Pope’s visit will cost the taxpayer millions more
Despite vicious cuts to front line services, the ConDem government have dug around the back of No. 11’s sofas and found some extra money to prop up the Pope’s visit to the UK in September. Until now, the blame for the cost of the Papal visit could have been firmly laid at Gordon Brown’s feet, but now the ConDems have admitted the cost of the visit to taxpayers will be ‘up to’* £4m higher – up to £12m – than had been previously estimated.
And the ConDems have decided we’re footing the bill.
*Note ‘up to’. It isn’t going to stop at £12m. The UK government is famously poor at realistically estimating costs, and the Pope’s visit will be no different. Outside that bill to central government, which pays for the Pope’s flights, accommodation and even the cost of ferrying his two Popemobiles, there are unaccounted costs to cover the security arrangements. Each police force where the Pope touches down will have to pay for it out of their already stretching budgets.
The four day visit will see a massive security operation. That includes personal protection, crowd control, mobile CCTV, snipers, bomb squads, sniffer dogs, helicopters, UAV drones and loads of other goodies I can’t even think of.
The real cost to the taxpayer could run to something like £50m, and possibly more, when you consider that the Australian Papal events in 2008 ran to at least the £40m figure. At least, because much of the costs of the Australian visit were hidden.
Okay, so the Pope is head of a very small city state. There’s no real problem with visits by heads of state, they keep the wheels of diplomacy and trade turning. Tea with the PM, a couple of arms sales and a slap up dinner with the Queen are all part and parcel of the state visit.
There is an argument that Vatican City isn’t a real state, founded as it was by brutal totalitarian dictator Mussolini, but it seems good manners to treat the dictator of Vatican City as a head of state.
But Benedict isn’t just a head of state, and that’s where the problem lies. He’s the head of a huge worldwide corporation, one which requires everyone to respect it’s business model.
The Pope is being treated as a head of state, but he’s coming to promote what is essentially a political message, and one which includes many ideas which run contrary to our civil society; he’s anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-contraception, and demands special treatment for his religious corporation.
When the Pope steps across the line from visiting state dignitary to preacher, he’s little more than a bedazzled salesman, and we, the taxpayer are subsidising it. Even the Conservative TaxPayer’s Alliance thinks we shouldn’t have to pay for that.
If it was any other foreign evangelical visit, like those of the Billy Graham ministries, the countless African Pentecostal missions in London, or Mosque hopping Muslim clerics, we would rightly expect it to be self funded by its members, but because the Pope also happens to be the head of a tiny European state, we have to foot the bill.
The Vatican has been trying to influence UK politics since 1066, and Pope Innocent III even threatened King John with excommunication if he honoured Magna Carta. I thought we’d left this thrall with Rome behind a long time ago.
It seems that when tough decisions on cuts have to be made, the government is still running scared of the Pope.