Mrs Osborne (centre) looks back, concerned at the chancellor’s squeezed middle; or, What is that woman doing with her hand in the chancellor’s flies?
Worried about security in London tomorrow? Maybe you should be. A month ago Lynne Owens, an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had this to say to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which was hearing evidence on the policing of the TUC march: we will be preparing to police any protests on the day of the royal wedding very robustly, but what we should remember is it is a different sort of event.
Royal occasions offer the pleasure of mass atavism, including the revival of antediluvian words and attitudes. As journalists and newsreaders constantly drool, Catherine Middleton is a ‘commoner’. When her wedding was announced, the word turned up in the Mail and the Telegraph, even – though in bet-hedging scare quotes – in the ‘liberal’ Guardian. The overseas press has been at it too. The other day, France 24 told its viewers that the prince was to wed a roturier; the Corriere della Sera said that he was marrying a borghese. It reopens neighbouring semantic fields, notably the use of ‘common’ to mean ‘not distinguished’, ‘vulgar, of plebeian origin, nature (derog.)’, as in ‘a common prostitute’, ‘common as muck’ and so on.
With bread prices rising, governments are having to think about upping the circus quotient: hence, the conspiracy theories run, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton; and hence the signing of an agreement this month for Edinburgh Zoo to receive two pandas, Tian Tian and Yangguang. Royalty and pandas have more in common than you might think: both have found their ecological niche shrinking, but have managed to cling on by rebranding themselves as a tourist draw; both have suffered over the years from a failure to renew the gene pool; and this helps to explain why both come under intense public pressure to perform sexually and produce offspring.
Universal rejoicing at the news of the royal engagement may not be shared in one corner of the kingdom: Highgrove. In polls commissioned to mark the announcement, Britons now seem to take a leap-frog view of the succession. According to yesterday’s ICM survey in the News of the World, 64 per cent of Britons want Prince William, rather than his father, to become king when the queen dies. ICM also found that fewer than one person in five wanted the crown to pass to Charles and Camilla. Meanwhile a YouGov poll in the Sunday Timesfound that 44 per cent of people thought Charles should make way for his son to become the next king, against 37 per cent who thought he should not.
David Cameron has told the BBC that the phone call from Buckingham Palace announcing Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement, which arrived during a cabinet meeting, was 'greeted with "a great cheer" and "banging of the table" from fellow ministers'. I bet it was: how obliging of the royal family to provide such a glittering distraction from the savagery of the spending cuts. And what a boost to the economy, too! Unless William's parsimonious recycling of his mother's engagement ring is a sign that they're planning a frugal ceremony at Bangor register office. Anyway, 'the timing is right now,' the second in line to the throne says. He surely can't mean that he was waiting for a Tory government, can he?