Last weekend’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee demonstrated the affection felt for the Royal Family throughout the country. Travelling around, it has been great to see so many union jack flags on display and so many local communities pulling together to hold a jubilee party.
I can just about remember the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977, or at least remember being given a commemorative mug as a gift. Sixty years makes the Queen one of the longest reigning monarchs ever and she has seen an era of extraordinary change both for our country and the world during that time. She has had no less than twelve different British Prime Ministers leading government’s under her reign, each coming in with big ideas to sort everything out. And she has so far seen eleven of them come unstuck for one reason or another.
But I think that is what is so special and unique about the British constitution. We separate our politics from the Royal Family. Politicians come and go. They take the decisions that they think and believe are right for the country at the time but when things go wrong they are thrown out. But, all the while, the monarchy provides consistency and continuity for the country and none more so than our current Queen. The monarch as head of state symbolises Britain’s staying power and its ability to unite in common endeavour.
Whatever political views people might have, they can still come together to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee. Our politics can be fought out on the issues of the day between rival political parties, but the Queen symbolises our country’s ability to unite. When the Queen delivers her speech to parliament at the start of each parliamentary session, it is the convention that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition walk side by side from the House of Commons to the House of Lords making friendly conversation along the way and every MP must sign an oath of allegiance to the Queen on taking their seat in parliament.
The British constitution has, famously, evolved over many centuries in a rather unusual way. Cornwall’s special position in the United Kingdom as a Duchy is expressed through the Crown. When many other countries were throwing out their monarchies and introducing new, political presidents, Britain found a better way. The power of the Crown was not destroyed but was effectively loaned to democratically elected governments which meant we retained the best of both worlds. It means that no government can sign a treaty or take a decision which binds its successor and that is what guarantees Britain’s absolute independence as a nation. But it also means that ultimate power rests in a Head of State around whom everyone can unite.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.