18 MONEY HONEY
Everyone has their limitations. Bob Dylan is not a man that likes to acknowledge his own but whatever he might or might not lack in his make up the man has confidence. No sweat for him to claim the times were changing back in the 1960s. And they might be right now except our betters argue that, because of the flaws in human nature, there is no alternative to anything but hierarchy and capitalism. Best staying in the jungle where it may not be safe but you know what is coming from behind the trees. If those on the right believe human nature is flawed, it has never prevented them from embracing the idea of grace. Fancy schools and luxurious playing fields exist for the blessed offspring of the powerful to be acquainted with superior manners, honour and all the rest. The sharp wit of Evelyn Waugh had some fine moments but he weakened in Brideshead Revisited and laid bare previously hidden sentimentality. We had to suffer a dollop of privileged entitlement and his conviction that the British aristocracy was blessed because it deserved to be. If not blessed by God then something. Actually, according to Waugh, it was God.
Right now, though, members of the British establishment must be thinking how they are ever going to prevail. Pfeffel has the best lawyers in town helping him to complete a Met Police questionnaire about the law breaking in Number Ten. Civil servants are also doing their best to persuade the Met not to release any of the 300 photographs and selfies that were taken at the lawbreaking festivities. One tries not to be cynical but, sorry, there must be some right corkers in the police files. The notion of politicians as role models for the plebs has long disappeared. The Brits, though, have a stiff-lipped Royal Family supposedly committed to self-effacing albeit very well-paid public service. Well, the Duke of York or Prince Andrew or Andy the Randy and his escapades have left us bare facts that sound like jokes. Rather than be offended by the allegations of Virginia Guiffre that Andy slept with her when she was underage and more than once she was raped by him, he has handed over £12m to Ms Guiffre, a woman the Duke of York previously claimed he had never met.
More than a few powerful people think the twelve million quid to keep Prince Andrew out of an American civil court is money well spent. But the Burkean role modelling that is supposed to unite us all behind the flag and inspire us to create civilised communities is long gone. This is not even amusing celebrity fodder. The Royal Family has lost so much moral authority it will soon struggle to muster a double page spread in Hello magazine. Katie Price could return to being famous. If there were not expanded mounds in the way, she could even look down her nose at Ma’am and the rest.
The latest estimate is that the Royal Family costs the British taxpayer £375m a year. Included in this is something called a Sovereign grant which is set at 25% of the surplus revenue from the Royal estate and its publicly owned portfolios. In Britain the nationalisation of industry starts at the top, and that must be a good place to be because the chief executive gets a quarter of the profits. As a special bonus, all the security and armed vehicles that take the Royals between their various houses are charged to the budget of our egalitarian friends at the Met. Trickle down economics this is not. Nor should we forget the money that goes directly to the Royal Family, its income from the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall. This amounts to over £40m a year. The Queen ‘voluntarily’ pays tax on her private income but, like the politicians that bow and scrape in her presence, she has expenses. And her investments tax havens in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda suggest priorities other than the public purse.
To be honest the lady is not legally liable for much. No need for a passport and a driving licence for the Queen. Nor does equal opportunity legislation apply to the Royal Family, which makes sense because with it we could all apply to be King or Queen and that is not happening. What we think of as roles on behalf of the State, the Queen realises is a family business that will at least guarantee good jobs for the kids. This, like not being legally liable to pay tax, is an important principle for the Queen, as is the non-payment of inheritance tax. The non-payment of the latter means revenue funds have been forfeited by the British taxpayer for some time. Already there have been murmurings and discontent over whether the £12m for the Guiffre settlement will be funded by the British taxpayer rather than the Queen. The truth is that the £12m hush money that Andrew will send across the Atlantic was paid by the British taxpayer a long time ago.
It is not just the Brits who are sharing their dosh with the Royal Family. In September 2021 the Sunday Times reported that Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid as much as £1.5m to fixers with links to Prince Charles in order that Mahfouz would secure a CBE. So far the allegation is that the donations were used to fund renovations to residences used by Prince Charles and, every cloud has a silver lining, some of his charitable ventures. Prince Charles has denied all knowledge of these payments and the rewards for Mahfouz. The Prince Consort might be right but just in case we need, in the words of Sam Spade, a patsy, Michael Fawcett has stepped up to step down as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation. Bin Mahfouz, according to a Guardian report, now has a British wood named after him. The Mahfouz Wood, such a fuss and not even a forest, is just outside the 15th Century Castle of Mey which used to be the home of the Queen Mother. Never mind bedrooms, these people do not even believe in shared castles. The Castle of Mey is one, yes one, of the Scottish residences of Prince Charles. We have to assume that the Prince failed to notice that someone changed the name of the front garden.
Money talks but the trial of strength between Russia and the West on the Ukraine border is about historical grievances. It is also being waged by people that are not just in charge of empires but take themselves awfully seriously and, on both sides, are served by lackeys too willing to spread misinformation to an in-heat media. It is the usual depressing nonsense. Time would be better spent thinking about the people lost to the Covid pandemic. The lowest estimate of Covid deaths is five million but some reckon the number is four times higher. In the last year there have been all the Covid deaths and a record number of trees lost in storms and animals burnt to death in forest fires. The last thing we need is another war and more destruction and fatalities, especially as we have a couple of other wars already bubbling along nicely.
Much has been said about protecting the poor people of Ukraine but the British government has never worried itself about the poor people of Russia that Putin has plundered and exploited since he has been in power. England has is the money laundering capital of the world. Obtaining a precise figure for the cash that is washed in London is impossible but the highest estimate is £100bn. The Russia Report was prepared by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. The anything but bold committee members acknowledged that dirty Russian money was being laundered in London by Putin and his fellow robbers. Not all the Russian kleptocrats with funds in London will be allies of Putin. Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich is no friend of the wannabe Arnold Schwarznegger and an obvious exception. But, according to the Russia Report, Putin and his mates do have money invested in London. £5bn of what the Russia Report calls ‘suspicious wealth’ has been invested in London property. One fifth of that little pile was attributed to Putin and his allies.
Much of the money laundered may be hidden but there is no hiding for Liz Truss, the woman that everyone has seen. Clenched teeth, no nonsense jawlines and vacant but hostile stares appear to be mandatory for female Tory ministers. Dorries, Patel and Coffey are the other nightmare examples. Their male counterparts specialise in smug smirks. At the rate of five snapshots a day generously shared with the British media, Truss has already posed for numerous photographs, even more than the Met is suppressing over at Number Ten. Truss has promised that as part of the proposed sanctions against Russia the legislation against money laundering will be ‘widened’ to ensure more stringent action is taken against the wealth of the oligarchs. Nothing new there then. Britain already has the toughest anti-money-laundering legislation in the world. The problem is it is not applied, mates and all that As there is nothing to widen, we should not expect Belgravia to be full of empty properties just yet, especially from a government that recently put Yevgeny Lebedev in the House of Lords. Lebedev is the owner of two British newspapers, the Independent and the Evening Standard. No, the money that bought those two newspapers is not counted in the estimates of suspicious wealth. The latter newspaper ran a sustained, vitriolic and not entirely honest campaign against Ken LIvingstone. Back in 2008 the slurs from the indignant Russian editor about corruption in the Livingstone administration, pause for a sly smile, featured almost daily in the Evening Standard and helped Pfeffel win the Mayor of London election. Lebedev was nominated for his position in the House of Lords by Pfeffel, and the recommendation was approved by the Queen who might or might have not raised an eyebrow. Bet she was not thinking about signing off Russian oligarchs as quasi-relatives in 1953 when they put her on the throne in Westminster Abbey. You do not have to be suspicious, wealthy or not, to believe Lebedev is in the House of Lords because his newspaper helped Pfeffel to become Mayor of London. And how Pfeffel became a major player should make anyone wonder whether Brexit was always more about money than nationalism.
Howard Jackson has had thirteen books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Long After This is now available here.