Magazine article Public Finance

There Is Nothing like a Dame

Magazine article Public Finance

There Is Nothing like a Dame

Article excerpt

Once again, Britons are being feted for what we are good at. Dame Helen Mirren's Oscar for The Queen (note the Dame, it is a big part of this story) is further evidence of the UK's fantastic reserves of outstanding acting and artistic talent.

I, for one, am prepared to put up with a lot of luvvie nonsense if this helps get the message through that the arts are a great British success story and need public and political support. Anyone heard from the arts minister lately?

But, this year, the news from Hollywood feels even more resonant. Yes, we do acting very well. But weren't the Academy casting their votes not just for an actress, but for the subject of the film too, Elizabeth Windsor?

This Oscar helps define our national story as well as our artistic accomplishments. How ironic then that the film's raw material - the massive popular reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales represents one of the darkest moments in the long history of the British monarchy.

And how very British of us to allow the film to turn the story of this very public crisis into a private, domestic and rehabilitating drama.

Whether intentionally or not, The Queen has helped push the monarchy back on to the short list of British institutions that are untouchable - at least while this particular monarch remains in charge. Her Majesty is reported, reasonably enough, to be 'guietly pleased'.

The film's success tells us some very important things about the state of Britain today.

Ten years can indeed be a long time in politics. Back in 1997, a fresh-faced Tony Blair spoke of the 'people's princess' and struggled to gain control of and shape the public's resentment at the royal family's behaviour. Many leading Labour figures had recently guestioned the Windsors' role and status. There was said to be a strong core of republicans in the Cabinet.

For a few days at least, the Palace was in retreat. Hard to credit now, but for many people it felt almost like a revolutionary moment. The prime minister rescued the royal family by appearing to confront it.

Can we imagine Blair being willing or able to take on such a role today? No matter. There is no need. Even those who are firmly opposed to the monarchy accept there is nothing to be done, for now at least.

But we shouldn't misread today's apparent consensus and conclude that the monarchy is no longer influential in our national life.

As TV and other schedules are cleared for the tenth anniversary of Diana's death later this year, and while the big royal news concerns Prince Harry serving in lrag, many see the monarchy as all about show business and of no real consequence. …

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