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A Nation Mourns

A Nation Mourns

Union Jack at half mast over Buckingham Palace

Or, rather, it reels in a kind of incredulity. For the vast majority of us, royalist or republican, the Queen’s been part of our psychological fabric since forever. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the fact that we’ve got a new Prime Minister, as well as a new monarch, rather pales into insignificance.

Because Liz Truss is actually the fifteenth leader Elizabeth 2nd appointed, the Downing Street earthquake feels more like a distant tremor.

Cue wall-to-wall media coverage of the nostalgia, obsequies, ceremonies and collective curiosity about King Charles 3rd.

The slickness of it all will be on a par with Putin’s blanket propaganda about how brilliantly Russia’s doing in Ukraine.

This is not to be disparaging. But what’s codenamed ‘Operation London Bridge’ has been many years in the making.

Notwithstanding the affection so many of the organisers doubtless feel, there’s always been a pragmatic acceptance of reality.

Best summed up by a fatally wounded character in Shakespeare’s Henry 4th Part One.

‘Thought’s the slave of life, and life, Time’s fool. And Time, that takes survey of all the world, must have a stop.’

Very likely that idea’s reverberating in many mourners’ minds as they contemplate not only Her Majesty’s mortality – but also their own.

Something of the bittersweet there, as few of us could imagine carrying on working, on our pins, with a smile on our faces, at ninety-six.

But the footage of last week’s Truss for PM ceremony at Balmoral is there for all to see.

Planning for the monarchical handover, however, was a bit easier when it started, decades before it was realistically expected to happen.

Doubtless alongside other broadcasters, Sky News was certainly doing just that all those years ago.

Famously, ahem, when the presenters were doing the black tie routine in the off-air studio one of the techies misunderstood the situation.

A loyal and hardworking chap, he duly started digging out relevant videotapes, which in itself shows how long ago it was.

But he also paused for a moment to ring his mum in Australia.

She was so struck by the news that she called her local media outlet, which started broadcasting it, sourcing Sky.

National networks quickly picked it up, and calls to the newsdesk for corroboration, from the other side of the world, were soon flooding in.

Oops! A tricky day at the office.

But also a reminder that everyday life has its thrills and spills.

And while it’s safe to assume the current seismic affairs of state will, for once, seriously impact on natters in the pub, so will our own affairs.

Such as the cost of living crisis.

Our new Prime Minister insists help is on the way. And it seems it actually, and rather gobsmackingly, is.

The idea is to bung something approaching a hundred-and-fifty billion smackers at the problem.

This should mean folk shouldn’t have to pay more than two-and-a-half grand a year to heat their homes between now and the next election.

A fair bit more than they’re shelling out now, but around half what it was feared they’d have to stump up come next January.

Even The Telegraph, aka Torygraph, is taken aback. Here’s what Christopher Hope, the paper’s top political hack, has to say:

‘The Prime Minister might be the most Right-wing Conservative leader for decades, but the billions .. would make even Gordon Brown blush.’

Certainly, it is close to Labour’s idea. Except that instead of using an updated windfall tax on energy companies she’ll borrow the money.

An awful lot of it. Will take ages to pay back.

A great relief, doubtless, to the firms sitting on an absolute fortune, that Truss is hoist on the pétard of her ‘no new taxes’ mantra.

Perhaps, in time, less joyful for succeeding generations – who’ll ultimately pick up the tab.

Calls to mind the only way anti-slavery campaigners managed to get the victims out of their chains. Financial compensation. Of the owners.

It worked, but cost shedloads. And the bill, racked up in 1837, didn’t finally get paid off until, er, 2015.

On that basis, if Boris Johnson does manage a comeback kid gig, the problem will still he his to solve.

Not that he seems minded to baulk at the prospect, if his farewell speech is anything to go by.

Doing his ever-so-clever stuff, he cited the Roman politico Cincinnatus, who apparently promised to ‘return to his plough’ when he bowed out.

He also came back, later, and got the top job again. Subtle, not subtle, Bojo.

Meantime, Johnson’s likely to feather his financial nest by writing his memoirs post-haste.

Meaning while Truss is busy channelling Churchill, with talk of ‘action this day’, so is her predecessor. Winnie also said, famously:

‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.’

Not for Johnson then, if he can possibly help it, another Shakespearian reflection on getting sidelined, one way or another.

‘Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for oblivion, A great-sized monster of ingratitudes.’

But of course blame for the nation’s, indeed all Europe’s, current predicament rests with the gremlin in the Kremlin.

Astonishingly, Putin did add his name to the long list of international figures expressing condolences for the loss of Her Majesty.

He also stepped out of character last week by saying something that’s actually true. If a bit obvious.

Noting that Truss got in thanks to the votes of such a tiny sliver of the British electorate, he described the process as ‘far from democratic’.

That said, he has good reason to be unhappy with the Tory members’ choice.

A Times/YouGov last week found Truss’s getting in still leaves Labour streaks ahead. And one in ten of those asked described her as ‘weird’.

But, a huge but, she did show herself at the Foreign Office to be a good friend to Ukraine. Sometimes even more bullish than Boris.

And, as high-tech Western arms help defenders get ground back, support in another form has heart-warmingly manifested itself there.

When a chimpanzee named Chichi got loose from his zoo in Kharkiv, no amount of sweeties offered by onlookers could tempt him back.

But it was jolly parky. Which seems to be why the offer from one of the keepers of her jacket and a lovely warm hug did the trick.

In no time he allowed himself to be popped onto a bicycle and wheeled back to his enclosure.

Everybody happy, then. Including Chichi.

But talking of furry friends, in all their different guises, Sky News can corroborate anecdotal evidence about how nice Queen Elizabeth was.

When one of the producers was doing a recce for a forthcoming documentary at one of her residencies he got a surprise.

Her Royal Highness appeared through a doorway, dressed in altogether everyday clothing, and had a long chat with him.

He’s unlikely ever to forget the encounter. Not least because he could then proudly proclaim himself a world-renowned expert … on corgis.

Watch Peter’s report HERE

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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