New Royal Yacht would prove gratitude to Queen
I know we haven't got any money and I know there are more worthy and dull ways to spend it. But it's about time we gave the Queen a new Royal Yacht Britannia.
I know we haven't got any money and I know there are more worthy and dull ways to spend it. But it's about time we gave the Queen a new Royal Yacht Britannia writes Nigel Hastilow.
After all the bunting, boats and brouhaha of the wonderful jubilee celebrations, it's the least we can do.
We expected Her Majesty to stand through four hours on the River Thames as the weather grew colder and wetter.
And we expected her to sit happily through the Buckingham Palace concert worrying about whether Elton John might reprise Candle in the Wind. (Will someone please tell Peter Kaye that Winston was John Lennon's middle name not James Paul McCartney's?)
Overall, though, the jubilee weekend was a triumph. What with all the celebrations, street parties and beacons, it really did make us proud to be British. We may not be world-class at many things these days but we certainly know how to put on a party with all the pomp and circumstance we can muster.
So if we really want to show the Queen how much we appreciate her 60 glorious years on the throne, the least we can do is give her back the boat we so unceremoniously took from her.
The decision to axe the Royal Yacht was taken as long ago as 1994 by the then Defence Secretary Michael Portillo. He now claims Buckingham Palace was pleased with the way he handled the decision.
Only last year, he said he met the Queen's Private Secretary Sir Robert Fellowes six months after his announcement and was told: "I always meant to tell you Her Majesty was so pleased and grateful with you for wanting to order another royal yacht." That may be true – but where is this boat, then? Nowhere near the drawing board, let alone the slipway.
And it's highly unlikely the Queen was half as pleased with Mr Portillo as he is with himself. The only time I have met Prince Philip (may he recover quickly) wasn't long after Mr Portillo announced the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht.
The prince, in his typical style, was complaining about the decision and blaming it on the man he robustly referred to as "that little **** Portillo". That doesn't sound like someone who was at all "pleased and grateful".
We were reminded during the Thames pageant of how fond the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had been of the Royal Yacht Britannia when they were carried on its launch to their gilded barge.
By all accounts, the Queen was deeply attached to Britannia and still regrets her loss.
Britannia – now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh – was not just a home on the high seas for the Royal Family, it was a valuable symbol of the monarchy and a wonderful way of boosting this country's exports.
The Government spends millions trying to help British industry sell its goods abroad. Yet the Royal Yacht, with or without the Queen aboard, was an attraction in its own right both for our own industrialists and for the people they wanted to do business with.
Depriving the Royal Family of Britannia simultaneously cost our country of one of its most valuable marketing opportunities. Following her launch in 1953, the Royal Yacht carried The Queen and the Royal Family on 968 official voyages, from the South Seas to Antarctica.
She sailed for 43 years and 334 days travelling 1,087,623 nautical miles, calling at over 600 ports in 135 countries.
If the Russian zillionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich can kit himself out with a £1 billion super-yacht, surely we can find £60 million or so for a new Britannia.
There have been moves towards commissioning a new Royal Yacht but so far it looks like our political leaders have cold feet over the idea of putting in public money.
There would, inevitably, be criticism from the Guardian-reading classes, arguing that, in a time of austerity, it would be a terrible waste of public money. But we are about to splurge untold wealth on the Olympic Games. In 2005, let's not forget, the cost was estimated at £2.37 billion.
The latest guesstimates – I suspect we will never know the real figure – suggest the price may run to £24 billion.
If we can find all that for a fortnight's running, jumping and beach volleyball, we cannot pretend we are a nation on the breadline.
And in the context of all the ways the Government wastes out money, £60 million or so to honour our Head of State and thank her for 60 years of devoted service is a small price to pay. It's just £1 million a year.
If nothing else persuades our political masters, surely the genuine affection and enthusiasm for the Queen which we witnessed during the jubilee should be convincing enough.
We are incredibly fortunate that this country has a modest monarchy rather than some dreadful presidential republic.
For once, why don't we show our gratitude by presenting the Queen with a gift we know she really wants rather than forcing her to sit through another out-of-tune rendition by Cheryl Cole?
- See our Diamond Jubilee coverage here
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