United Kingdom

The Queen dies, long live the King

/
360 views
3 mins read

This is a moment of history as Queen Elizabeth II, a beloved monarch who has reigned for over 70 years, is dead. Her legacy in winding down a vast British Empire and forming a bond between the sovereign and subjects in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the New Commonwealth, has tremendous significance in the world as well.

Queen Elizabeth’s presence is still embedded in British life in coins and banknotes, stamps and post-boxes, in royal warrants, but more in the hearts and minds of her people, who have turned out in their thousands to line the route of the cortege a distance of 100 miles from Balmoral estate to the Palace of Holyrood House overnight, before being moved to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it will lie in state on Monday 12 September 2022, ahead of her State Funeral on Monday 19 September in the Palace of Westminster, which has been declared a bank holiday.

Queen Elizabeth had much affection for Scotland as her family, her mother Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was Scottish and her beloved husband, Prince Philip took the title, The Duke of Edinburgh. Her love of everything Scottish was legendary.

The proclamation of King Charles III

It is also the time for Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall who has waited 53 long years in preparation to the throne, proclaimed as His Majesty King Charles III in legal succession.

It is the first time that there was pomp and ceremony as well as mourning, as the Crown passed, as it has done for over more than 1000 years, to the new monarch.

State trumpeters sounded the royal salute, before the Kings Guard lifted their hats over their shoulders, to give three cheers to their new King at St. James’s Palace, in London on Saturday 10 September 2022.

At one stroke the people of Great Britain become one family from the four corners of this nation, to acknowledge their allegiance to their King. Many had forgotten that the national anthem now demands “God save the King”.

Constitutional Monarchy vs Current Absolute Monarchy?

Most modern kingdoms are considered constitutional monarchies. Monarchs are generally ceremonial heads of state with public responsibilities, with meaningful political authority granted to a Prime Minister or President by a constitution.

Fifteen Governments and 36 nations in the Commonwealth have King Charles III as the reigning monarch and ceremonial Head of State, as in Great Britain.

Absolute monarchies, where the monarch is the final authority are few and far between. There are currently among five including Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Qatar. An absolute monarchy can have a political constitution, with a hereditary Head of State.

Has modernity replaced tradition, call it ritual?

Now as Britons reel from the death of their dearly beloved Queen, her lasting contribution to the nation, the Commonwealth as well as to the world at large, is remembered as the embodiment of both modernity and continuity, in a world of continuous change.

The British monarchy is all about tradition, continuity and the evolution of the style of British democracy over many hundreds or thousands of years.

However, all great institutions have to change to keep in step with the values and aspirations of the people they serve.

Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age, some 70 years of endurance and stoicism in which she graciously helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire and its emergence as a multicultural nation.

Britain is the home to 270 nationalities speaking 300 different languages, foundered on tolerance and respect for difference.

Britain is a global hub for travel and commerce, with nearly 5000 international journalists in London to cover the ceremonial lying of state and funeral of the late Queen.

We are told an estimated 2 billion spectators across the world will see the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, 19 September 2022.

King Charles III is already visiting the realms of the Crown in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with his Prime Minister, Liz Truss to meet the people of Great Britain in person.

King Charles III has also anticipated the will of the people and has conferred the title of Prince and Princess of Wales on Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge ahead of his own Accession and Coronation. This in itself shows how fast things are moving in His Majesty’s realm.

The buttoned down approach to life in Britain has changed with the consent and cheers of his people, who are no longer considered as subjects of the realm, but participants in the change going forward.

Sajid Javed: Man Behind Truss’s Victory

//
635 views
3 mins read

I’m wandering across Scotland spreading time between tasting Scotch, admiring the stunning terrain, imbibing the Scottish way, and witnessing historic political events in the UK from Melrose, on the Scottish-English border. Dominating the news are two events: the battle for No 10; and the embarrassing failure of HMS Prince of Wales to sail.

At 12.30 PM Monday, the Conservative Party at Westminster chose Foreign Minister Liz Truss over Rishi Sunak with a surprisingly small majority to become Prime Minister of Britain following the coup against Boris Johnson in July. Truss’s win was widely predicted and only a miracle could have helped Sunak win. Commentators said they would ‘eat their hat’ or any other item of accouterment was Truss to lose. The UK is not yet ready to have a non-White as Prime Minister.

At 96, the ailing but most loved Queen did not ask the heir to the throne, Prince Charles to swear in Liz Truss, a ceremony that was performed for the first time at Balmoral Castle during her 70-year reign and not Buckingham Palace where thousands of tourists pay Pound Sterling 30 (Rs 3000) for a guided tour. Instead, yesterday the Queen received the PM-in-waiting Truss for the ‘kissing of the hand’, forming the government, and a photograph. In 1908, King Edward VII gave an audience to Herbert Asquith when the monarch was relaxing at the French coastal resort of Biarritz. Both Truss and Sunak had agreed to meet the Queen wherever she was, with Sunak adding: “the PM serves her Majesty”. For Indians, Sunak reaching so close (and yet so far) to becoming PM must be something to celebrate.

On 27th August, the Daily Telegraph put out a two-page supplement for its guesstimate of the Truss cabinet. Expected for the three most senior posts of Chancellor, Home Secretary, and Foreign Secretary are Kwasi Kwarteng, Suella Braverman, and James Cleverly. Kwarteng is a free marketeer and a consistent political ally of Truss. Together they have advocated low taxes, low regulation economy, and minimum governance. John Redwood and Jacob Rees-Mogg are likely to assist the Chancellor. Braverman will have the challenging mission of ending illegal immigrants across the Channel (last Sunday 1061 crossed over). She’s known to have favoured their deportation to Rwanda, since suspended by the courts. Braverman, a child of Kenyan and Mauritian immigrants had described the British empire as “on the whole, a force of good”. For Foreign Secretary, Truss’ likely choice and replacement are James Cleverly assisted by Tom Tugendhat, who was one of the PM aspirants. Cleverly was a junior minister in the Foreign Office.

Tugendhat, a former Army officer, and like Truss a China hawk is chairman Foreign Affairs select committee. Ben Wallace, the current Defence Minister, is likely to keep his job. He has advocated a higher defence budget which agrees with Truss’pledge to raise it to 3 per cent of GDP. Some other ‘likelies’ in the Cabinet are Sir Ian Ducan Smith as leader of the House, Nadeem Zahawi whose leadership bid failed spectacularly, as Health Secretary, and Ranil Jayawardene of Sri Lankan descent as Environment Secretary. Whether Sunak will be in is the big question. He has said he wants to support the Conservative Government in “whatever capacity”.

Sajid Javed who triggered the coup against Boris Johnson and later backed Truss may be rewarded with a ministerial post. Big names likely to be left out are Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab, and Alok Sharma. The Truss government faces enormous economic challenges especially meteoric energy bills. While the pound sterling is struggling, funding the National Health Service is the other big challenge. The never-ending row with France is back in the spotlight. When asked last week whether she considered Macron a friend or foe, Truss replied: ‘the jury is out’. Macron’s response: ‘The UK is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders’. Macron added: ‘if Britain and France cannot determine whether they are friends or enemies, then we are heading for serious problems.

An embarrassing event that Britain could have done without last week was the failed maiden voyage to the US of the UK’s largest (65,000 tonnes) aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, dedicated to Nato. Earlier this year, the second aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, was on a long tour of the Indo-Pacific which included exercises with the Indian Navy. A British Gurkha veteran I spoke to, was puzzled about the four-year Agnipath scheme. Operation BoJo (return of Boris Johnson as PM) many Brits feel, could happen before Christmas following a no-confidence vote in Truss so that he can lead Tories into elections in January 2025. Labour is ahead in the recent polls. India is hoping the FTA under India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership due by Diwali will happen and the price of Scotch will be deregulated. Cheers from Melrose!

Four Prime Ministers in six years in Britain?

//
306 views
2 mins read

Talk about the changing seasons, there is no better country than Britain to change its leaders.

“Knickers to the pessimists, how about that, knickers to all who talk Britain down,” so said Boris Johnson, when he took office as Prime Minister, two and a half years ago when he replaced Theresa May in December 2019. Theresa May was preceded by David Cameron in 2016.

Parliaments are for a fixed term of five years, but it seems the electorate gets fed up with leaders as they fail to meet their expectations.

Many believe, that Boris Johnson was elected as a one-issue Brexit Prime Minister, but he not only delivered Brexit against all odds but made the capital, by rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations, which was the envy of Europe, if not the world. When the job was done, he was thought of as excess to need and booted or so it seems.

Next Prime Minister

Tomorrow 6 September 2022, Liz Truss (47 years old) who beat Rishi Sunak with 81,326 to 60,399 votes (57.1%) to claim the leadership of the Conservative Party, will be formally appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when she meets H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, this time at Balmoral, instead of Buckingham Palace, at the ceremony called “the kiss of hands” before taking office.

What the voters wanted to hear from her, she stated in her victory speech today 5 September at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. She said: “I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

The mantra “Delivery, delivery, delivery”

“I know that we will deliver. We will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver. And we will deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024,” she stated, as she accepted the applause from her party supporters.

The British people are very cautious and resilient. It is too early to tell if Prime Minister waiting, Liz Truss has received a cautious welcome. She has inherited a raft of problems; inflation – the highest in years, energy bills spiralling, Northern Ireland and Brexit on the boil, the war in Ukraine, growing strike action in the UK, trouble everywhere?

Can Liz Truss deliver on promises, promises?
What are the options on her mind? Stability is key for a healthy economy. When it comes to resolving more than one issue, Liz Truss is adept at having a bold plan to first cut taxes, to grow the economy. Who are the people who will benefit most? The rich and the well-to-do business enterprises will benefit the most from a tax cut, while the poor and the vulnerable struggling on low wages will suffer. She is expected, to rely on and surround herself with the “Ultra Conservative” mindset, unlike Boris Johnson, to help her “deliver” by promoting high investment projects with high returns to grow the economy fast.

What are some of the projects that will get capital investment? People have already been told to invest in “Wind Farms”, and buy lands with windmills, to save on their energy bills, long-term.

Will she be promoting more privatisation, who knows? She has pledged her commitment to removing planning restrictions in an attempt to boost housebuilding, but simultaneously, abandoning the government target of building 300,000 houses a year.

The big question is who will she appoint as her Housing Minister, to deliver on her promises? There have already been 20 Housing Ministers who have come and gone since 1997, with little to show.
She is a keen supporter of “fracking” for oil and invests in Nuclear Power Energy to supplement future energy supply.

She is a keen supporter of women, herself taking on the role of Women Minister, her first Ministerial post in 2010.

What choices does she have?

When she has settled in, the first choice she will have is to decide to call a General Election to confirm her position by the electorate. But will she be constrained to plod along with her current reduced majority of 60 Conservative MP’s or wait until 2024, the planned date of the next election? Who knows?