Future heads of state on both sides of the Atlantic have been hitting the headlines this month. In the US, the presidential election is forging ahead, full of fanfare, hoopla, moral combat, insincere promises and, of course, ‘economic analysis’. The whole shebang is well on its way to an underwhelming denouement in the inauguration of the 45th caretaker of US capitalism.
Less feverishly, Charles Windsor, future head of both British and (bizarrely) Canadian states, has been caught in the media’s headlights (again). Charles, of course, needs no Big Top and election razzmatazz to invest him with power and privilege, only the family circus and his mum’s approval, signalled by the popping of her royal clogs. Recent journalistic digging, though, has unearthed just how much power and privilege the dusty corridors of Clarence House still retain. The noble prince, it seems, has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar rifling the ‘estates’ of Cornish commoners who die without heirs - as is his perfect right, apparently. Silver spoons are not enough to satisfy the controversial princeling. Nor even cookies, it seems. Now we have Spidergate, the prince’s dark attempts to influence power by writing to the PM – forbidden fruit for the monarchy. And we learn, too, of his ability to veto legislation through the royal prerogative, an institution as potent and mysterious as the orb and sceptre themselves.
Meanwhile, down in the sink estates, ghettoes and no-go areas of the urban poor, where lurk dangerous ne’er-do-wells and benefit fraudsters waiting to mug the economy and deprive well-fed, citizens of their hard-earned privileges (how could we doubt you, Mr Pickles?) – in these mean streets, few cookie jars can be seen gleaming in the lamplight. In the depths of depression and austerity, belts are tightening, homelessness is rising and pay-day loan sharks are on the prowl for desperate families trying to keep the kids warm and fed.
And why? The owners of capital are on an investment strike: too few cookies are available to tempt them back into making profits, and even fewer crumbs than usual are falling from their tables for the rest of us. What to do? In a moment of distraction, Captain Cameron and George, his loyal bursar, have been seen rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Not that British Capitalism is going under – far from it. The ship may be holed and sitting low in the water, but she’s a sturdy vessel. And her buoyancy chambers are soundly maintained by workers loyal to the owners’ interests. Like the Titanic disaster, though, this latest plunge into recession is claiming victims in steerage as several thousand pensioners are calculated to die of hypothermia this winter in the UK as surely as the Titanic’s passengers perished in the icy waters of the Atlantic.
So, in place of a socially responsible and fulfilling life, it’s more bread and circuses for the rest of us: we can drown out our worries with the noisy clatter of Mitt and Barack in the gladiatorial arena or the sight of Charles sneaking down to the kitchen at midnight, looking for the Jaffa cakes. Bring on the clowns.