Unity in mourning Queen Elizabeth II must go into making this country better - Alexander Brown

This week’s column is about Queen Elizabeth II, a woman I never met.

Not that I wanted to meet her. You see for most of my life I have not so much ignored the late monarch, but instead opposed the institutions she represents.

As a devout republican, to me the monarchy represents so much of what is wrong with Britain.

It’s the class system personified, a family chosen by God to rule, paid for by us as subjects, instead of citizens.

A police officer stands guard as members of the public stand in line as they queue along Embankment, with the Palace of Westminster, house of Parliaments and Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben, in the background. Picture: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

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My disdain for the monarchy was so great at school when my class was given the task of writing an essay arguing against the monarchy, my teacher made me write one defending them as they knew I’d find it more difficult.

I simply do not understand it, and neither do so many of my friends, all of whom have spent the past week talking in quiet whispers, wondering when it’s OK to ask if this can be the end of not just of the Elizabethan era, but the monarchy as a whole.

It’s not so much discussions of republic or reverence, but rather what this means for the ongoing problems facing the public, and whether ignoring them and suspending politics is what such a dedicated public servant would have wanted.

Seeing food banks forced to close, flights suspended, doctors’ appointments cancelled all comes amid widespread tributes to a woman who just happened to be born into a particular family.

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The extra bank holiday and football can be argued as an important mark of respect, but what of the workers who can’t afford to lose those shifts, whose existence relies on having that income?

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I have the utmost respect for the Queen, who by all accounts seems to have been funny, compassionate and kind. But the response to her death has left me feeling more out of step with public opinion than ever.

Pundits tell me her passing has united the country and the aftermath has shown the best of Britain, all as the country shuts down, with Parliament not sitting during a cost-of-living crisis. Decisions that will impact the lives of millions across the country – such as the mini-Budget due to be delivered by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday – have been put on hold for now.

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It’s a strange sensation to feel so different to the general public and know it’s not a debate or conversation to be had, or at least not for the moment.

Her death has lost a constant in my life, a figure of great importance who was revered by the public.

The Queen’s passage has been honoured from her Scottish home at Balmoral to Edinburgh, where 33,000 paid their respects at St Giles’ Cathedral, to Westminster Hall, where it has been estimated up to 750,000 people will queue to do the same. But I don’t really know how to feel.

We are in a period of mourning, and I feel for all of those who mourn Elizabeth’s loss, I just wish the country could unite to improve people’s lives, not just celebrate the past.

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Patriotism should not just be about loving our traditions, but also wanting to make this country better, and I hope this newfound unity can make that happen.

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