Long Lived The Queen - Now What?
It is time for the country to move on - but what might that look like?
Queen Elizabeth II has passed. The country's self imposed ten days of mourning is over. The scenes at the funeral were remarkable - like that of a saint passing. The silence across the country was palpable. In fact, it was deafening. A place truly rocked by mourning. Mourning for everyone’s ‘Mama’ (yes, apparently the Brits still use that term), mourning for times gone by. Mourning for a wider common wealth that is by now all but lost.
But the mourning is over and it is time to move on - witness the fact a Google search for ‘Queen of England’ already redirects to King Charles III - proving even the monarchy can fiddle with digital!! In Bob’s famous words ‘The Times They Are A-Changin'.
The country looks up from mourning the mysticism of the monarchy to harsh realities. The cost of living is about as high as the tallest flagpole wherever the flag sits. The rise of inflation is as meteoric as that of its new Prime Minister and the Ukraine war is feeling about as dodgy as her predecessor. The sight of Her Majesty’s corgi’s and dutiful black pony pulling at the loss of their beloved owner about summed it up: lost in the moment and devoid of direction - its loved one off to a better place. Questioning where that leaves those left to struggle on in this chaotic place.
It feels like the country left behind by its stoic steward is at a major crossroad.
You know, like Nokia, when it faced the arrival of the iPhone, when Blockbuster stumbled at the arrival of Netflix or when Will Smith slapped chops at the Oscars! Each is now somehow left behind… The United Kingdom?
There are dates that generations of British schoolchildren remember: 1066 – the battle of Hastings; 1215 – the sealing of Magna Carta; 1588 – the defeat of the Spanish Armada; and the outbreak of the world wars in 1914 and 1939. Now, we add 2022 to that list: the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Anne Whitlock, a British historian, described the nostalgia of the passing Queen: “For me, the moment when the imperial crown, representing the sovereignty of the nation, and the orb and sceptre, representing spiritual and temporal power, were removed from the coffin, and so from Elizabeth for the last time, was the moment when my expertise abandoned me. In that instance, I became not a professor of the history of modern monarchy, but a disoriented fortysomething who, at least in that moment, witnessed the breaking of the spell: the shattering of the magic of monarchy that I have often described but had always assumed I was quite immune to. Today, the funeral and burial of Queen Elizabeth II uprooted something. The succession is secure, but with the Queen’s passing, the monarchy’s place and purpose, for better or worse, less so.”
And it is almost as though the passing of such a timeless being has temporarily thrown the planet off its orbit. NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket cannot get off the tarmac. Crypto is crashing again, this time thanks to Ethereum going green. ‘The Merge’ is starting to look like The Verge on a bad night out. Record-busting drought conditions are being replaced with shocking floods from Australia to the Adriatic. People are literally being washed away. Black skies beckon.
Apocalyptic conditions seem to be marking her passing.
The UK has been surpassed by India as the fifth largest economy - casting it adrift from its once imperialist might. Elizabeth II was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during her lifetime and 15 at the time of her death. Things are not quite as they used to be. And, to boot, recession is on the horizon. England sitting towards the bottom of a number of economic peer charts.
Something needs to change.
Even the war in Ukraine has become a little unhinged. The ‘mighty’ Russian army is getting pushed back by the scrappy Ukrainians. Putin’s response has been to double down - wider conscription and more nuclear threats. In just a few weeks the Ukrainians have taken back enough land to fit half of Wales in. Which is more than a few rugby pitches and could have proved handy when the English premier league decided to cancel its games as fast as a Chelsea manager getting sacked.
And yet, the day of the funeral, England basked in late summer sunshine. Warmth and light all around. Could this be the beginning of a new dawn?
England suddenly has a new King and a new Prime Minister. Both need to drive hard and fast to make a difference in such odious times - meaning a honeymoon period the length of a Russian Howitzer. For this new his/hers combination to have happened in just a few days is truly unprecedented. Like Brad Pitt’s debut coffin sculpture unveiled at a Finnish art museum the weekend of the funeral??!! His timing, as always, proved immaculate.
Perhaps the once modern Queen’s passing could herald a new dawn for the country she so cherished, like she indirectly helped create the conditions for the late President Mandela to change the direction of his African nation. She steadfastly refused to visit South Africa under apartheid, surely a silent protest, and subsequently welcomed its first black president with open arms. They were on first name terms and Mandela even developed a special nickname for the queen: Motlalepula, which means to come with rain and was given as a token of "our affection to Her Majesty" said the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Explaining what it meant to the then Prince Charles at a banquet in his honour in 1997, Mandela said the name was conferred on the queen because her visit to South Africa two years earlier had coincided with torrential rains that South Africa had not experienced in a long time. Extra planetary powers indeed!
Can the passing of the late Queen mark the beginning of a new dawn for the United Kingdom?
Certainly things can change. After all, post-Brexit, post-pandemic and post-Elizabeth, with new leaders at its helm that need to win over their weary taxpayers, the conditions might be more favourable. The slate, to an extent, has been wiped clean and you could argue that there is less to lose now. Britain has switched to a male head of state for the first time in 70 years at the same time as changing back to a female prime minister. It is also switching to fracking while ushering back unlimited bankers bonuses - proving you can’t win them all!
Perhaps the new leaders should also pivot to developing an economy that can grow sustainably from the ground up with an educational strategy and industrial policy that plays on its unique strengths - the British ability to punch above its weight. After all, this little island nation is somehow the sixth largest economy in the world and operates one of the largest financial centres. All while laying claim to Ricky Gervais.
The UK has a wide ranging creative sector with an extraordinary ability to develop world beating actors, writers, musicians and their enablers including agents, advertising firms, personal trainers and, of course, drug dealers. The country also has a leading scientific and research base powering the digital sector, healthcare, fintech and more. Such capabilities could position it well for the upcoming Web3 wars. It is even punching hard at environmental innovation. Sometimes swinging both ways!
Perhaps the future of the UK could lie in connecting its industrial dots from finance to creativity and science. Investing more heavily in each. The future stock exchange could represent those sectors more effectively - God, er King forbid - perhaps even globally.
It might be time to kick off the chains that hold the country back in the name of a low growth, low investment and low productivity economy, with poor social mobility and a deep-seated, class-driven inequality. A cultural re-boot enabling innovation and wealth creation for more. Driving risk taking and capital raising. Applauding the innovator.
Trickle-up economics might also prove a more innovative way forward. Perhaps Britain needs a new agenda and a new approach - one that re-enforces its internationalism and sense of fairness. It could take from the successes of California by fighting a new war - driving an industrial policy that enables it to compete globally by nurturing British companies and charities that can become world leaders. After all, despite having a population of only 40 million compared with the UK’s 65 million people, California’s gross domestic product of $2.7tn recently overtook the UK’s $2.6tn. That way California might not need to secede - they could just move to the UK!
It might be time to lead a different charge - expanding the entrepreneurial realm. Is that not what the Prince’s Trust is all about? Perhaps the new commonwealth could become one that is centred on ambitious new companies with an economic might that springs from its world leading financial hub. More Richard Branson than Duke of Wellington. In fact, maybe we should create the right economic, political and financial conditions such that the next Richard Branson does not have to leave our shores and become a tax exile. You know, like Californians.
Britain’s new leaders could look to the future rather than the rear view mirror.
After all, the past is now firmly behind. The front view might prove a lot more exhilarating and liberating. A new legacy for different times - perhaps thinking more about our children than our lost generation. A future fitting of the British people the Queen so cherished. Paddington included.
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