The Daily Telegraph
A sense of pride restored and, maybe, a return to decency
Nobody seems capable of conducting a civilised argument. It’s easier to simply howl down the other side
Those abroad have granted us a new-found, if grudging, admiration for our tolerance and sincere feelings
As a grizzled observer I’ve always reckoned that the general state of things in Britain has been getting pretty awful for years. As a genuine Elizabethan, having attended a street party – aged three and a half – in my home town to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in June 1953, I reckon that one of the worst aspects of life today has been the abuse of the freedoms that older generations, such as the Queen’s, fought and died to defend – in particular the right, in a democratic society, to protest.
Street violence against the laws of the land may be rare nowadays but it has been replaced by so-called “save the world” protests, which masquerade as peaceful but are massively disruptive to the lives of others, such as those by Extinction Rebellion and other groups who believe they have a God-given right to do as they please. The upshot is traffic jams and crowds of ordinary people unable to go about their daily lives because a minority reckon they know best how the world should run.
I’m also sickened by the massive intolerance that exists today. There’s no such thing as decent debate or even polite discussion; people who don’t agree with you are regarded as idiots, or worse – fascists and racists.
Politicians, whose views are at variance with what’s considered the respectable “norm”, are shunned and often banned from our television screens. Nobody appears capable of conducting a civilised argument. It’s easier to simply howl down the other side. However, as a sign that things may be changing, I think that decency had a bit of a renaissance during the Queen’s platinum jubilee only a few months ago. After all those street parties and community events it’s now perfectly possible that something similar may be stirring as we mourn her.
The crowds, hundreds of thousands of them, standing patiently and in a good-natured neighbourliness in London today, don’t think they know best about how the world should be run and are not glueing themselves to streets or disrupting anybody else. Instead, they are waiting for a chance to say a final goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II, their cherished monarch for the past 70 years whose charm and grace we all will miss. The sight of all those people bowing their heads in total reverence before her coffin has already signalled to the world an obvious feeling of great loss over the death of our queen and, on Monday, billions around the world will watch Britain pay its last respects to this incredible lady.
All of this has resulted in those abroad granting us Britons a newfound, if sometimes grudging, admiration for our tolerance and the sincerity of our feelings for the late Queen. That, in turn, may be having an effect on the rest of us. I’ve been struck by how people are only too happy to talk to their friends, neighbours and even complete strangers about their deep admiration for Queen Elizabeth. Goodness, I even had such a conversation on a London commuter train this week – a rare event.
And any scruffiness has disappeared completely thanks to the quite aweinspiring displays of our marvellous Armed Forces.
Outside of wartime they have never been so well regarded by the public, especially by their determination to put on a show in honour of the woman they called “the boss”.
Because of their often onerous ceremonial duties there are so many more soldiers, sailors and airmen on our streets at present and just to see and talk to them about their pride in her service is a genuine tonic.
Desperately sad through doing their duty at the present time may be, they and the ordinary men, women and children who have been to Westminster Hall, as well as those still waiting, have given this nation that same sense of pride. It’s been a long time coming. Seventy years, in fact.