A tale of two leaders as nation celebrates

Joy. Deep joy.


              
File photo dated 11/6/2021 of Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson before a reception at the Eden Project during the G7 summit in Cornwall. Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral last year. Issue date: Friday January 14, 2022. PA Photo. Two gatherings reportedly took place at Downing Street, with the Prime Minister's former director of communications James Slack apologising for the "anger and hurt" one of the events     a leaving do held for him
    
 had caused. See PA story POLITICS Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Jack Hill/The Times/PA Wire
File photo dated 11/6/2021 of Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson before a reception at the Eden Project during the G7 summit in Cornwall. Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral last year. Issue date: Friday January 14, 2022. PA Photo. Two gatherings reportedly took place at Downing Street, with the Prime Minister's former director of communications James Slack apologising for the "anger and hurt" one of the events a leaving do held for him had caused. See PA story POLITICS Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Jack Hill/The Times/PA Wire

As the holiday industry recovers from the worst two years in its history by going into meltdown and losing all the money it needed to make up for recent losses, as Boris Johnson’s grip on power becomes increasingly tenuous and as Liverpool FC fans are again demonised for doing absolutely nothing wrong, we can look towards the lady in Buckingham Palace for comfort.

Like a World Cup, a Super Saturday at a global Olympics or a Royal Wedding – actually, given the track record since 1981, forget that last one – the Platinum Jubilee is an occasion that unites communities and provides succour.

It’s been a ropey few years, with Scottish Independence, Brexit – don’t mention Brexit – the pandemic and a cost of living crisis that the Government’s been ill-equipped to deal with and that has pushed millions more into poverty.

And that’s before we look at the casual, systemic law-breaking by those who make the laws and the waste, dysfunction and unnecessary death caused during the pandemic by ineptitude, incompetence and nefarious practice in Whitehall and beyond. No, most people haven’t moved on. No, most people haven’t forgotten. Yes, most people were obeying the rules and making vast sacrifices while Boris raised a glass – or five – and his partner partied to Abba.

The downgrading of our democracy under the present populist leader can for one weekend be put to one side.

Instead, we can admire a leader who was there at the dawn of the space age and has led for long enough to observe plans to populate Mars.

Royalists, non-royalists and republicans will delight through the week as celebrations begin. The UK will once more get a few decent headlines rather than being a laughing stock because of illicit cake or a leader who says one things, does the other and is a stranger to the truth.

The personal achievement of a woman who’s been doing her job for 70 years is utterly, utterly remarkable.

Having to come to terms with the death of her father, King George VI, at the age of 56, was a huge challenge, but then leading a nation during the post-War era presented responsibilities that to the rest of us are unimaginable.

To have led with dignity and grace throughout and to have survived the many challenges that the monarchy has faced makes her reign all the more remarkable.

She is the oldest living and longest-reigning current monarch, the long-serving female head of state and the oldest and longest-serving incumbent head of state. Support for the monarchy remains high, as does her own personal popularity. And that is no surprise.

Two of the defining images of Covid-19 surround our leaders – one elected, the other hereditary. The elected leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was pictured surrounded by empty bottles as he raised a glass to a work mate who was moving on. That was on the same day that people couldn’t attend funerals or even sit in the same office as their colleagues.

The Queen, in contrast, mourned her husband silently, observing the rules, providing moral leadership for a nation. For all of her wealth, power and influence, she remains in touch with the people in a way that recent Prime Ministers have not.

She has overseen remarkable change and has had to tolerate great difficulties, not least the break-down of her children’s marriages and changes in geopolitics – many for the better – than mean she no longer presides over distant lands that are now independent.

Though she is on a pedestal and far distant from us, she remains relatable.

We have only to look at the year in which eggs were thrown, her finances were called into question, a large fire broke out at Windsor Castle and the marriages of three of her children collapsed to note the hardship she’s suffered.

As we all do, at various points in our life. She’s one of us, she enjoys good times and bad.

And so this week we can come together.

There’s an extra couple of days off work, for some, and the chance to raise a toast – legally, Boris – as we celebrate the good and just for a moment forget the other troubles we all face.

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