Leaders: Tide of celebration greets floating jubilee pageant
YESTERDAY’S Diamond Jubilee river pageant was as memorable for the defiant response to the weather as for a spectacle greater than any seen in the capital since the 17th century.
The event was followed by tens of millions worldwide who envy our ability both to stage these eye-popping occasions and, in the most dour conditions, provide a national occasion for cheer.
Being a Thames event, it was bound to feel London-centric. But it was an inspired decision to hold a river pageant. It was more spectacular than any carriage procession and afforded views both of the royal barge and of the capital that were truly breathtaking and historic for a television audience worldwide. This event captured as no other the changing skyline of the capital city. Its complex, crowded, diverse and confident architecture speaks to the reality of a liberal and inclusive nation that, despite its relative (and at times absolute) economic decline, is still admired globally and which continues to draw visitors – and settlers – from around the world. That skyline – and the magnetism to which it is testimony – are in no small measure due to the 60 years of political stability we have enjoyed. Not a policeman with a gun in sight yesterday, or even a riot shield. That, too, is cause for celebration.
Above all, it was a heartfelt tribute to an 86-year-old monarch who has carried out her sovereign duties impeccably here and round the world. It did not go unnoticed that not once did she avail herself of that plush red barge chair, but stood throughout to watch and acknowledge all that went by. Nothing more typified the attentive and dutiful monarch she has been, or more commanded the respect due to her for that commitment and that service sustained over 60 years.
A powerful argument for the institution of the monarchy is the frequency of occasion it provides to bring millions together to enjoy celebrations such as this. It cheers individuals and families more than any political event or elective presidency could. And, heaven knows, we need events like this to lift us out of the gloom of our economic condition.
The celebrations were more modest in Scotland, as they have historically always been. It was notable that, while England has been awash with red, white and blue this weekend, many of the public buildings in Scotland remained unadorned. Sixty years of public service across Scotland might well have merited a more charitable display.
That said, it might have helped to underline the national relevance of the Diamond Jubilee had more of its events been spread around the nations and regions of the UK. This would have enabled more to share the celebration directly. And at least it would have avoided an event in one location such as yesterday’s being so vulnerable to inclement weather. That the celebrations carried on regardless was nothing if not typical of the sort of people we are right across the UK. And that alone is cause for celebration.
‘No’ campaign is not all negative
Alistair Darling has his work cut out. It is not just that the campaign against Scottish independence has to compete with an SNP fired by powerful emotion and sense of mission, he also has to avoid a negative campaign centred on the word “No”.
That is a tall order, given that a large element of the argument against independence is of necessity cautionary. A large number of voters will not make up their minds until they have heard the detailed economic implications. The independence campaign has to convince voters that they will not be put at an economic disadvantage.
Alistair Darling will have a firm grasp of the economic and financial ins and outs. He has an ability to appeal through quiet and informed reasoning. He is also a Scot on the centre-left and that should play to his advantage.
At the forthcoming campaign launch and throughout the campaign, he must state and flesh out the advantages of a Scotland with devolved powers, recently enhanced, remaining within the union. The Achilles Heel of the independence campaign is the immediate and prolonged uncertainty that will be generated – an uncertainty corrosive of confidence – for employment, for those borrowing to buy a home and for those wishing to start or expand a business.
The “Yes to the union” campaign starts with one positive: the relative safe haven status of the UK in a financial environment that is the stormiest it has ever been. That status has brought record low borrowing costs that many countries in the eurozone – a tormented club that until recently the SNP was keen to join – can only dream of.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west