The royal family seemed keen earlier this week to emphasise that the car in which Kate Middleton will travel to her wedding is the same Rolls Royce that was attacked in student protests.
No doubt this was intended as a heartwarming “good news” story, but something about it left me feeling uneasy, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what at the time:
Thinking about it further today, I think it’s the “Britain Can Take It!” tone of the coverage. We’re invited to think “Isn’t it great that those ghastly students haven’t succeeded in spoiling Kate’s special day?” At the very least, it’s hard not to see this as the royal family in some small way taking sides in a political issue.
(Not that I’m defending the students who attacked Charles and Camilla’s car. It was worse than a crime – it was a blunder, because it gave the media another excuse to focus on “violent students” rather than “violent police officers”.)
This particular story is only a straw in the wind, and I’ll cheerfully admit that I may be “over-reading” it. However, we do seem to be moving back towards a rhetoric of “the enemy within”: students, public sector workers (a.k.a. “enemies or enterprise”), lead-swinging benefit cheats, and so on.
In the light of that, it’ll be interesting to see how the phrase “we’re all in this together” develops over the next year or two. As coined by George Osborne, its avowed intent is to express how we are all one country, rich and poor, united against the common enemies of financial, economic and fiscal crisis, sharing its burdens fairly.
However, it won’t take much for it to become a slogan, not of a country united against external enemies, but of the middle and upper classes – “decent, respectable people” – united against internal enemies.
Which would at least have the benefit being more honest and accurate, given how this government has been acting to date.