A LEADING Conservative councillor, Simon Dudley, sparked outrage this week when he said that the presence of rough sleepers on the streets of Windsor could present the borough in an “unfavourable light” during the wedding celebrations of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

He went on to say that in some cases, homelessness was a “commercial life choice, preying on residents and tourists”.

In suggesting that homeless people should be hidden from view during a high-profile occasion like a royal wedding, Simon Dudley is asking us to enter into an elaborate game of make-believe.

We are all aware that homelessness exists. In a country which can afford a royal family the permanence of rough sleeping should raise serious questions about how we decide what is a priority and if all citizens of the UK are truly created equal.

In 2017, the United Kingdom faced the tumultuous and destabilising consequences of the vote to leave the European Union. As our political landscape became increasingly fraught with uncertainty, the UK seemed to be in the grip of a mid-life crisis. Not only did it become more isolationist as the year went on, it was also remarkably thin-skinned.

Concerns about Brexit and its impact were shouted down, as the hard-line pro-Brexiteers claimed that asking questions could harm the Government and its negotiating position.

When MPs requested that David Davis hand over the fabled Brexit impact assessments to the Exiting the EU Select Committee, they were denounced as saboteurs and troublemakers. Then, when forced to release the documents by a vote in the House of Commons, Davis boldly asserted that the impact assessments hadn’t been undertaken and didn’t exist. So when a Conservative councillor asks us to pretend homeless people don’t either, we shouldn’t be entirely surprised.

Indulging in such a delusion for the sake of brand Britain is a signifier of how badly its ego has been bruised by Brexit. Countries that once looked to Britain with a degree of respect, now see all too clearly that the emperor doesn’t have any clothes.

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stood in front of the cameras for their first photos since their engagement announcement, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief coming from Whitehall. This would be Britain’s chance to get out the (royal) family silver and put on a sycophantic show for the masses. It would be the UK’s opportunity to pretend that all is well: everything is under control, there’s nothing to worry about.

But a country secure in itself and its future wouldn’t be forced to rely on such frippery and distraction techniques. The pomp and ceremony that accompanies royal occasions is little more than a piece of theatre.

It is certainly not a reflection of our country, or an indicator of how it works and for who. The Queen’s gold Cinderella carriage is a sign of hoarded wealth, not a successful country. The royal family are not moral leaders or even relevant figureheads; they are a reminder of the vast inequality in our country.

And in these days of Brexit and Boris and a resurgence of faux-patriotism, the royal family and the fawning over them is a last-ditch attempt to pretend a society’s worth can be measured by the weight of the diamonds adorning a crown.

Doing this is immeasurably easier than facing reality. Hide homeless people or run the risk of a jarring photograph of crowds awaiting the royal procession, backs turned on a man sitting on the pavement with a cardboard sign declaring his hunger.

Addressing concerns about the consequences of our exit from the European Union – and making plans to mitigate them– is uncomfortable for a government which has become so reliant on the ad nauseam repetition of sound bites.

The wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be a modest affair – as royal weddings go – and the majority of the cost will be met by the royal family themselves. They seem a happy and natural couple and their wedding is a symbol of the commitment they are making to one another.

But for our increasingly wayward United Kingdom, the wedding will mean also mean something else. Amidst an identity crisis of mammoth proportions: the May 19 wedding will be a welcome chance to revel in nostalgia.

Despite the relative modernity of the newest royal couple, their union is an opportunity for the blue passport waving, take-back-control lobby to pretend – if only for the briefest of moments – that the United Kingdom is at ease with itself and secure with its new place on the world stage.