Anti-monarchists see window of opportunity in wedding hype

2011-04-20 00:00

THE glossies are full of it, so too are the souvenir shops. One television documentary after another focuses on the upcoming royal wedding. The BBC can’t keep up with sales of all its productions on Prince William and Kate Middleton to companies all over the world.

But do the British people really like the monarchy or is it media overkill?

Anti-royalists in Britain, traditionally a small, scattered group, are certain they have the answer to this question.

“Some 79% of people in Britain do not have an opinion on the wedding,” says Peter Tatchell, one of the leading anti-monarchy activists, citing an opinion poll. The British people do not hate the royals. Some people like them. But I’m not sure whether anyone really loves them.”

Generating the hype in itself has been made more difficult by William, who, since his schooldays, has been wary of the media.

“Newspapers have found it difficult to find anything to write about,” says Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade.

Diana was only too willing to become a media icon. When she realised her mistake, she was already trapped. William, her eldest son, suffered from it ­and learnt a lesson.

As a result, the public still knows very little about Kate Middleton by comparison. Frustrated paparazzi are already dubbing the couple as “boring”.

But what does your ordinary Briton think? Millions are only too keen to fall under the spell of royal magic on April 29.

But Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, one of the biggest polling organisations in Britain, says that more Britons than ever before are going to be outside the country.

Thanks to the bank-holiday weekend close to Easter, people only have to take three days off and can go on holidays for 11 days. For many, that’s more important than royal wedding coaches and bearskin caps.

Anti-monarchists believe they have identified another important sign of wedding weariness.

Despite countless appeals, Britons have registered hardly any street parties — a must at royal festivities.

“A third of communities have not registered any. Two thirds of communities have registered fewer than five,” says Tatchell.

There is no demand whatsoever in Stoke Newington in the London Borough of Hackney.

“I can only presume that the lack of activity to organise a street party indicates a general disinterest in the wedding,” says Jim Westwood, a representative of the local housing association. His colleague in Hoxton wants to do something in the community hall where pensioners can go.

Anti-royalists like Graham Smith of the Republic organisation, which campaigns for an alternative to the monarchy, and Tatchell feel that validates their stance.

Apart from the question of how relevant the wedding is for vast parts of the population, they question the costs in particular.

The additional bank holiday alone is costing the state £200 million pounds. Economists estimate that an additional, non-work day will slow economic growth by 0,1%.

Opponents believe costs for the royal family are also too high. If a head of state were elected democratically, the people would only have to pay a fraction of the costs for a monarch and his entourage, Tatchell estimates.

“Our head of state inherits his office and does not acquire it through the will of the people. That has nothing to do with the modern era.”

And not even the argument that the monarchy attracts many tourists to the country holds sway, according to Tatchell. “France has not had a monarchy for over 140 years and more people visit Versailles than Windsor Castle,” he says, adding that the same applies to Legoland. — Sapa-dpa.


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