Amidst all this austerity, should the Queen be downsizing a bit? Getting rid of a palace or two perhaps? The Times columnist Janice Turner thinks so.
Turner reminds us that Princess Michael of Kent has recently had to give up Lypiatt, the Gloucestershire estate where she and her husband loved to stroll. (Princess Michael told The Sunday Times: "Our private secretary said: Ma'am, you have to downsize.' It was the worst word I'd heard in ages.")
So should the Queen follow her example? Turner doesn't doubt she's thrifty, coming, as she does, from a generation that abhors waste.
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"Her Majesty's Balmoral sitting room, as photographed recently by the visiting Prime Minister of New Zealand, looks like a grander version of every granny's parlour with its dog basket, endless framed family snaps and... that ugly electric radiator shoved into the ornate fireplace. This will do,' you can imagine her saying, don't turn the central heating up just for me.'"
It's not the Queen's thriftiness that's the problem, it's that her courtiers seem not to grasp "that the privy purse is filled by the public's increasingly tatty wallet". If we're reduced to selling off the Royal Mail, shouldn't we do the same with Windsor Castle?
The banquets held there could easily be held in Buckingham Palace. If the Queen "needs a weekend retreat", she could always go east to Sandringham. "I take the Hilary Mantel view that royals are like pandas," says Turner, "rare, exotic, unaffordable but amusing."
Even if the Queen won't downsize, do we really want her successor "echoing around" in some "vast shabby castle"? Wouldn't a self-funding operation be "more modern"?
Yes, it would but while it might please Turner, I doubt it would be much help to our national finances or to our national self-esteem.
Judges in the dock over perks
"It's the thin edge of the wedge," one judge told The Times. "Next in line will be drinks, entertaining and flowers." Flowers! "Has no one mentioned that this is the age of austerity, m'lud?" asks Moss. "Ah yes, the flowers," sighs one legal insider. "I don't think judges get a pot of money for that. They're just there at their lodgings when they arrive."
The lodgings are at the heart of the matter. Traditionally, hearing cases away from London, judges have stayed in very comfortable pads sets of lodgings that cost the Ministry of Justice £5m a year to maintain.
Two in particular cause controversy: the 18th-century Tower House in Norwich, which has its own folly, and a mock-Tudor country house in Hertfordshire. Housing judges in these properties costs £3,000 a night, says Moss and they're to be closed.
Having already lost their chauffeur-driven cars, judges from now on will have to stay, more often, in hotel rooms, presumably deprived of Sky TV and possibly with only plastic flowers.
Tabloid money: 'If only there was a bin big enough to contain the EU'
"As our last Hong Kong governor, Patten retains good contacts in China. Energy Secretary Ed Davey calls the deal a safe source of home-grown electricity'. What planet's he on?"
"So, obesity is killing our children, nearly 30% of the population is overweight and by 2015 [obesity] will cost the NHS £6.4bn a year," says Carole Malone in The Sunday Mirror.
"Yet that ridiculous organisation Nice is telling doctors they have to treat fat people with kid gloves Ensure the tone and content of all communications or dialogue is respectful and non-blaming', says one missive to doctors.OK, so now every fat person can justifiably claim that being fat isn't their fault That they're not greedy, just ill? And what all this respect and no blaming' means is that millions of morbidly obese people will now never have to do anything about it. Now, when they pitch up at cash-strapped hospitals with their totally avoidable obesity-related diseases, they can say their body is no longer their responsibility. It's the state's. Well done Nice!"
"Ludicrous new EU rules mean every house in the country will soon be forced to separate rubbish into four different bins," says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "Already some councils... are going further than that. In Newcastle-under-Lyme, residents have to put their waste in nine different containers. You just know that one day soon it will be revealed that more energy is expended recycling all this stuff than was spent shoving it in a furnace. And more toxic gases emitted, too. If only there was a waste receptacle large enough to contain the EU and its millions of resolutions. I suppose we could always use Greece."
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