The former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott has written to the home secretary to complain after a group of long-term unemployed were forced to watch Gary Barlow and Cliff Richard in the rain and had to spend the night sleeping in a royal palace during the diamond jubilee celebrations.
Two of them, Lizzie and William – they did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits – said they had to camp in Buckingham Palace the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into expensive gear in front of several handmaids and servants, had no access to butlers for 3 hours, and had to sit through a dire concert of old has-beens in the pouring rain after enduring a 2-hour boat ride down the Thames, as part of the government’s Work Programme.
One elderly royal on state handouts said she was on duty without a break in a golden barge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla. She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain.
The woman said that people were picked up at Windsor at 11am on Saturday and bussed to London in the back of a chauffeur-driven black Jaguar:
We all got out of the car and we were stranded in Buckingham Palace for about 12 hours with only a 5-course meal and several bottles of port to sustain us.
A 91-year-old royal told the Guardian that the conditions in the palace were “gaudy and ostentatious and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]”. He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the marble floor.
The woman said they were rudely woken at 9.30am sharp and supplied with a meagre portion of boiled eggs, bacon and soldiers on golden plates which were so old they were probably antiques and were then expected to go all day with just some cucumber sandwiches minus the crusts and a couple of bottles of champagne to sustain them till lunch time.
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