign Support Grant", in place of the current annual handouts known as the "Civil List". He described the 15% Windsor cut of Estate income as "an indicative figure" and said there would be safeguards to limit the family's income. The National Audit Office will also be able to examine the new grant.
But this form of handout would end the current limited public scrutiny of the Windsor finances that their dependence on the "civil list" grants gives. According to the Daily Mail it will send £68m a year streaming into the family's bank account. If present trends continue they would also be guaranteed an annual increase".
The huge size of the payments would result from the development of offshore wind farms. The seabed on which they will be based is public property owned by the Crown Estate. Wind farm owners pay the Estate a fee to run cables across the seabed and a percentage of the income from electricity generation.
Doubling Their Money
The Estate says that its profits from the wind farms could reach £100m a year, giving £15m annually to the family. However, industry experts told the Mail that by 2020 income could reach £250m, £37.5 of which would be passed on to the Windsors. In total their 15% of Crown Estate profits would amount to £68m, more than double their current handout.
This Windsor triumph has taken Britain backwards, further away from a break with the feudal past, further away from fully democratic institutions and further away from a democratic society. Mr. Windsor will be freer to use his privileged potion to advance his prejudices, which in the past have prevented modern architecture and promoted homoeopathic remedies at the expense of taxpayers.
The Windsors will be potentially much richer, in a stronger position to claim that they pay their own way, and able to increase their freedom to put pressure on the government with less worrying that parliament might rein them in.
As Britain has no written constitution, and effectively therefore, no constitution of any reliability, challenging constitutional attacks such as this is particularly difficult. The only safeguard is a legislature occupied by legislators who have sworn allegiance to the Windsor family.
The Crown Estate Belongs to the People