"A more equal society is not one in which a mixed-race woman achieves status through her husband’s hereditary role in an archaic institution."
In late April, a woman from Kensington gave birth to a baby boy at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London. Several weeks later, her brother-in-law, a British Army veteran, married a mixed-race immigrant in Windsor. Both couples will live on the same Kensington estate. Less than two miles north of this, there stands the charred remains of another Kensington estate home. The fire which engulfed this property a year ago made news headlines and was seen by millions of viewers; likewise, the birth of the baby and the wedding. This much these recent events in the lives of residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have in common.
However, upon closer inspection, there are also major differences. The newly born Prince Louis of Cambridge is fifth in the line of succession to the British throne, meaning he could one day become Head of State. His mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to him in an NHS hospital, though in the private Lindo wing, which costs maternity patients upwards of £5,000, and his birth was greeted with a Gun Salute in Hyde Park. The Duchess’s brother-in-law, Prince Harry, is living nearby to Louis and his parents on the Kensington Palace estate grounds. There he is joined by his new bridge, Meghan Markle, in the two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage. Unlike former residents of the burnt-out Grenfell Tower, the newly appointed Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not have to pay the bedroom tax (or ‘spare room subsidy’) for this extra bedroom, which currently goes beyond their needs as a couple.
The MP for Kensington, Labour’s Emma Dent Coad, who represents residents of both Kensington Palace and Grenfell Tower, has openly criticised the cost of security and policing for Harry and Meghan’s wedding – thought to be around £30m. Dent Coad pointed out that while the taxpayer was expected to pay this bill, the fourth food bank to serve the community around Grenfell has just opened. Prince Louis will probably never require the services of a food bank, and guests at the royal wedding will have dined on a menu fit for a king. Harry may never reach the throne, but he and his new wife will want for nothing. While working-class communities like those in Grenfell suffer from the effects of austerity, including cuts to police numbers amidst rising crime, Harry’s family will be kept safe. Dozens more tower blocks around the country are awaiting the removal of unsafe cladding, which caused the Grenfell fire to spread so quickly. Until then, residents remain vulnerable.
Such inequality within the space of a few miles is not inevitable. A child born in Grenfell could one day grow up to be Head of State. At present, this is as much in the realms of fairy tale-land as Harry and Meghan’s wedding, and their open-top carriage ride through the streets of Windsor. However, both Kensington MP Dent Coad and Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, are republicans who do not believe in the monarchy. Other Labour MPs have opposed the customary oath of allegiance to the Queen when sworn in to the House of Commons.
A government that works for the many and not the few should not be funding an unelected elite of the kind which 52% of us supposedly voted against two years ago. The royal family are supposed to be politically neutral, yet the only currently serving MP present at the recent wedding was the veteran Conservative Sir Nicholas Soames, and the only surviving Prime Minister attending was Sir John Major, who also happens to have once been a Conservative MP. The power and finances of this hugely wealthy family remain largely unaccountable, and should be challenged by any future Labour government that is serious about building a fairer Britain where no one is held back. A more equal society is not one in which a mixed-race woman achieves status through her husband’s hereditary role in an archaic institution. Let’s all live happily ever after.
Theo Morgan is a Young Fabian member.