Platinum Jubilee and the ‘pong of Pyongyang’


Midway through the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, someone mentioned the distinct “pong of Pyongyang“.

That’s a touch over the top but it’s true that the gushing tributes to Queen Elizabeth II – from everyone featured anywhere in the British press, on TV, radio or anything – would not have disgraced event choreographers in North Korea.

There is none of that robust self-deprecation that we might expect.

This is not to say anything against the Queen. Why would one? After all, she is 96 and the Diana years are well in the past, as are the several unfortunate racist passages in the life of the country she has presided over for seven decades.  As ‘The Economist’ has noted, “a 70-year reign is unprecedented for an English monarch. And the queen commands widespread approval. Eight in ten Britons have a positive opinion of her; every single age group thinks of her favourably. The virtues of continuity and consensus that the queen represents are sorely lacking in other branches of the British state.”

Even so, it might have been more sensible and believable to not tell ludicrous stories about the Queen as the fount of all love and inclusiveness. Remember, the palace had a ban on people of colour working in office roles within the royal household in the 1960s and 1970s.

Quite apart from that, there is a large group of people in Britain that is not keen to have the royal family play this central role in the country’s life after the old Queen passes. Admittedly, that is after Queen Elizabeth II but it still says something about her management style. In management speak, one would say that a CEO who is seen as the only saviour of a business entity has not done enough to prepare and execute a succession plan. It’s worth noting that republican sentiment is running neck-and-neck with monarchism among Britain’s under-30s. Then again, six in 10 Britons said they favoured the continuation of the monarchy in a recent YouGov poll.

What all of this suggests is shades of grey. It might have been honest and accurate to acknowledge these and the shifting sands on which the British monarchical edifice will stand after the old Queen.