George Osborne has just announced that, for the first time since 1760, the royal household will be paid not by a set grant from the government but through a proportion (15 per cent) of the net revenue of the crown estate.
It is a change Prince Charles has been campaigning for for years, and if the crown estate has a good year, could provide a bumper pay out for the royal family.
Labour is backing the proposals in advance of the publication of the bill itself. But given that one government spokesman has previously admitted, “the royal family must have been getting the champagne out once we conceded this,” you might have expected some form of resistance, not least from long-time republican Dennis Skinner.
But just when you need him in the chamber, the normally ever-present Skinner has mysteriously gone missing. We can only assume the veteran left-winger is manning the picket lines with his civil service colleagues.
Luckily his presence was felt vicariously through Ed Balls, who quoted Skinner’s words from the last time this was properly debated – in 1972.
At that time, Skinner gave no speech, but was recorded to have made his voice heard when, in reply to an insistence that opposition to the civil list should be “reasonable and temperate”, he shouted, “Why?”