IN time, when we have drawn the sting from this pandemic, some enterprising editor will ask that a list be made of its winners and losers. This may not perhaps be an appropriate moment to talk of victors when Christmas has just been cancelled and Britain’s students have been told to forgo their Happy Hours. Yet, even from this vantage point six months out from the earliest expectation of dry land, the coronavirus prosperity index is already taking shape.

At those times in history when humanity is menaced by catastrophes both natural and contrived society’s apex predators begin to move silently among us. The stench of death draws them down from their eyries and they begin to feast. A coterie of anointed hedge fund marauders and wealth managers were galvanised at the start of the pandemic as a sea of opportunities began to open up.

As Ruffer Investment was telling clients that it had made £2.4bn during the initial collapse of the stock market in March another, the US-based Universa Investments, was telling its customers that it had achieved a return of 3,612%. They had, in the esoteric argot of high finance, profited from ‘market dislocations’.

Elsewhere the old silk roads that are used to funnel profits away from the UK Treasury and into the strong-rooms of the western Caribbean thrummed back into life. Vulture funds which specialise in buying the discounted debts from the world’s poorest countries and then extorting the full original price will also soon experience their own Klondyke. By the time we have found a vaccine for Covid-19 the term Third World will have become wretchedly out-dated: try Lost World or the lands humanity forgot.

Since the earliest days of coronavirus the UK Chancellor has emerged to bring us the Downing Street scrolls on which are written the messages of economic salvation. First Rishi Sunak produced great dollops of cash to help companies retain their staff before popping up again this week to announce a reduced business support package to see us through until next March. Except that it won’t.

Any Tory Chancellor entrusted with the task of handing out money with few questions asked finds himself in a happy place. And, despite bringing the furlough scheme to an end 18 months before similar schemes conclude in Germany and France few questions have been asked of him in return. Why did he wait so long to make his announcement of further government support when it became clear months ago that coronavirus was ignoring all invitations to pick a windae? And why impose the artificial guillotine of working at least one third of normal hours? This will leave seasonal workers in the tourism industry and hospitality sector (already facing curfews) marooned. Are these not viable jobs too?

Yet Mr Sunak is deemed by the right-wing press to have had a good lockdown. Perhaps with an eye on eventually moving into Number Ten (all is most definitely not well next door) the chancellor added a wee, populist crowd-pleaser. In this he effectively told the country to stiffen its resolve; get a grip and face the pandemic “without fear”. Easy for him to say.

When you’ve had the benefit of an education at Oxford and Winchester College boarding school followed by Goldman Sachs; your own £700m Investment Fund and marriage to the daughter of the billionaire founder of Infosys you could probably live through a nuclear winter “without fear”.

Mr Sunak also told us he simply couldn’t save every job; nor could he save every business. On the face of it this is not unreasonable. No-one expects every firm to survive coronavirus and even among those that do emerge some will soon find themselves in the crosshairs of a no-deal Brexit. Will he announce a package of support when businesses begin to tumble into that abyss? I’m not sure that Bespoke Norway, Reverse Ukraine, Canada Plus and cheap, chlorinated chicken will really cut it.

One firm that will come through unscathed and unquestioned though, is The Firm, the one whose company headquarters is Buckingham Palace, London SW1A, 1AA. The Royal Family have not been subject to furlough or any other job retention scheme. If you were inclined towards generosity of spirit you might give the Saxe-Coburgs the benefit of the doubt. What would be the point of including them in a furlough scheme that paid 80% of their incomes when they basically exist all year, every year on a benefit scheme which pays 100% of their wages? How would we expect the royals to meet the extra 20%? Pet-grooming classes?

Yesterday we learned that there’s a £35m shortfall in royal accounts owing to reduced takings in their sprawling property portfolio. The sovereign grant for 2019/20 was £82.4m: this is how much you and I pay to maintain this indolent outfit each year. Gratifyingly, royal sources have reassured us that they won’t be asking us for a top-up to cover their distressing shortfall.

This year Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were given a £250k farewell trip to southern Africa before taking their leave of the royal teat. In January, Harry’s dad, Prince Charles attended the funeral of the Sultan of Oman on a specially-chartered flight costing £200k.

The country also spent £16k sending Harry’s auntie Anne to a rugby match in Italy and the same amount to let his uncle Andy fly to Portrush in Northern Ireland for The Open golf championship. The biggest draw on this sovereign grant (£33m) was, of course, replacing the fixtures and fittings at Buckingham Palace and putting the Vermeers and the Rembrandts into storage. All in, that comes pretty close to plugging the shortfall.

I won’t hold my breath and expect Mr Sunak to include the Royal Family when next he informs us that he can’t save all jobs and businesses. Perhaps though, he might gently remind the queen that we’re in a global pandemic; that we’re all in this together and that he can’t be expected to save all the paintings. You might think about losing some of the corgis too, ma’am.

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