Letters to the Editor

Perhaps it is now time to ‘call the whole thing off'


The fraternal feud between the two Windsor brothers has sparked what some commentators believe to be an existential threat to the monarchy. Its continuing efficacy will depend on various political, financial and purely human factors.

Politically it creates a democratic deficit. Thanks to a Reformation hangover and primogeniture the UK has just acquired yet another hereditary monarch, Charles III, who is an Anglican, a male and drawn from an exclusive, aristocratic, social group. Furthermore, Charles became king and de facto, unelected head of state without debate or democratic mandate in an automatic succession. He also inherited a vast fortune built on the back of empire and slavery. Charles is a liberal and progressive individual. But how can he represent the majority of people in Britain given his gilded inheritance?

Financially, the monarchy is extortionately expensive. The ostensible costs are disclosed via the Sovereign Grant – an annual payment of £75m. Critically, it does not allow for the royals’ prodigious, latent expenditure.

In fact, this grant is just a fraction of the total cost. The royals’ security bill is paid by the Metropolitan Police. The costs of royal visits are paid by local councils. Moreover, the income from the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, despite belonging to the nation, goes directly to the monarchy. This represents a substantial loss of revenue due to the Treasury. When this covert expenditure is included, the estimated annual cost  is £345m. Hardly value for money. This huge extravagance is permitted because the palace is largely unaccountable, can operate in great secrecy and has significant lobbying power within government

It is also evident that the stringent and austere palace rules have done much to impair the lives of the royals. It has been gleaned from many sources that Charles received little physical affection from his mother as a child. There is the now infamous clip of the non-tactile queen arriving at Paddington Station after a long absence on a foreign tour and when presented with her young son, proceeds to shake his hand and give him a quick peck on the cheek. Some would argue that there is a palace prohibition on any display of affection. On reaching manhood Charles was shoehorned into a loveless marriage to a girl more than 10 years his junior who had nothing in common with him in order to produce an heir to the throne. Needless to say it all ended in total misery                                                                            

The lack of democratic legitimacy and the huge expense are matters of concern for the future of the monarchy. But its main problem  would appear to be that it is driven by the fractious and dysfunctional House of Windsor who have been damaged by the very institution that they serve. Perhaps it is now time to ‘call the whole thing off’ – to quote Fred Astaire.

Donabate, Dublin


Performance indicators

There is certainly considerable sympathy for those striking for increased wages to mitigate the effects of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. 

However, in respect to both lecturers and teachers, there is another aspect to be considered in respect to performance. 

The independent report Ratio analysis of financial KPI in the Higher Education sector: a case study (Belfast 2018) not only analysed routine key performance indicators associated with business performance, but introduced and analysed several that are specific to the higher education sector. 

In so doing it revealed huge differences in performance across many KPI that arguably could be addressed by the higher education sector as part of ongoing wage negotiations. 

For example, the ratio for sales per academic ranges from 0.13 at Cardiff University to 0.76 at the University of Oxford. 

The ratio of academic fees etc per academic ranges from 0.06 or £60,000 at UCL and Cardiff up to 0.17 or £170,000 at Oxford. 

For research grants per academic there is a spread that ranges from 0.02 or £20,000 at LSE&PS rising up to 0.31 or £310,000 at Oxford. 

For the ratio of academics to total number of staff there is a spread that ranges from 14.11 for Oxford through to 72.83 at Cardiff. 

For the ratio of academics to students there is a spread that ranges from 4.57 at Queen’s University Belfast through to 23.75 at ICL. 

For the ratio of academic fees etc per student there is spread that ranges from 0.004 at Queen’s University in Belfast through to 0.01 at all of the English universities surveyed. 

And for sales revenue per student there is a spread that ranges from 0.01 or £10,000 at Queen’s University Belfast through to 0.09 or £90,000 at Cambridge. 

Moreover, these examples gleaned from performance data in annual reports from 2006-2016 provide a pre-Brexit benchmark against which post-Brexit performance can be measured in future.  

And we can undoubtedly apply a similar range of KPI to schools to address performance across the education sector as a whole when considering teacher performance as well. 

Belfast BT9


One man’s stand against the state

While Enoch Burke’s stance may seem strange to many people, it is refreshing to see one man standing up for his beliefs, even against the might of the state. There are clear parallels between his case and that of the Ashers Bakery couple in Belfast, a case which had a positive result for Ashers in the UK Supreme Court. I hope that this case will eventually make its way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if necessary, in order to give clarity to the subject of conscientious objection.

Carraig Mhachaire Rois, Co Mhuineacháin


Make space for conversation

As we move into the new year, it has never been more important to talk about our mental health. The fight to normalise these conversations and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health is an on-going battle, one in which we all have a role to play. From the current cost-of-living crisis to the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic, we know that people are struggling.

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute tells us that people with mental health problems are nearly twice as likely to say they are unable to cope due to the rising cost of living.  Since becoming president of Mind in 2011, I have made it my mission to promote better conversations around mental wellbeing. I know myself that talking about a diagnosis can be scary, but it’s vital we all know that talking can help us feel less alone, more able to cope and encourage us to seek the support we need.

That’s why I am so proud to support today’s Time to Talk Day. Last year, we had nearly two million conversations. This year, with your help, I know we can surpass that number. I am asking readers to make space today for a conversation about mental health. It could be that you simply send a text or lend a listening ear to a colleague. 

Mind President, London




Letters to the Editor