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Opinion

The Queen’s death is a sad moment for reflection – but politics can’t come to a halt in the middle of a national crisis

09 Sep 2022 4 minute read
A guard on duty at Buckingham Palace, London, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday. Picture by PA Wire / Dominic Lipinski

Ifan Morgan Jones

I won’t pretend for the purposes of this article to be a monarchist. What I can say is that the Queen did about as good a job as she could have done as Head of State, in what was within a democratic country an anachronistic role within an outdated institution.

In particular, unlike her successor, we didn’t really know what she thought of anything. Just staying that politically quiet for 70 years must have taken an awful lot of willpower.

Although, I suppose that when you have a private meeting with the Prime Minister every week you hardly need to open a Twitter account.

The Queen was also more than a person, but a symbol of an era. Just as we speak of the Victorian era, future historians are likely to speak of the second Elizabethan age. The end of what may be considered a ‘long 20th century’.

And as her reign comes to an end it’s important that we take stock and consider what that time period meant.

And despite being a symbol of a certain type of British identity I think that her time on the throne will also be remembered here in Wales as a period when a sense of Welsh nationhood flourished as well.

Her reign began just a few months after the creation of the first Minister of Welsh Affairs and ended with Wales having its own law-making parliament.

For all their flaws the modern monarchy has never seemed to sign up to the kind of ‘muscular unionism’ now preferred by some parts of the Conservative party.

Theirs is the older sense of Britishness of the UK based on the idea of (whether based in practical reality or not) a partnership of nations working together.

It’s notable therefore that one of the Queen’s very last public outings before her health declined markedly was to open the sixth Welsh Senedd and give it her own seal of approval as the “voice of the people of Wales”.

Duty

No doubt, therefore, that the death of a 96-year-old woman who was a mother and a grandmother and meant so much to so many who had met her is a sad moment and my sympathy is with everyone who is grieving.

But there are elderly people in real peril across the country that mean as much to so many people too.

So it was rather worrying to see that the House of Commons now plans to effectively close shop, apart from tributes to the Queen, until after the funeral – in 10 days’ time.

The UK is in the middle of an unparalleled cost of living crisis, with soaring energy bills and, very likely, an incoming recession. It’s going to be an extremely tough winter for many, particularly the elderly and infirm.

The hour is already very, very late for dealing with this due to the summer break and Conservative leadership contest.

There has just been, in effect, seven weeks in which there has been an absence of political leadership and scrutiny on this monumental problem.

The Senedd which was due to return next week have also said that they will be “observing a period of national mourning following the death of Her Majesty The Queen,” with further updates in due course.

Any scrutiny of the £150bn energy bill – one of the biggest government interventions of all time – that Prime Minister Liz Truss was discussing when news of the Queen’s ill health spread through the House of Commons yesterday has already been shunted to page 10 of most newspapers.

As important as the Queen was to people’s lives across the nations of the UK, political life can’t just be put on pause because of it.

It’s worth noting that the economic contraction in the summer was already partly blamed on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which added only two bank holidays.

Unfortunately, the cost of living crisis won’t be on pause while we all observe what will no doubt be a funeral that is monumental in scale.

The Queen herself often spoke of her duty to the people, which drove her forward for over 30 years past the age when most people would have long retired.

Leaving the people to wait for two weeks for solutions to their dire problems would not be in keeping with her example.


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Gill
Gill
26 days ago

Great article putting things into perspective. All perspective will be lost in the next fortnight showing us why the UK needs to change. Suprisingly even babyboomer loyalists are starting to complain today about the wall to wall coverage. Watch this space

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
25 days ago
Reply to  Gill

Please don’t assume that all Baby Boomers are Royalists and Brextremists. Some, of course, will be but a great number of us are Republican, European Welsh people and often with surprisingly liberal views. Whilst not a member of XR, I am led to believe that it has a serious backbone of Boomers. But yes, the Windsor Media Machine has seriously overdone it this time round.

Bethan Jones Parry
Bethan Jones Parry
26 days ago

Chwip o erthygl deg a gwrthrychol. An excellent objective and fair article. Diolch Ifan.

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