Magazine article The Spectator

Silent Majority

Magazine article The Spectator

Silent Majority

Article excerpt


A few years ago a former colleague told me that one of the then royal correspondents at the BBC only continued in the post because he hoped to be there to report the ending of the monarchy. At the time I laughed because I knew he would have a long wait. He retired defeated, needless to say, as will his successors.

I have to say, though, that the BBC recovered much of its poise and skill in its coverage of the funeral procession to the lying in state of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in Westminster Hall, and the funeral itself last Tuesday, both on radio and television. Unless I missed something, I couldn't really fault it. My only caveat is the surprise expressed by reporters stationed at various parts of the route through London at the size of the crowds, an indication perhaps, of reading the Guardian too closely. Don't do it chaps, it rots the brain.

Talking of the Guardian, one of its writers, Jonathan Freedland, thought the nation was so divided that there would be only a half-hearted response to the Queen Mother's death. How wrong he was. To people over the age of 15, the Queen Mother was part of their lives in the sense that they would know who she was through reading about her. They might even be vaguely - or staunchly - republican but there she was: a unique part of British history. And there she stays after her death.

The republican Freedland, by the way, is one of the BBC's favourite pundits. I knew his father, Michael, in my early years at the BBC when he produced and presented an excellent programme called You Don't Have To Be Jewish. Although this was about Jewishness, it was, as its title suggests, of interest to gentiles. I certainly found it absorbing. It later transferred to the London commercial station LBC. I don't suppose you could make a programme for Jews nowadays as it would seem to be politically incorrect but in the 1970s they were regarded as suitable candidates for a minority programme, as blacks and Asians are today.

Anyway, my point is that Freedland senior would have immediately grasped the significance of the Queen Mother's death in a way that Freedland junior conspicuously failed to do. I also knew Freedland junior briefly when he worked for a time on Radio Four's World at One. Nice chap, I thought at the time; probably still is. He has the ability to write nonsense rather elegantly. In a way, I don't blame him. After all, he is part of what can be loosely described as the Islington liberal-left establishment, mixing only with people of his own kind. …

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