Wednesday 14 September 2022

The leaders we deserve


One thing that the English establishment take great pride in is their ability to organise great events, with everything planned down to the last tiny detail. Like much of English exceptionalism, the ability is more imagined than real, although that may be partly because those doing the organising have so little connection with the real world outside their own little bubble. The Queen’s coffin was manufactured more than 30 years ago. No-one knows precisely when or by whom, apparently, since it was passed from one official royal undertaker to another some 30 years ago, and records predating that have been lost or mislaid in the mists of time. Anyway, the point is that with great foresight about the event (if not its date), the box was ready when required, along with detailed plans for its route (with separate plans depending on the place of death). So far, so good, so meticulous.

But one of the problems with plans laid down so long ago, and rehearsed so frequently, is that they may not always allow for the fact that society didn’t stand still in the meantime; and plans prepared in a degree of secrecy don’t always include all the possible reactions from people who haven’t been part of them. And then there’s personalities. Who could ever have predicted that a well-known petulant like the new king, who insists that everything be just so, might get annoyed at a misplaced pen rack or a leaky pen? Those are comparatively minor little hitches, whatever they may reveal about the short temper of the new monarch. But there was an underlying assumption by those doing the planning that the outpouring of grief would be universal; there appears to have been little by way of briefing the police, for instance, about how to handle any republicans who might want to make their feelings known, with some individual officers coming close to declaring that holding up a blank piece of paper amounts to a crime. It’s not what it says, it’s what it might have said.

One might have thought that at least someone involved in the planning might have considered whether winding up one royal household as its incumbent moved to a different abode might have a few implications for the staff, and thought about how that should be handled, but issuing redundancy notices to some of those involved in smoothing the transition while a thanksgiving church service was in progress is not exactly testament to great foresight. It suggests, rather, that the fate of the little people wasn’t even an afterthought to the planners.

Whilst there will certainly be many who wish to mourn the death of their divinely-appointed ruler, that subset of the population is certainly less than 100%. Ideas about how people might react seem to have been based heavily on assumptions that little has changed since the more subservient, not to say servile, attitudes of the 1950s. Failing to give guidance to people and organisations about what they should or should not do was probably wise; reactions to being told not to do a whole series of normal activities might have been fun to watch, but would hardly have added to the solemnity of the occasion. The result, though, is that many organisations have over-reacted, from Center Parcs initially saying they would throw all their guests out for the night (although they’ve now backtracked and said that people can stay as long as they don’t expect to eat or enjoy themselves in any way) to a Labour Party instructing its MPs not to talk about minor issues such as poverty or the cost of energy but instead to restrict all public comment to their own grovelling tributes to the late monarch, and a range of sports organisations reaching different and contradictory conclusions about what should go ahead and what should not. Fortunately, the lack of detailed guidance on how we must all grieve at least means that we won’t have police travelling door to door to check that we’re all watching television all day on Monday. Unless, that is, another poorly briefed individual officer takes it into his or her head to do so.

There is an old saying that we get the leadership we deserve. A country where people have to be told that piling marmalade sandwiches outside royal residences as a mark of ‘respect’ is really not a very good idea might just be proving the truth of that saying.

1 comment:

dafis said...

Plenty of grounds for thinking that a large proportion of the British (4 NATIONS) public is well and truly taken in by all the ceremonial pageantry,rhetoric, and every other aspect of the on going circus. The degree of common compliance is eye watering and indicates that the drift to a new form of totalitarian corporate state is almost irreversible. Does anyone of any significance believe in freedom of thought and choice any more or will it be left to some of us humble common people to kick start a major change. The Great Reset may only be stopped by an even greater revolution.