I'm out walking in nature at the moment. Might be the best place for me for the next hour or two, or decade. I'm not a royalist, but sympathy to the Queen's close relatives.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 8, 2022
And God Save The King.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 8, 2022
'Normal programming has been suspended. And let's be honest, you may never be getting it back.'— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 8, 2022
I was planning to blog today about Liz Truss' surprisingly assured performance at her first PMQs, and how in a perverse way it gave me heart for the cause of independence. But I suspect it will now be practically illegal to talk about anything that doesn't involve the Royal Family for at least the next six months. That being the case, let's briefly consider what the political implications of today's events could be. (And if you think it's too soon for that, remember we live in a choice-rich multi-media environment and the BBC is there for those who prefer 12,748 uninterrupted hours of state-directed mass grief.)
The future of the monarchy: It's long been speculated that the accession to the throne of King Charles could be the natural moment for some of the remaining Commonwealth Realms to replace the monarchy with a homegrown Head of State, as Barbados did very recently. The monarchy is much more firmly entrenched in the UK itself, although it's conceivable that a less popular Head of State and a relatively unpopular Queen Consort could increase the size of the minority who favour a republic, and that could prove to be of some significance in the very long term. But on the other hand, Charles as King brings the undoubted glamour of William and Kate one step closer to the throne.
Liz Truss: If the new Prime Minister has some hardbitten and cynical advisers (as all Prime Ministers seem to), they're bound to be telling themselves that this is the most extraordinary, unique opportunity for Truss to connect immediately with the British public and to establish herself on the world stage, if she can just find the right words. The obvious comparison is with Tony Blair, who eulogised Princess Diana as "the People's Princess" just a few months after taking office. (The Quintessential Queen? The Most Matriarchal of Monarchs? Legendary Lillibet?)
Independence for Scotland: We always knew this moment would arrive, and we always knew it would be challenging for the independence movement, because events like this push Britishness to the fore. However, the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was an event of almost the same magnitude as far as the public were concerned, and it didn't stop Scotland voting overwhelmingly in favour of having its own parliament in a referendum held just ten days later. The difference here may be that there isn't going to be any natural closure after the funeral is over - there'll still be a sense of transition until the Coronation, which I presume could be a whole year away and will be the focal point for unprecedented media hysteria that will surpass any Royal Wedding. (And will there also be an investiture ceremony for William as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle?) In the long run, though, an unappealing King Charles and Queen Camilla could diminish the value of the UK 'brand' and make independence seem less unthinkable for some.
The BBC: I just have this very slight feeling the BBC may over-reach themselves over the coming weeks, because their protocols for royal deaths seem to be permanently stuck in the 1950s. I believe comedy and light entertainment programmes will be completely dropped for a prolonged period. The BBC may be capturing the mood of Britain tonight, but after a few weeks of this will people start saying "yeah, Nick Witchell is great, but could we watch Mock the Week now?"