The Queen’s death marked the end of an era in British history and for the last eleven days we have come together to mourn her passing and express gratitude for her reign. In Edinburgh and in London, tens of thousands came in person to pay a personal tribute. Many more lined the streets and stood by the roadside as she passed on her last journey from Balmoral to Windsor. Across the country and around the world millions watched as she made her great journey home.
At the same time as Charles III led his family’s and the nation’s private and public mourning, the King started his new reign by finding the words and actions to bring the nation together and to provide the reassurance it needed. It was a sure footed start to his new duties. In doing so well he has paid perhaps the greatest compliment possible to his mother. Both her and the Duke of Edinburgh would surely be very proud of their eldest son.
Now normal life will once again begin to resume, including our national politics. Our politicians have found a way to behave with commendable restraint and grace during the period of official national mourning, but that will not and cannot last. Liz Truss’s Premiership will effectively begin this week. Partisan politics will resume. There is much for our political masters to address. The economy is in a perilous state. Wild talk of fiscal headroom and fiscal firepower may sound good in headlines and soundbites but bear no reality to the fragile state of the nation’s finances. No individual, no family, no business, and certainly no country can simply go on borrowing more and more without consequence. Inflation must be controlled. Enterprise and innovation encouraged, education and health services reformed, improved and invested in. Global sympathy over the death of our Monarch will not help with exports and trade deals. We must work very hard to strengthen our diplomatic as well as trading partnerships. Our unmatched ability to put on a military parade does not absolve us from the need to continue to invest heavily in our defence and security capabilities. Deep affection for the late Queen will not silence the voices who argue for greater political independence in these islands. Inequality of opportunity has many causes. The war in Ukraine with all its consequences rumbles on. China’s influence continues to grow. All need addressing. The Prime Minister has a huge list of issues demanding her immediate attention.
Liz Truss has come to office in the most challenging set of circumstances in half a century. On paper she inherits a parliamentary majority of well over 70, but it’s anyone’s guess what it is in reality. Although the myth of certainty surrounding her often obscures the fact Mrs Thatcher was in reality a flexible, realistic and agile politician. She certainly knew what she wanted and was resolute in achieving it, but she was also canny in her tactics and methods. Liz Truss needs to strengthen the economy without spooking the markets. This will require all the determination and canniness she possesses.
We have known the new King and Queen well for a very long time. It is not really a great shock or change to see them front and centre of our national life. By finding the right words and the right tone, the King has re-enforced that sense of warmth and thoughtful compassion which we know he possesses. Unless you are a fountain pen or an ink pot we know we have nothing to worry about with the new reign. To many however the new Prime Minister, despite her many years in government, remains very much an unfamiliar figure and the policies of her new government unknown. She will need to set out the policies and direction of her government quickly and clearly.
As the national focus turns once again from Buckingham Palace to 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister too will need to find the right words and the right tone. The King has made a strong start. Truss needs to make a strong start too.