Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s possibly the closest he’s got to the crown. We were told by a Nicolas Witchell who was even more gushingly sychophantic than usual that Charles had been tested positive for the coronavirus but is experiencing only mild symptoms, and is – I quote – “continuing to work while he’s in self-isolation”. There’s a whole lot to unpack in that sentence.
For starters, Nicolas Witchell upping the sychophancy is rather like a mountain of sugar covered in syrup having several litres of treacle poured over it because it was judged not to be sickly sweet enough. There are many people who can’t get tested, and widespread concerns about the difficulty of access to testing – especially for NHS staff – but we are informed that Charles was tested on Monday after qualifying for an NHS test due to his age and his medical condition. I never knew that being a member of the royal family counted as a medical condition, but then you look at Prince Andrew and think, “Well, fair enough.”
Charles is in self-isolation, but he’s self-isolating with his servants, staff, minions, lackeys, and security detail. He has ignored the advice for metropolitan types not to selfishly piss off to rural areas of Scotland where there are vulnerable health services for the duration of the crisis and is putting the already stretched health services on Deeside under further strain. And let’s be honest here, apart from waving at the plebs and writing letters to government ministers and newspapers protesting any threat to his privilege, the only job that Charles has ever had in his long life is waiting for his mother to pop her clogs, and she’s doing a very good impression of being rather more healthy than he is. But apart from that, the BBC’s report was entirely accurate.
Instead of the “oh poor Charles isn’t he wonderful but he’s doing well” guff that fills our TV screens, where is the anger? Where is the holding to account? This is a rich, privileged and extremely over-indulged man who recklessly and selfishly travelled with his sizeable entourage to a vulnerable area of Scotland, and who brought the virus with him. He did so despite the Scottish Government advice for people to stay at home. He did so despite first showing symptoms over the very weekend when he decided to travel. Why did he get preferential NHS treatment? Someone must have authorised it. Instead of kissing the hand of the royal circus clowns, our politicians should be calling him out.
Instead, what we get is the Herald attacking one of the few politicians who did dare to call him out. Former MP George Kerevan tweeted:
“This billionaire land owner disobeyed guidance to stay home to avoid spreading virus, went to second home in Scotland, is now infected and has infected others. Indy Scotland must be a republic and tax this arrogant fool.”
But instead of looking at the behaviour of the rich and arrogant fool who has put public health at risk, or even questioning whether there might be any truth in what George said, it’s hey SNPBad! There’s the Scottish media, fearlessly holding the powerful to account.
Charles won’t have to go to an overcrowded hospital full of overworked and overstressed staff struggling to do their very best in the worst of circumstances. He won’t be told that there’s no beds or no treatment. He won’t be expected to forgo any treatment because medical staff require it for a younger patient. If he should need a ventilator or an ICU bed there will be no question about him getting one as a matter of priority. He won’t ever have to face the indignity of lying on a cot in a repurposed warehouse with a thousand other sufferers, coughing up his life. Charles will be just fine. He’ll get the very best that modern medicine can provide, the second that it’s required. Because the British state is a state which deems him to be better than the likes of you or me.
As this crisis was just beginning on 3 March, Prince William was filmed during a trip to Ireland saying, “I bet everyone’s saying ‘I’ve got coronavirus, I’m dying.’ and you’re like ‘no you’ve just got a cough. I’m sure. It does seem quite dramatic about the coronavirus. Is it being a little hyped up, do you think, in the media? By the way, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are spreading the coronavirus. Sorry. So we’re keeping an eye on that, so do tell us if we need to stop.” Well that quote hasn’t aged well. Rather like Prince William, come to think of it.
What’s really hyped up in the media is the royal family. That’s what fuels their massive sense of entitlement. It’s one thing to joke about the crisis when you’re an ordinary punter, and you’re going to face the brunt of it. That’s gallows humour. Laughing is a coping mechanism when you’re confronted with the loss of your livelihood and income, your home is at risk. Laughing is even more a coping mechanism when you worry about a collapsing NHS which might not be able to cope with an influx of victims, and one of those victims could be you, or your spouse, or your parents, or your child. It’s quite a different matter to scoff at the seriousness of the epidemic when you’re a rich and privileged member of the British establishment who doesn’t have to worry about any of those things. It’s not gallows humour, it’s the callow indifference of a rich and privileged oaf.
What makes it even worse is that the media in the UK only fuels the fire of royal privilege. After Prince Philip, who had no business being behind the wheel of a car, carelessly and recklessly crashed into an innocent motorist, Nicolas Witchell didn’t appear on our screens and tell us that Prince Philip was acting like a privileged wanker who was a danger to himself and to the public – even though that was true. Instead we got gushing news reports about Prince Philip and how wonderful he is, and not a care about the two women and the baby he’d so nearly killed.
This matters. It matters because the entitlement and privilege and lack of accountability at the top of the British establishment filters down to others in that same establishment. There are different rules for the rich, different rules for the well-connected, different rules for the privileged. We see it in the casual indifference of Boris Johnson and our inability to hold him to account. We see it in the selfishness of Richard Branson, laying off staff while demanding a bailout from the government, but refusing to dip into his own massive private fortune. We see it in the actions of Wetherspoon owner Tim Martin, who first demanded that his pubs remain open, and who then laid off the staff without pay, telling them to apply for work with Tesco. Richard and Tim won’t have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads. They won’t have to worry about keeping food on the table. They won’t have to worry about getting access to medical care if they need it.
We’re all in it together my arse. This has to change, but if there’s one thing that we’ve already learned from generations of experience with the British state, it’s that the British state is unwilling and incapable of reforming itself. Scotland has another option. Once this crisis has passed, we need to take it.
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