The case for giving the Queen a new yacht
Today, confidential correspondence concerning an idea for a new Royal Yacht from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, somehow ended up in The Guardian.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes tearful as she watches the decomissioning of The Royal Yacht Britannia on the 11th December 1997.
In his letter, Mr Gove wrote: "In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”
"Events such as proms and the party at the palace organised for the diamond jubilee, and street parties, although excellent, are transient.”
"It would be appropriate to do something that will mark the significance of this occasion with fitting ceremony.”
"My suggestion would be a gift from the nation to her majesty; thinking about David Willetts's excellent suggestion of a royal yacht, and something tangible to commemorate this momentous occasion."
Tom Watson, the Labour Party deputy chairman, however, along with others including Deputy PM Nick Clegg, predictably shot down the proposals when he commented:
"Michael Gove has shown he is out of touch with this proposal. When school budgets are being slashed, parents will be wondering how Gove came even to suggest this idea. This is not the time to spend £60m on a yacht."
The Royal Yacht Britannia
The 412ft Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as being the Queen’s “pride and joy,” performed a useful role in terms of taking the best of Britain to the world. It was used for the entertainment of dignitaries and as the travelling home of the Royal family but also acted as a brilliant ambassador for British business. According to an Overseas Trade Board estimate, some £3 billion alone was made for the Exchequer as a result of commercial days on Britannia between 1991 and 1995 alone.
In 1997, John Major’s Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected but with Tony Blair’s landslide victory, it was announced that the vessel would be decommissioned without replacement.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s biographer, Gyles Brandreth, in a June 2011 interview for the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay column, commented:
‘The Duke told me the Labour government of the late Forties handled the issue of financing the new royal yacht much more effectively than the Conservative government of the Nineties.”
Prince Philip is also said to have told his biographer that he blamed Michael Portillo, the then Secretary of State for Defence, for the failure to replace the Royal Yacht: “When Portillo got involved, he made a complete b******s of it!”
With the benefit of hindsight, even Tony Blair came to regret getting rid of the Royal Yacht. In comments to the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman, he is said to have remarked:
“I didn’t want to get rid of it… After we’d agreed to get rid of it, I actually went on it and I remember, as I stepped on, thinking: ‘That was such a mistake.’ “
Roman Abramovich's 533ft yacht Eclipse. Available to rent for £1.25m a week, the boat features 15 cabins for 30 guests and is staffed by a crew of up to 70.
Though many would suggest that the cost of building a new boat is reckless during these times of economic downturn, the benefits of constructing such a boat are plain. This would be a boat that, whether paid for by the public purse or through donations from business and the general public, could be used as a showcase for Britain. It wouldn’t be a pleasure boat of Roman Abramovich proportions, but one that would become a national flagship.
23-year old The Only Way is Essex star Mario Falcone pictured at the 2012 Tullett Prebon London Boat Show at The Excel where he allegedly put down a deposit on a £5.2m Sunseeker yacht. Surely if he can afford that, the Queen deserves something a little better.
With so many great boatbuilders in Britain, it really is time we clubbed together and got Brenda another berth. Better still, let’s ask the Chelsea Football Club owner to lend her one of the five vessels from what are often termed “Abramovich’s Navy.”
Read The Guardian’s coverage of Michael Gove’s suggestion at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/15/queen-royal-yacht-diamond-jubilee-gove
For more on The Royal Yacht Britannia, go to: http://www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk