UK education minister: times are tough, let's spend £60M on a new yacht for the Queen!

Britain's flamboyantly weird education secretary Michael Gove sometimes seems to me to be some kind of secret saboteur, bent on discrediting Tories as out-of-touch rich nutjobs. Education budgets are being hacked and slashed, teachers being laid off, class sizes ballooning -- so he proposes stuff like "Let's give every child a Bible!" and "Let's make Latin mandatory!"

But his latest suggestion is weird even by Gove's lights: "Let's buy the Queen a £60M yacht! Because that will help us all celebrate the diamond jubilee and put us in a great mood!"

Clegg who was responding to a question about the idea after giving a speech on the economy, said he wasn't going to comment on leaks – Gove's letter punting the idea – but joked about "haves and have-yachts".

In the confidential leaked letter that Gove sent to fellow ministers, he urged: "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." He suggested "a gift from the nation to her majesty" such as "David Willetts's excellent suggestion of a royal yacht".

Tom Watson, the Labour party chairman, said the whole idea showed how out of touch Gove was. In a blog, he posted that although the diamond jubilee should be celebrated, Michael Gove has shown he is "out of touch" with this proposal.

Downing Street rejects diamond jubilee royal yacht idea

(Image: Mega-Yacht, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from simiant's photostream)


  1. This is clearly an effort to make Cameron seem funnier by teeing up the “haves and have-yachts” joke. Very good, Dave!

    1. It was Clegg rather than Cameron and I can’t see a Tory setting up a joke so that Clegg could look good. Personally I think Clegg should have just rolled his eyes…

    1. There is no link like that between ancient greek and modern greek.

      English isn’t related to  latin and takes very little from it, certainly not grammar.  English is derived from the germanic languages.There is no practical advantage to learning latin other than the  historical and academic interest.

      1. Hold on… this is just not true.

        We’re extremely fortunate, as speakers of English, that our language is derived (first and foremost) from the Germanic root, but has since taken huge influence from Latinate and Romance languages.

        Suggesting that Latin should be compulsory is ridiculous. Suggesting it has no value is ignorant.No offence.

        1. Agreed. I had mandatory latin in high school. As a consequence, I have a better understanding of spelling rules, and am guaranteed to correctly use such terms as per capita, a priori, ad hoc, in addendum, in medias res, quid pro quo, et caetera…et caetera. I can often correctly define words I have never heard before based on the latin word they are derived from, I can decipher most inscriptions on old works of art and architecture, understand mottos, more easily remember botanical nomenclature, and when a classic book contains a latin phrase, I don’t have to google it. Nor do I get confused when the phrase is altered for the sake of a pun.

          Also I get a much bigger laugh out of Terry Pratchett books. I gain all of this with a very, very basic knowledge of latin. No practical advantage? Quidquid discis, tibi discis. 

          1. A pulchritudinous point. A singular assertion. We should permit jorum a second to extract himself from the rather vacuous and desperate place in which he finds himself and, in all sincerity, pay testament to his essential humility.

        1. Going by that graph English is just as related to French, so you could teach that instead and have the advantage of actually being able to use IRL. But you know ALL modern language are a mish-mash of historical influences but people like to focus on the Latin influence because of its perceived connection to high culture.

          1. Absolutely true. However, having studied Latin, I think it is a good gateway to more easily picking up other Romance languages — especially Spanish, French, and Italian.

          2. @RobertBaruch:disqus I think it depends on how your mind works. I speak French as a second language but had a terrible time with Latin. Probably due to the declensions, coming from Dutch which only has vestigial remains of its declension system. It’s not for everyone. I’ve seen the same phenomenon from the other side in programming where some people just don’t get “pointers” in C, yet those people could still make good Java programmers.

      2. >There is no practical advantage to learning latin other than the  historical and academic interest.

        Have you learned Latin?

        I studied English, French, German, and Latin at school, and without a doubt the one that was the most useful to me is Latin – and not by a small margin. Without the comprehension of syntax and (to a lesser extent, since it doesn’t apply much in English) accidence taught only in Latin lessons, all of those others would have been a lot harder. Plus realistically the only one I use is English, but Latin taught me more English than English ever did. Latin lessons lay the groundwork that all the other language teachers think isn’t sexy enough.

        Arguably it would have been sufficient to learn English, only taught in a radically different way, but that’s just not the reality.

        My ideal would be to make linguistics lessons compulsory instead, FWIW.

    2. Not really the same; the gap between Latin and Modern English is huge (and the gap between Old English and modern is arguably even larger…)

      I’m very glad I went to one of the schools that still teach Latin; I’m very glad I learned it. But it’s not more useful than, say, geography, history, art or literature. Making it mandatory is ridiculous. (Unless you’re going to remove pupil choice and have a fixed mandatory curriculum – also not a good idea.)

      What would be useful is encouraging earlier learning of foreign languages. It’s only recently that the government has even noticed that we always started teaching languages long after the age where learning them is still natural. When I was 10 years old I thought it was stupid that I couldn’t learn French until 13; when I was 14 I knew I’d been right.

    3. I actually wish I’d been taught Latin.  Partially for the reasons you state.  Because of the Germanic roots of our language it;s not quite as straight-forward, but some knowledge of Latin goes a long way to helping understand unfamiliar words or phrases, and obviously has a very important role in science.

      I wouldn’t suggest it be mandatory though.

      And the Bible thing?  Wow, I hadn’t heard that one before.  This is what you get though when you put random toffs in charge of whole sectors, with no actual qualifications to set you apart from any other random toff in that sector – I think they must just pick what they’ll be in charge of out of a hat.  It’s a mad system.

    4. Latin is a good thing to learn precisely because it’s quite a bit different from English, grammatically speaking. It forces you to understand ideas like gender and case. The vocabulary is also good for some of the more scholarly areas within English, as well as for its relation to romance languages. 

      If there’s one foreign language it would be useful to learn at a young age to make learning other foreign languages easier, it’s Latin. Unfortunately, very little in the educational system today operates on the notion of laying a groundwork as they’d rather jump straight into today’s trendy skills.

      1. I wonder if other countries have that same generic defence for everything that costs them lots of money and has no actual benefit.

        It is an amusing meme the government has coined for itself.

        1. In the US, there is at least the conviction that big chunks of the Federal government could be done away with.  On the liberal side, it means big chunks of the military, on the conservative side, it’s everything else.

        2. Well the problem is that, short of getting rid of them, it’s hard to quantify the effect they have on tourism so we can’t prove conclusively that they have a net cost.

          Plus a lot of people seem to like having them, for some reason.

      1. I’m not so sure.  I think you’ll find that most people simply don’t care.  I fit into that category; I have no love for the monarchy, but equally they don;t bother me much; and on a personal level they cost next to nothing.  So it’s just a bit ‘meh’.

        There are probably as many people that hate the monarchy as love it, with the majority in the ‘meh’ pile.  That would be my guess.

    1. Why doesn’t America get rid of its simple plurality that creates untenable two party monopolies?  Because of stupid inertia, in both cases, I think.

    2.  The UK did get rid of the monarchy. It was a Republic and had a revolution before it was cool.

      They didn’t like it very much because Oliver Cromwell took over and became a dictator for life. After he died and his brother was an equally shitty leader, the monarchy was brought back from exile.

  2. The £60M price is based on the estimated price to replace HMS Britannia, but that was in 1997 money. £60M would buy a rubbish yacht nowadays.

    I Say we scrap the NHS and buy the Queen a Yacht fitting of her stature with the money we’d save. Maybe build her a floating island volcano fortress instead. That would inspire fear in the masses, we can sacrifice the unemployed and disabled to the volcano god to solve the benefits problems we are having too…

      1. Hahah what?  Really?  Luxury yachts don’t have VAT?  Or have 0% VAT, I guess?  How is that…I don’t even…plutocracy, everybody!  Or am I missing something?

        1. To the best of my knowledge it is absolutely true, no doubt to promote the yacht building industry.

          1. They’re not zero-rated. It is, however, very easy due to dodge VAT on them due to their nature.

            Basically, VAT is payable on yachts bought in the EU or imported into the EU. However, the definition of “import” is such that it’s possible to have a yacht while never counting as importing it into the EU and having to pay VAT,  even if you visit EU ports.

            Importation is defined as such so that sailors from outside the EU can make temporary visits to the EU without having to pay a sizable percentage of the value of their boat to do so- and remember that for a lot of long-distance cruising sailors, the boat and its contents are most of their material possessions.

  3. I like that the world is divided into the haves and the have-yachts. Obviously the “don’t haves” are so far down the pile now that they don’t even merit consideration. If we remove them from all statistics, we can cut unemployment to practically zero and remove all the waiting lists from hospitals. Of course school class sizes will be smaller, so maybe we can make a saving by laying off some teachers and selling some school land to develop new marinas, which are obviously in great demand…
    Or not.

    1. you know, I think you’re on to something here. And anyone who complains about it can be enrolled on a mandatory work program. Of course, we would have to feed them and give them some basic shelter, but think how much we could save

      1. & think of the boost to the economy the prison-industrial complex would create!  The job creators at the top of the pile would be flush with cash from all the mandatory housing & mandatory work camps, & that would all trickle down to the citizenslaves!

        Actually, this is starting to sound ridiculous.  Plutocrats wouldn’t actually do anything to create jobs.

      2. “Of course, we would have to feed them and give them some basic shelter”

        The Scientologists have that down to an art with their forced labor camps, perhaps some advice could be gleaned from them?

  4. The Monarchy is a useful part of civil society. I’m not keen on the socialists idea of having an elected celebrity president. The position works because the incumbent is above politics and is therefore capable of representing everybody. As for a yacht, well if it were more productive for the country than some of the mouldering piles of buildings that the monarch is responsible for – then yes why not, I’d even make a personal donation. After all the socialists got rid of the last royal yacht (as most of their actions were) as a spiteful act of class warfare. All they care about is ensuring hatred of anyone who isnt on message with them – and obviously the rich or the social establishment are the first targets. The Monarch is primarily a symbol of our country and as such deserves some protection, I’m certainly not going to join the baying witch hunt of hate speech against her.

    1. I’m certainly not going to join the baying witch hunt of hate speech against her

      Do you know, it might not be so surprising if you did; people do change their political allegiances occasionally, and judging from the rest of your message, you seem well qualified in other respects.

      1. Like Jesus Christ she has two natures hence all the confusion. People don’t always differentiate Elizabeth II from Mrs Lizzie Windsor. I am sure the latter is not worth the effort of hating.

    2. Mrs Windsor represents nobody but her own inbreed brood. Her role in politics is purely as a figurehead which is to say she does nothing useful, does not get involved. We could pay a professional meeter and greeter a lot less than she steals from the public purse. At least let us have a head of state that gives a shit rather than the ultimate benefit scrounger!

      1. “Her role in politics is purely as a figurehead,” I think you will find that there is some use in having a figurehead that is separate from politics. This way you can hate the government, and still be loyal to your country. Where in the United States people who criticize the president are often branded as un-American.

        1. I’m quite capable of being loyal to my country without needing a person to invest that emotion in. 

        2. “This way you can hate the government, and still be loyal to your country. Where in the United States people who criticize the president are often branded as un-American.”

          Uh, being allowed to hate an individual that isn’t the Government but not the ones who make the decisions? You’re still going to get called “un-” whatever if you’re anything less than a fist-pumping nationalist.

    3. “The Monarchy is a useful part of civil society. I’m not keen on the socialists idea of having an elected celebrity president”

      Democracy is useless, I prefer a hereditary celebrity to rule over me!

  5. Dear Boingboing,

    is it possible to buy framed prints of comments from this site? This shit is golden, magical, and needs to be preserved.

  6. And if you ever wondered if the comment “Power seems to cause brain damage in those who gain it”  was incorrect….

  7. Latin can never hurt anyone. Bibles are iffier. But in Gove’s defence he seems keen to knock the idea of creationism in schools on the head, unlike Blair in his Messaianic zeal.

  8. totally agreed. My friends son is 6, and has been learning english at his Indian school for a year now. He speaks English better than I speak Hindi, and I’ve been learning it for a few more years.

  9. ‘…but joked about “haves and have-yachts”.’

    Love it.

    Clegg may now just be owned by Robocameron, but he’s still the most human politician I know of.  I still think that if a PM actually had any real political influence (rather than being the spokesperson for all the people that own the government) he’d do the best job.

  10. Wouldn’t be a terrible development if, as a culture, we grew out of the whole “country” and “patriotism” bollocks, either.

    Gah, this was in reply to abstract_reg, don’t know what it’s doing here.

  11. I propose making it a straight-up cash-for-honors scheme, funded entirely by the private sector. Anybody who stumps up more than £250,000 gets to join the Order of the Royal Bathing Cap (lifetime honor) *if* the total amount needed is raised in time for the Jubilee.

  12. The way you do these things is through what you call in French “souscription nationale”, I don’t know what you call it in English. Maybe “national subscription” but that doesn’t sound right. You set up a fund and people donate as a sign of esteem for the person being honored. You certainly don’t take it out of general tax revenue. It would almost be insulting to the Queen.

    My opinion on the monarchy is that the British could get rid of it if they wanted to, but they don’t. I think the main reason is that they (those who don’t want to get rid of it) see it as a part of their culture that they don’t want to lose, and they think the per capita cost is worth it.

    This is fine with me, as I think the loss of British culture over the years has caused big problems there. Partly from Americanization but also just in the course of modernization, like so many places around the world. Often immigration is blamed, but that is putting the cart before the horse. If the native culture was stronger, they would integrate immigrants better. They failed to protect their culture and now they put the blame in the wrong place. Conversely I would fully support the abolition of the monarchy if the Brits voted for it, but I would have a twinge of regret.

  13. And the irony is that the same people decrying this idiotic spending have no reservations about abolishing most of the government’s authority.

    Authority gets abused. The less there is, the less abuse there is.

    1. And the irony is that most capitalists have no reservations about submitting to authority as long it is held by corporations, which [ or is it who ;) ] under ideal conditions are accountable only to their shareholders but not to something that ideally is accountable to the people.

  14. Well 60 million pound is a lot of money but let me point out that she’s still “Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”. She’s the social better of any commoner or lower aristocrat in the world, including 100% of the people on BoingBoing. You can’t expect that the same rules are applied to Her Majesty as are applied to the third estate – meaning, in other words, that in order to affirm Her dignity she is to be lavished with material wealth paid for by the taxpayer. Not by some voluntary scheme as 無常感 suggests because that makes the people’s fulfilment of their natural obligations to the Sovereign contingent on the former’s free choice, which would be an affront to Her Majesty.

    1. Good on you for getting the third character right, I use a variant that’s a bit less common than 無常観.

    2. Weird that HRM Elizabeth Regina would be insulted by voluntary contributions to her comfort and lifestyle, but an Empire-wide confiscatory program of support would be utterly meet and proper.

      Such a crowned head would deserve to be affronted.

  15. I say mandatory Scotch Wales. The Queens of London could return more than that share in tax from diversifying #London use, if only they could have that meager touring budget. Absolutely in the Commonwealth Education Charter.

  16. In the interests of appearing egalitarian, I’m putting off my yacht shopping until the economy picks up.  But honestly, isn’t the price of this yacht about what we spend on security and transportation for the POTUS and his entourage every few months?

    1. Probably wouldn’t take too many cross-country flights on Air Force One to exceed that.  But POTUS & Co. ostensibly work for a living, and most of them did not inherit their jobs, nor will they pass on the trappings of their position to their offspring, except maybe for some pens and Camp David hoodies.

      Reagan got to keep his Air Force One 707, it’s true, but only after W. was through with it.  And some assembly was required.  Far as I know, we don’t have a Presidential yacht since Carter sold the Sequoia.

      1. The Queen is the head of state for quite a few countries and she or her representatives are expected to make visits.  When Britannia was in use, she brought her own accommodations and security when she traveled, relieving the host nation of much of the burden.  That group of nations might fins it economically practical over the course of a decade to pop for a floating embassy.

        1. Well, certainly they’d know better than I.  It might make practical sense now, even though the political climate is wrong.  But it seems to me that a royal yacht, even for state visits and with the advantages you list, suffers in practicality for the 21st century.  It’s slow, and probably an unwarranted security risk to boot for a modern head of state.  I don’t follow the royal family’s movements, but Wikipedia tells me they used Britannia on nearly 700 foreign visits over 43 years.  Maybe the nation got its money’s worth in foreign relations, but it’s also true that the family and associated dignitaries got a million nautical miles’ worth of travel on a more-luxurious-than-average 400-foot boat.  A tough sale these days, as Gove is finding out.

  17. [Cheesy background music]
    This… is the Queen.  She doesn’t have much in life.  She’s housed at Government expense, and has hardly anything to her name: a couple of country estates, an art collection, jewellery… not even three hundred million pounds of assets to call her own.

    What she really needs… is a yacht.  And we can buy it for her.

    Please give whatever you can to this cause.  It needn’t be much – £50 would buy a single champagne glass for the bar; £70 would buy a dog bowl for a corgi.  Just give whatever you can.  Believe me – she’ll be grateful.  You can make a real difference to someone’s life.  Today.

    [Yeah, I know, I know: it’s not for her, it’s for diplomacy slash tourism slash prestige.  And I really should kill the cheesy background music now.]

  18. I found the front page of the Independent, when this was first reported, showed a lack of tact. The top half was a picture of the sunken cruise liner, immediately below was the headline ‘Give queen yacht’. Is the Independent anti-monarchy? 

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