Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mysteries Of State

Tyler is personally inclined towards Hokeycokeyism, but he has no problem with the Pope visiting Britain. None whatsoever.

Where he does have a prob is with the reported cost to taxpayers. £12 mill seems like an awful lot of money for a state visit, especially when the visitor has brought his own Popemobile. Where can it all be going?

Policing? Well, no - apparently that will cost a mere £1.5m. Leaving another £10.5m unaccounted for.

State banquets? No time, given all the other stuff being crammed in (especially when we factor in time out for the Pope's afternoon naps).

Overtime for Her Majesty? Maybe, but she did her bit during the normal working day, so it should have been included in her original quote.

Even George Dubya's state visit in 2003 only cost £4.1m. And according to the BBC, he was the most unpopular and despised man in the world, so if anyone was going to cost, he was.

It's a mystery.

But then again, so is the entire business of state visits. I mean, who decides which visits should take place? And on what basis?

We know the Foreign Office conducts no cost-benefit analysis of putatative state visits (see here), so it's presumably decided on a whim. But whose whim?

Here's the list of previous state visits over the last 10 years - maybe it will give us a clue:

16-18 February 2000 Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark

12-15 June 2001 President and Mrs. Mbeki of South Africa

6-9 November 2001 King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan

24-27 June 2003 President Putin and Mrs. Putina of the Russian Federation

18-21 November 2003 President and Mrs. Bush of the United States of America

5-7 May 2004 President and Mrs. Kwasniewska of Poland

18-19 November 2004  (Official Visit to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale) President and Madame Chirac of France

1-3 December 2004 President and Mrs. Roh Moo-Hyun of South Korea

15-17 March 2005 The President of the Italian Republic and Signora Ciampi

25-27 October 2005 King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway (Official visit)

8-10 November 2005 The President of the People's Republic of China and Madame Liu Yongqing

7-9 March 2006 The President of the Federative Republic of Brazil and Senhora Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva

13-15 March 2007 The President of the Republic of Ghana and Mrs Kufuor

30 Oct - 1 Nov 2007 The King of Saudi Arabia

26 - 27 March 2008 The President of the French Republic and Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy

27 - 29 October 2009 The President of the Republic of India and Dr Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat

2-5 March 2010 The President of the Republic of South Africa and Mrs Zuma

Including the Pope, that's 18 visits altogether. 2 for France, 2 for South Africa, but only one for the US, and none for Germany or Japan.

OK, we have covered the BRICS, with one apiece for Brazil, Russia, India, and China - which must be good tradewise. And OK, we have covered a couple of big arms customers. And fair enough that Her Majesty gets to invite her few remaining crowned relatives from places like Norway and Denmark.

Actually, I take it all back. Most of these state visits do seem to have been targeted on key markets (although Germany is a glaring omission).

Which just leaves the Pope.

And his £12m price tag.

What do we get out of it again?

PS The other day I heard some BBC type saying that he hadn't heard anyone outside the Murdoch press calling for the telly tax to be abolished. Well, he hasn't been listening very carefully. Round our way the call is getting louder by the day.

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