A HEADLINE which needs an asterisk is not a good headline.
That thought crossed my mind this week when I saw that the organisers of the Pope’s four-day visit to Britain have admitted that the cost to the taxpayer has spiralled.
The pontiff’s wee jaunt round Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London in September is going to set us back £12m – not the £8m originally advertised.
Except – and this is where the asterisk comes in – neither figure includes policing costs. So the Pope’s visit will cost us £12m, if you assume for the sake of argument that the thousands of police officers on duty to protect him will work for free. Which of course they won’t.
The £12m figure is a nonsense – though slightly less of a nonsense than the £8m figure. We’ll see what the final bill, including security, comes too. My guess is £20m.
Moving on from the Catholic big cheese to the grand fromage of Anglicanism, it emerged this week that the Queen and her family are setting us back £38.2m a year.
What a bargain, the royalists crow, pointing out that this is a mere 62p per person.
Except, you guessed it, the figure does not include security costs.
I don’t imagine all those highly-trained Special Branch officers work for minimum wage, so we’re looking at a hefty policing bill to guard the Windsors – all of it undisclosed of course. How dare we mere taxpayers pry into how our money is spent?
But, whatever the cost of protecting the Queen and her brood, it is clearly a relevant factor when discussing if we’re getting value for money out of the Windsors.
Perhaps that’s a column for another day.
But in the meantime, suffice to say that anyone who thinks they’re paying just 62p a year for the pleasure of having a hereditary head of state needs to take a good hard look at the small print.