Monday 12 September, 2022

The Queen is the story, not the rudderless UK

The media circus round Buckingham Palace has to be seen to be believed. TV networks from all over the world. My son Pete (who lives in London) cycled to the Palace on Friday out of curiosity and sent me a short video which gives you some idea of the scene. The death of no other monarch on earth, he surmised, would have attracted that kind of attention.

He’s right. The Brexit crowd will doubtless interpret this level of attention as evidence for their conviction that the UK still really matters to the world. If so, it would be a be a serious misjudgement. The late Queen, not the UK, was the story – a head of state who played by the rules, even as they were being torn up by ‘her’ clueless Prime Ministers.

Apropos that… after the Queen had passed away the current clueless PM stood outside Downing Street and said that she had been “the very spirit of Great Britain”, clearly unaware that Elizabeth II had been queen of the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Which made one wonder (a) what the DUP loyalists over in Belfast made of their exclusion, and (b) how Truss will handle the upcoming crisis over the Northern Ireland Protocol which her predecessor signed and was trying to break before he left office.

Quote of the day

“In 1864 a notice was pinned to the rails of Buckingham Palace in the manner of an advertisement: “these commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late occupant’s declining business”.

  • David Cannadine in “The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the ‘Invention of Tradition’, 1820-1977”.

Long Read of the Day

The short unhappy life of Elizabeth Windsor

From Politico, the most interesting obituary I’ve read. It’s by ‘Otto English’ which is the pen name used by Andrew Scott, a writer and playwright based in London.

TL;DR summary: To provide the United Kingdom with the monarch she felt it needed, Queen Elizabeth II sacrificed an ordinary life and the other things most of us take for granted.

Worth your time.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Karl Jenkins | Benedictus | 2Cellos | Live, Zagreb


Somehow, appropriate for this moment.

Tesla gave us tech on wheels, so how come it forgot to include the service centres?

Yesterday’s Observer column:

The first thing one learns when purchasing a Tesla, as this columnist did in December 2020, is that the neighbours immediately begin to hold one personally responsible for Elon Musk. The co-founder and now Supreme Leader of the company is, one finds, widely regarded by non-techies as a fruitcake with a bad Twitter habit, so it follows that anyone who buys one of his cars must be a devotee of the world’s richest nutter and therefore not properly earthed.

Interestingly, there was a time, not so very long ago, 2005 to be precise, that this view of Musk was held by sensible German men in suits, who laughed at the idea of this jerk building automobiles. Didn’t he know that making cars is hard and that BMW, Mercedes, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and the rest had spent the best part of a century figuring out how to do it profitably at scale? Sure, he might be able to produce expensive toys for Silicon Valley types – but real cars?

The industry’s derisive scepticism reminds me of 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone…

Read on

Whatever happened to Rudi?

Interesting NYT piece by Andrew Kirtzman on the accelerating self-destruction of the hero of 9/11.

Rudy Giuliani led a terrified city through the deadliest attack in its history. As a reporter covering him from a few feet away that morning, I ran with him from the hurricane of ash and debris following the collapse of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, trekked a mile up a Manhattan avenue as he and his aides searched for safe harbor and watched his security detail break into a firehouse with a crowbar.

He gave orders to aides calmly and decisively, reassured a frightened police officer, shushed a cheering crowd and spoke to the world from a tiny office. Like countless others, I was grateful that someone had taken charge, undaunted by the madness of the situation.

These images often come to me when I try to reconcile that brilliant leader with the confused, widely ridiculed figure facing potential indictment for trying to subvert the 2020 election.

Mr. Giuliani is virtually alone at this desperate hour…

The thing that finally did for him, of course, was hooking up with Donald Trump. Sad but inevitable.

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