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No such thing as a free lunch for Brenda
The Queen at 90, Issue 1411
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NO FREE LUNCH: Peter Phillips, whose company SEL will stage the Queen’s 90th birthday lunch in the Mall, where 10,000 people will pay £150 each for a ticket
OLD hands at Buckingham Palace suspect the Queen is heading for a rare PR disaster by letting grandson Peter Phillips and his Australian-based company Sports and Entertainment Limited (SEL) take control of her 90th-birthday lunch in the Mall on 12 June.

Phillips and SEL will pocket an undisclosed sum for staging the Patron’s Lunch, with 10,000 people forking out £150 each for a ticket. With sponsors like Diageo and Marks & Spencer on board, the BBC shelling out for broadcasting rights and the police covering the cost of additional security, no one can work out why £1.5m in ticket revenues is needed.

The Golden and Diamond jubilees were marked by star-studded concerts, free of charge. For the Diamond Jubilee, hundreds who were successful in a free ballot also got a free tea in the garden of Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty’s 80th was marked in a much more low-key manner, with a service in St George’s Chapel followed by a walkabout on the streets of Windsor.

Marie Antoinette moment
But SEL will not be the only beneficiary. The tickets are actually £125 plus VAT – so the government, which has declined an extra bank holiday on economic grounds, stands to benefit by up to £300,000 from the sale of tickets to what is officially a not-for-profit event.

Phillips and SEL haven’t asked for a VAT waiver and David Cameron and George Osborne haven’t offered one, which is surprising given that they are usually keen on such publicity. The VAT on the NHS Choir Christmas number one was given away, and the government has previously waived VAT on the X Factor charity single and many other good causes.

At the lunch, the Queen faces the prospect of a Marie Antoinette moment as she sits in a specially constructed royal box looking down on her subjects tucking into their sandwiches. Brenda, not wanting to risk a Milibandesque malfunction, avoids eating in public as much as possible and is to have a light repast in the palace before she visits the masses. And she won’t be hanging around for too long either. She will want to get to Windsor for the Cartier Queen’s Cup polo final that afternoon.


More top stories in the latest issue:

Why there’s no good parliamentary reason to rush to a Trident vote – unless the Tories simply want to exploit Labour’s divisions on the issue.

George Osborne may be cosy with Google, but what of his 30 meetings over two years with News Corp execs, including eight with Rupert himself?

Ex-City minister Ruth Kelly, a Brown era fan of toxic financial derivatives, returns as… a non-exec director of the Financial Conduct Authority!

Campaigners who want Britain to vote to leave the EU stand united in their deep loathing for, er, one another.

The Home Office looks dimmer than usual as it explains why it locked up a US Shakespeare scholar for 10 days as an illegal immigrant.

Theresa May’s plan to curb how many skilled migrants come to the UK will puts her at odds with the EU-US trade deal beloved by her two bosses.

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