JUST in case there was any doubt as to the Queen’s popularity, the amazing, heart-felt and spontaneous outpouring of the past few days serves as categorical proof that republicans have been routed. Support for the Royal Family from the Great British public – in all of its modern diversity – is increasing, and is even near all-time highs; the turnaround since the 1990s, the monarchy’s worst decade since the 1930s, has been spectacular. To those of us who believe the monarchy to be one of the UK’s great assets, a central reason for the relative stability of its legal system and a guarantor of its capitalist and democratic institutions, this is great news.
So why this spectacular turnaround – and what can others learn from it? Endurance helps immensely, as does dedication, duty and relentless hard work. The best way to be loved is not to seek to be loved; public respect for a leader can eventually turn into extreme fondness. Another reason is the Queen’s ability to learn, adapt and evolve. She realised over the past 20 years that she must accept frailty in those closest to her – and that the strongest ancient institutions and traditions are those that have been modernised but don’t look like it.
Excessive rigidity doesn’t work in human relationships; the ability to accept one’s own mistakes, to compromise, forgive and eventually embrace controlled change is essential. The Queen now understands all of this; her mission has been to allow the Royal Family to reinvent itself without losing its magic. This weekend was replete with symbolic shifts: the Queen sat next to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in her carriage; the Duchess of Cambridge, one of the monarchy’s top assets, had a place on the balcony; Prince Charles made his best speech yet.
There is a broader lesson. The UK’s establishment – especially its chattering classes – keeps defying public opinion and getting it wrong. Fashionable republicanism has been spectacularly defeated (other less important pet causes, such as reforming the voting system, were similarly rebuffed by the public). Both groups’ opposition to the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s – the privatisation of state owned companies, the sell-off of council houses, the taming of militant unions, the cutting of crippling tax rates – was equally misplaced. Or take the EU: the chattering class consensus for a wholesale embrace of that project has pushed the UK into its worst economic and foreign policy blunder of the past 60 years.
One of the least well-known facts of the Queen’s reign is that it has been accompanied by stronger economic growth than under any previous monarch. Andrew Sentance of PwC has crunched the numbers. Annual GDP growth between 1952-2012 averaged 2.4 per cent. William IV’s reign (1830-1837) ranks second at 2.2 per cent; Queen Victoria only managed 2 per cent per year, even though Britain became the world’s richest and most powerful nation when she was on the throne. But the present Queen’s reign was bad for inflation: the retail price index has grown by 5.5 per cent per year – almost as bad as the 5.8 per cent a year seen under King George VI, from 1936 to 1952.
The City goes back to work this morning to a deteriorating Eurozone, with Spain all but begging for a bailout. Tough times loom. But the public and our Diamond Queen have renewed their love affair – and that, amid the gloom, is wonderful news.
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