The last four days have shown our nation at its best. It’s been full of people from all walks of life celebrating the reign of our Queen. The country has been brought together after a traumatic few years, and it has been great to witness.
I am pro-monarchy but not unthinkingly so. If we were to create a system of government from scratch, no-one in the twenty first century would create a hereditary monarchy, but, as the saying, goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix or fiddle with it. The monarchy has been incredibly resilient over the centuries and people have been very quick to write it off at various points in our history. Its ability to adapt and regenerate is second only to that of Doctor Who.
I genuinely don’t think any other nation on this earth could have pulled off the spectacle of the last four days. We do pomp well, and let’s just rejoice in that. But it wasn’t all pomp. It was also in large part community circumstance. Communities around the country came together in a way they haven’t been able to for two years.
From the Trooping the Colour, to service of thanksgiving, to the Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace, then to today’s amazing pageant, it reminded us of what this country is all about. It’s not about forelock-tugging, it’s not about bowing to the establishment, it’s not about being better than we ought to be. Our country stands for something. It’s a shame that many people appear to have forgotten that in recent times. We need to remind ourselves that people all over the world have looked up to this country as a beacon of stability, freedom and democracy. That reputation has taken a bit of battering of late, and perhaps this weekend can mark a bit of a turning point.
John and I met The Queen about twenty years ago at a Buckingham Place reception for the book industry. There were about 800 people there so I didn’t think we would get to meet her, but John had other ideas. I said we might as well leave but he reckoned if we placed ourselves at a certain point in the room, she would have to pass by where we were. He was absolutely right. I expected the conversation to be a rather strained, but not a bit of it! We talked about our bookshop Politico’s, and she was very keen to know what I thought of a scandal that was happening about the time regarding the Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson. As we were speaking to her, other people kept trying to barge into the conversation but our sharp elbows prevented them! I think we got about five minutes in the end, and thoroughly enjoyable it was too!
The first royal I ever met was Princess Alexandra, who was on a walkabout when I was a student in Norwich. In 2001 we went to a British Forces Foundation fundraiser at Highgrove. We didn’t actually meet Charles & Camilla, but I do remember them laughing uproariously at some very off colour jokes made by Ben Elton.
And then on Wednesday last week I interviewed Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, about her new historical novel HER HEART FOR A COMPASS. It was quite an interview and we got on like a house of fire. The interview will be released on my Book Club podcast in a couple of weeks.
Well done to Kirsty Young. A brilliant four days of broadcasting hosted superbly, with warmth, insight and humour. I am in awe. Also, no one ever thinks about the people behind the scenes of events like the Jubilee, who did all the planning, had the ideas, managed the logistics and put it all into action. Job well done. Congratulations to everyone involved.
And so, back to normal politics on Monday. It promises to be quite a week.