The Jubilee

It has arrived. I am in Munich, so not watching from afar. [Incidentally, I’m not the only one. Gatwick Airport was heaving on Thursday evening when I left]. However, am I mean spirited? Am I misguided? Why am I so much in a minority?

I say this because I have just read the comments beneath the article in Friday’s Guardian newspaper by Polly Toynbee, with whom it is fair to say, I do not share many opinions.

Toynbee’s article is entitled “Queen’s diamond jubilee: a vapid family and a mirage of nationhood. What’s to celebrate?” Says it all really. Earlier in the week (27 May), the fabulous Peter Wilby had made some suggestions for things that we should celebrate such as the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the 300th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution and more recently, “the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, the penultimate step towards universal suffrage. Plus a specially big party for 2028, in celebration of the final step.”

Both get vilified for this. And then David Mitchell (comedian), writing in the Observer today, wades in with nonsense such as: “And I like the monarchy’s effect on the trappings of the British state: the fact that what is officially important isn’t really, that MPs swear an oath “by almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors” rather than piously promising to defend democracy or serve their constituents. I wouldn’t believe them whatever they swore, so I’d rather it was something that didn’t matter. In an era when few things are what they seem and people seldom say what they really think, our constitution and oaths of allegiance are perfect – they elegantly reflect a hypocritical and duplicitous world. Our monarchy gives us constitutional irony.”

But is that not the problem? Swearing allegiance to the Crown does matter. It is not a joke. The Monarch can veto decisions made by her parliament. The Monarch is more powerful than is admitted. More is the point – and assuming that Mitchell’s argument is correct – there may well be politicians who do want to swear something meaningful – something that does matter; moreover, if they did, I might respect them more for it! The fact is, the monarchy perverts democracy, it does not add to it.

So what to do? Well, this morning I was greeted by an instant message from a dear friend of mine. My friend chose to walk from West Hove to Brighton on this dank day in early June. Along the way I received images that capture the tackiness of the whole thing. Below I reproduce those images with a short commentary. I am indebted for the pictures. They help me vent my anger about the whole thing. And before anyone says that I am being mean spirited, the prize goes to the Church for the only bit of creativity that I have yet seen for the Jubilee. The experience does seem rather passive. Even far away in another country, this is happening to me rather than me volunteering for it. And for those that say, ‘it is only at times like this when the country comes together’; first, that is incorrect. I was with millions of others on the Stop the War in Iraq march. And second, even if that were true, it is only because the British are so passive that it takes a Monarch to get us onto the streets.

Whoever you are, if you have time off, make the most of it.

 “I picked up some bunting at Sainsbury’s. Where shall we put it?”
 “I picked up some better bunting than the neighbours, and it is long enough to go round the tree across the pavement.”  
   Care homes seem to be in the spirit of things, but even here (see below) there is a ‘beat the competition’ mentality at work?
 “The bunting as Sainsbury’s was a bit expensive, we’ve got some old dresses left from the last jumble sale, we can cut them up. No one will notice. Least of all the Queen.”  
   “The cash and carry had run out of bunting. This is the best I could do. We should have been more organised. It sort of crept up without us noticing.”
Shouldn’t that be fairy cakes? Still, the markup should pay for the bunting.  
   Shouldn’t that be Queens Carpets? Who would buy a union Jack carpet?
 “Surely, we get the prize for having got to Sainsbury’s first?”  
  “That’ll show those Bon Accord amateurs. We have a picture of the Queen and we drape the bunting along our superior iron fence. That should get us at least another generation of tenants. Brilliant marketing.”
“You’d have thought that they would have made them waterproof.”

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