Crises? What crises?

Colin Tudge reflects on the 2022 Queen’s Speech

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech was a wondrous occasion, as always. HRH Prince Charles was resplendent in his new blue uniform with all its stars and swags and he read the words beautifully in his rich, comforting baritone. The surroundings were second to none, thanks to the genius of Sir Charles Barry and especially of Augustus Pugin. Somehow the Brits manage to be over-the-top without the vulgarity of, say, Versailles, or those dreadful nouveau-riche palaces that Putin lives in.

Only the content was a little disappointing. The Speech did nothing worthwhile to address the crises in the NHS, or housing, or education, or agriculture, or the natural world (although those who protest too loudly could face jail), or transport, or the judiciary, or the cost of living and the threat or actuality of real poverty and privation and the ever-growing gap between rich and poor, or (although this perhaps is overdue) the imminent break-up of the United Kingdom, thanks to the patriotism of the brexiteers.

Indeed the speech offered nothing at all except more of the same: economic growth, achieved by tax-breaks for foreign corporates and by training people to do highly paid jobs (Who? When? What?). And of course high tech – with special mention of gene editing.

Every night government spokesmen and women on the national news tell us how beautifully they handled Covid (even if Boris, in the style of Donald Trump, refused to acknowledge its existence until it got out of hand, and indeed had the temerity to infect his own person) and single-handedly developed effective vaccines (and there was me thinking it was the scientists!) and of course they never forget to praise our wonderful NHS (even though they have seriously underfunded it since they came to office and the frontline staff had to protect themselves from the potentially lethal virus with bin-liners, and have now been granted a pay-rise much smaller than inflation).

We’re told too for good measure that although Britain is heading for recession now, a year or so ago we had the highest economic growth rate in the G7 (and let’s not forget that in the 19th century we had the biggest Empire the world has ever seen. And we saw off those Frenchies at Trafalgar and Waterloo. And before that at Crécy and again at Agincourt. And we won the World Cup in 1966. And we invented gravity. So let’s stop running Britain down!).

It’s about time though, while we are at it, that Keir Starmer acknowledged that there is more to accuse the Tories of than sleaze, or adultery, or mendacity, or booze, or a penchant for cake. Like a general lack of competence, or historical perspective, or any sense of society, or morality, or indeed – that much neglected concept – of soul.

Does it really matter, though? After all, as John Maynard Keynes sagely observed, “In the long term we are all dead”. Or indeed, the way things are going, in the not so long term. So eat, drink, and be merry. If you can afford it. (You could always sell your house, if you’ve got one. Use your initiative! You can’t rely on the government for everything!)

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