Yacht is wrong with them? Hacks hail new ‘royal’ ship and mock mental health treatment to 'own' Prince Harry

The British media’s tide of banality and cruelty never seems to go out.

The politics of what a nation can and cannot afford are always interesting. While money for welfare, social care, and mental health support often seems to be awol, there’s never a shortage of cash for new military hardware, infrastructure projects in marginal seats, and politician’s pet projects.

Since 2016, Britain’s premiere fanzine for tweedy far-right oddballs, The Daily Telegraph has been campaigning for a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997. That event was greeted with much wailing and rending of garments among the Royal Family, which was distraught at the loss of its biggest and bestest bath toy.

Now the government — a cabal of craven mediocrities devoid of any new ideas beyond lumpen symbolism to ‘own the libs’ — says it will build Britannia 2: Maritime Boogaloo. And The Daily Telegraph, particularly Christopher ‘Chopper’ Hope, is hooting about the ‘success’ of its campaign, even before a single bit of deck has been delivered. It may want to ask devoted fans of the Garden Bridge and Boris Island about the Prime Minister’s track record in delivering on projects.

Beneath the self-aggrandising headline, The arguments against my campaign for a new royal yacht never held water, and a snarling subhead that reads “Telegraph’s push for national flagship to replace Britannia was mocked by online critics – but PM’s approval shows how they missed the point”, Hope writes:

People who spend too much time on Twitter generally share a fierce dislike for Brexit and Boris Johnson. And for the past five years, it has been possible to add another ‘B’ to that list: Britannia.

Since I was given the task of running The Telegraph’s campaign for a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia in September 2016, every supportive article has been greeted with a sneer…

For some reason, the very idea of a replacement for a yacht that was decommissioned in 1997 by Tony Blair’s Labour government was deeply offensive to vast numbers of the bien-pensant media and political class.

One look at Hope’s Twitter account show he spends quite a lot of time on the bird site himself. And the irony of a man who has always worked in the media and politics and now works for The Telegraph sneering that others are “bien-pensant” and part of the “media and political class” is so thick and rich that it could be poured over a stack of American pancakes.

Hope writes proudly in his op-ed about the “three dozen articles [he has] penned for the Telegraph’s campaign” as if that isn’t a statistic illustrating how ludicrous his obsession has been. He dismisses questions about whether the purported £200 million price tag would be better spent on hospitals and schools by saying:

But — like so much commentary on Twitter — this misses the point entirely. As I kept writing… Britannia’s strength was that it acted as a catalyst for wider investment in the UK.

These so-called ‘trade days’ were hugely popular in encouraging business leaders to invest in Britain. They are estimated to have helped win £3 billion of trade deals between 1991 and 1995… that kind of investment could pay for multiple hospitals, schools and other parts of our national infrastructure.

I wondered where Hope got that ‘£3 billion in trade’ factlet from. It’s included on the website of The Royal Yacht Britannia museum in Edinburgh, which credits it — unlike ‘Chopper’ — to The Overseas Trade Board.

The £3 billion figure was also cited by the similarly named Sir Christopher Chope, the Leave Means Leave headbanger Tory MP for Christchurch, in a parliamentary speech kicking off the clamour for a new royal yacht back in 2016. But it came with a little more context then as Hansard records:

… I would like to concentrate on the contribution that Britannia made to trade at the end of her service. Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 after more than 40 years in service. She conducted 968 official visits and clocked up more than a million miles at sea.

In her later years—between 1991 and 1995—she is estimated to have brought £3 billion of commercial trade deals to our country. In 1993, on one trip to India alone, £1.3 billion of trade deals were signed.

It is acknowledged that those deals would have been signed in any event, but the presence of Britannia sped up the negotiations from years to days. To put that into the context of the renewal and running of a royal yacht, the deal signed on that one trip would have paid for a royal yacht in its entirety and its annual running costs for 100 years.

Even Chope had to admit that Britannia was not the catalyst for those trade deals but, at best, a cherry on top of a sundae that had already been prepared. But you cannot expect Christopher Hope to offer that kind of context.

The Daily Telegraph is so high on huffing its own farts that context or balance terrify it to its very core. Better to layer on some more culture war carping and bang your chest about your defeat of the Twitter ‘mob’ that keeps calling you Histopher Cope.

Hope’s act of masturbatory self-congratulation continues with the inevitable jab at Labour, which despite Keir Starmer’s recent flag hugging will not be adequately ‘patriotic’ until he tattoos a Union Jack on his face and defects to the Conservative Party. Hope writes:

Labour MPs have been largely silent, of course. Sir Keir Starmer, their leader, missed a trick not lending the campaign his support. It is the kind of patriotic gesture which would appeal to his lost voters in seats in northern England.

Famously the people of Hartlepool hanged a monkey for refusing to salute the royal yacht and you can’t hear yourself think in the bars of Batley and Spen for talk of Brittannia 2.

Hope, writing in a newspaper that is obsessed with statues and suppressing any reference to the horrors of empire, concludes:

In Britannia’s official history in 2003, the late Duke said the decision not to replace Britannia in 1997 “signalled the end of an unbroken succession of Royal Yachts dating back to the reign of King Charles II”.

Mr Johnson — with The Telegraph’s support — is about to start putting right that historical wrong, whether Twitter likes it or not.

A. Historical. Wrong. He’s not talking about the failure of the Grenfell Tower families. Or Windrush. Or the mass concealment of abuse and war crimes in colonial times. Or the women who were torn away from their children simply for being unmarried. Or the Hillsborough inquiry failures.

No. He’s talking about the time a very rich family were denied hundreds of millions in public money for a lovely new boat.

But even as Chopper and Chums toss themselves into a frothy sea foam of spunky self-adoration, their claims about the Royals and the ‘royal’ yacht don’t seem to stand up. While Hope wrote of a “new vessel — possibly named after Prince Philip”, the similarly yacht-mad Sunday Times suggested the royal family isn’t as fervently in favour of the project.

Under the headline, Palace sinks plan to name £200m royal yacht after Philip, The Sunday Times’ Deputy Political Editor Caroline Wheeler and its Royal Editor Roya Nikkhah write:

… the prime minister’s plan to honour the Duke of Edinburgh by naming the national flagship after him has been abandoned after the idea was greeted with coolness within royal circles.

A senior royal source said it was considered “too grand” a symbol for use by the monarchy in the modern age. “It is not something we have asked for,” the source added. The idea is understood not to have won the support of the monarch.

A senior Whitehall insider said the ship would have been named after Prince Philip if it had been agreed by Buckingham Palace. The royal snub is likely to embarrass the prime minister, who privately championed the idea of a floating memorial to the Queen’s late husband.

It seems even Britain’s most cynical bunch of symbol-toting, public-cash frittering parasites realises that a new Royal Yacht, designed for foreign trade trips and named after a man who was famously racist towards foreigners, might not be an easy one to float.

Perhaps the royals also recall the recent farrago of Boris Johnson’s £900,000 paint job for the official plane which now resembles Austin Powers Airways with its Union Flag tail (which The Telegraph suggested was upside down).

When The Telegraph and various backbench Tory Brexiteers began their drumbeat for a new Britannia in 2016, the government wasn’t interested. Alok Sharma — then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — told parliament:

… re-commissioning the Royal Yacht Britannia is not on our agenda, nor is commissioning a new yacht. There was a debate in Westminster Hall about this very topic on 11 October which aired a range of issues including feasibility and cost. My Rt Hon Friend, the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson MP), the Foreign Secretary, also told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on 13 October that he hoped a consortium of philanthropists would come forward to finance the cost of a new yacht.

The former Royal Yacht was used on just 37 occasions for trade promotion and signing trade deals during the last seven years of its commission (1989-1997) and only 27 trips were made overseas – four times per year. There is no evidence that the yacht made a difference to the trade deals secured in these years and this level of use would not represent a good return on investment.

The Government does not have potential costs for the reintroduction of the Royal Yacht Britannia or building of a new royal yacht because neither a feasibility study nor a review has been carried out since the decommissioning of the Britannia in 1997.

We shall continue to make full use of the FCO global network of nearly 270 embassies, high commissions and consulates to promote UK interests overseas. We shall also continue to make full use of existing Royal Navy ships for promotional purposes when they are in foreign ports.

But we are in the Johnson-era now and the man who suggested when he was Foreign Secretary that “philanthropists” should build the new royal yacht, now wants the general public to be the philanthropists, even as he cuts nurses pay, under-invests in mental health services, and oversees an ever-increasingly reliance on food banks in a nation where 22% of the population live in poverty.

In the same edition of The Sunday Times that credulously repeated government lines about a new Britannia…

…[hosting] trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks as the UK seeks to build links and boost exports following Brexit…

… Camilla Long’s TV review took the opportunity to attack another royal who is less in favour with the British press and, in doing so, mocked thousands of people with PTSD.

Discussing Apple TV+’s documentary The Me You Can’t See, which features Prince Harry, Long wrote:

In much the same way as Earl Spencer can draw “a line” between Diana speaking to Martin Bashir and her death in Paris, I can draw a direct line between the cold, humourless and inhumane confines of the royal family and the shocking sight of one of its members feeling he needs to literally demonstrate how he is recovering from the trauma with some woo-woo eye movement therapy on global television.

Harry told us he needed to use this special therapy because he was scared of flying into London. He demonstrated a “tapping” technique he used to ideate positive thoughts in the first-class cabin.

What really struck me was how much of a chasm there was between being “a bit frightened of flying into London” and being, say, a full-blown schizophrenic or war-traumatised child refugee trying to put your life back together. Was he even aware of the other people in the series?

The treatment that Long dismisses as “some woo-woo eye movement therapy” is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR). It’s a method that many people who have suffered with PTSD credit with saving their lives.

In service of slagging off Prince Harry, Long — who could have found out that clinical credentials of the technique with a moment’s searching — sneered at a really serious and sensitive topic.

She continues that wildly irresponsible approach to mental health issues in the next paragraph where she reduces Prince Harry flying back to London to face the media after the death of his grandfather — the city where he had to walk alongside his mother’s coffin, remember — as “being a bit frightened”.

It’s a cheap trick to contract the obviously privileged prince with a war-traumatised child, but it also ignores the fact that he went to war, has lost friends, and experienced the sudden death of his mother in the glare of the world’s media and the heart of the notoriously cold monarchy.

I’ve compared Long’s ludicrously cruel review with the frothy coverage of the new ‘royal’ yacht because they show the gulf between the British press’ treatment of things and ideas it likes and those that it doesn’t. The yacht plans are not subjected to serious scrutiny, while a man’s mental health is picked apart and mocked largely because he has ceased to play the media’s game.

Ever get that sinking feeling?

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