Don’t have plans for the coronation bank holiday? Don’t be afraid. The king invites you to join the Big Help Out, a national day of volunteering designed to celebrate the new regime. Or as the Telegraph breathlessly describes it, “a tribute to Charles for his many years in public service”.
According to the official website, the Big Help Out will “give everyone a chance to take part”. What charity actions would Buckingham Palace like us to be involved in, exactly? Pushing out toothpaste for an elderly neighbor, perhaps. Or staff a local art center (remember not to take the art home with you).
With a cost of living crisis adding to hardship across the country, particularly in the poorest communities, there is said to be a national shortage of volunteers to meet the demand. Organizers hoped the Big Help Out would spark a new wave of volunteering, but some at the charity fear the event will be a “damp squib” due to a lack of participants.
Is one surprised? A man whose own car is estimated to be worth more than £6m feels like asking the rest of us to celebrate his royalty by helping out at the local food bank, which is, shall we say, a bit “let them eat quiche”.
Volunteering can be very rewarding, and many organizations are in desperate need of more help, but there could be better ways to promote the cause than an event that is literally a legacy privilege trust. People who already work every hour to put food on the table hardly need a billionaire to ask them to use their day off to do more.
As the commentary on this country’s relationship with class goes, it couldn’t be worse if families had a golden King Charles car available to scrub with their electricity bills.
Charity has long been a personal interest of the royal family, supporters of the monarchy insist. As the coronation preceded the coronation, the Princess of Wales “previously unannounced” to visit Windsor’s baby bank for needy newborns (the photographers were there coincidentally, you see). Over 850 community and charity representatives have been invited to the coronation to show the king’s appreciation for their work and 400 young volunteers will also be watching from St Margaret’s church, Westminster Abbey.
No word yet on whether representatives from HMRC have been invited. Royals always seem to prefer ad hoc charity work to taxation, like Amazon’s boss or the Victorians. The £1bn Duchy of Cornwall estate – previously inherited by Charles and recently passed on to Prince William – is not liable to corporation tax or capital gains tax.
But don’t worry, according to the duchy’s website, under Charles’ leadership, the multi-million pound annual income has been used to fund its “public, private and charitable activities”. In particular, Charles did not pay a single penny of inheritance tax on the fortune left him by the late Queen last year (the jewelery alone is estimated to be worth at least £533m), although he did “volunteer” to pay income tax, as he said. also did on the duchy’s estate. “Volunteering” to pay tax feels a little like criminal “volunteering” to hand yourself over to the authorities. It doesn’t seem like something you usually get a choice in.
For the little people, tax is not a hobby – it funds the key services we all depend on. In fact, the “crisis in volunteering” that Big Help Out hopes to fill has been largely created by government cuts in recent years, and the wealthiest have hoarded and increased their wealth. Over the past decade, local councils and neighborhood services such as parks, libraries and “hidden” children’s centers have faced £15bn in real terms cuts since 2010.
There seems to be no money available for Sure Start centers but you will be relieved to hear that ministers have found £8m to offer all public bodies a free portrait of King Charles. Oliver Dowden, the new deputy prime minister and chief patriot, says the portraits would bring the nation together. So hospitals would work.
It is estimated that the coronation itself will cost the public purse between £50m and £100m. Charles’ personal fortune is thought to be close to £2bn, but as anyone who has bought a £60 ticket to St Pancras knows, a 1.3 mile coronation run-up can very well be described as a “work trip”.
Related: More than 850 people with community and charity roles to attend the king’s crown
In the coming days, endless commentators will be ready to declare that the coronation makes them “proud to be British”, and anyone who criticizes any aspect of it will be branded “hate their country”. I have never understood the mentality that feels more proud of producing Prince Andrew than the welfare state. At the very least, we would certainly be allowed to ask some questions. Can a modern nation be democratic if it keeps an unelected head of state? Is it a point of celebration or shame to be more dependent on charity? Does sanitizing royalty normalize wider inequality? As a diamond studded crown is placed on the king’s head, your local homeless shelter is packed desperate for help. Don’t you feel proud to be British?