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Reflections on the Diamond Jubilee

June 10, 2012 11:32 AM
By Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

A wise MEP, who chaired several British public companies simultaneously, told me thirty years ago that one secret of his success was simply facing up to problems and dealing with them, and not putting them off. Easy to say, very hard to do.

After this week's jubilee celebrations, I totally share the public's gratitude to the Queen for the stability she has given Britain, as head of state, over the past sixty years. I hope that she continues doing so for a long long time to come.

But watching the old news reports on television of her coronation, and knowing that the same lavish ceremonies will be repeated one day after she is gone, I shuddered at their expense and at their irrelevance to the modern world. The pomp, the gold, the elaborate costumes, the rituals and ceremonies, the ancient coaches, the flunkeys, the robes and coronets, the vast number of hours spent on decoration and on planning and rehearsal. And the lavish religious ceremony - when Britain's official religion is only one of many philosophies all invented to help humans avoid the problem of facing our own individual extinction. And this week we had two days of extra public holidays while Britain's finances continue to deteriorate.

If future generations look at news films of us, they will marvel at the waste and irrelevance compared to the problems of the real world.

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg makes valid but vain attempts at constitutional reforms to update our decaying method of government - its unequal voting system, the centralisation of power in Whitehall, our unelected upper chamber, and the inability of backbenchers in the lower house to defy the whips and do their meant job of controlling the government. So many urgent reforms, to deal with our problems, are not being dealt with.

We are held back by fantasies - of the right wing of the Tory party and of UKIP - about our realistic place in the world. Meanwhile, in the real world, climate change continues, the increase of international organised crime continues, our national indebtedness grows. The only way our government can pay off their debts is either by more austerity or by printing more money with high inflation for years to come. Fantasies do not allow us to escape from the real problems.

Is Britain facing its problems and dealing with them? I fear not enough. Nor are Greeks or Spaniards or other Europeans. When historians ask why Britain foundered into mediocrity or worse, that will be part of the answer. Pageantry was more fun than paying our way.