It is not just strangely attired types that turn up at the UK general election constituency results (see earlier story), official ones also take part in formal government ceremonies. These include “Black Rod”, who sounds more like a character out of a dodgy movie. Following tradition, he opened proceedings by banging about with his black rod during the State Opening of Parliament ceremony on 21 June 2017. Later during the goings on, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II read out her new (minority Conservative) government’s plans. And surprisingly there was a lot about space in it.
Due to her weakened position, most of the controversial aspects of Prime Minister Theresa May’s manifesto, save the Brexit-related items, were quietly dropped or watered down, including the controversial social care payment proposals. Less controversial measures that did make the cut included plans to build a space port or two in the UK.
The Queen’s speech even mentioned helping the country’s thriving communications satellite industry, which will have a key part in the upcoming Space Industry Bill. This was surprising as space did not feature at all in the Conservatives’ election manifesto. It was, however, mentioned by their opponents, the Liberal Democrats, so perhaps they are copying them.
Her Majesty is, of course, supposed to be politically neutral, but can never entirely win. Before the Brexit referendum she was said by witnesses at a dinner party to be in approval of the UK leaving the EU. However, at this year’s more informal-than-usual State Opening, which needed hats rather than crowns, the Queen was accused of giving a signal in favour of staying in the EU by wearing the colours of the EU flag on her hat. No doubt the UK’s Space Industry, which mainly backed staying in, will be in approval. Then again perhaps those who pointed out this “coded message” are “talking through their hat”.
By the way, Her Majesty is very attached to her hats. Some years ago, she was even allowed to keep her hat on instead of wearing a hair net in the clean room of the Guildford, UK-based small satellite maker SSTL (aka Surrey Satellite Technology Limited). It can only be a coincidence that SSTL supremo Sir Martin Sweeting is now a Knight of the Realm.
Her Majesty had a full day on 21 June. Apart from having to visit her husband Prince Philip, 96, who was poorly in hospital and who is now thankfully recovered, she had to open Parliament in the morning and then head off to her traditional perch overlooking the Royal Ascot horse race meeting in the afternoon.
In reference to Her Majesty’s tight time schedule and her famous interest in horse racing, veteran heckling Labour MP Dennis Skinner had the best line when he shouted at Black Rod, to much parliamentary laughter: “Get yer skates on…the first race is at half past two!”
Well they don’t call it the Sport of Kings (and Queens!) for nothing.
No doubt Her Majesty’s getaway car was kept revved up, ready to make swift departure after her speech. Apart from the danger of looking her like a bank robber, speeding to the racecourse could, of course, have its own legal hazards. Mind you, even the Queen’s more genteel limousine journey to the Houses of Parliament had its own legal pitfalls. Her Majesty was apparently “grassed up” to the “rozzers” (the police) for not wearing her seatbelt.
Whoever the not-so-super-grass little sneak was in turning “Queen’s evidence”, we say: “Orf with his (or her) head!” Or at least, a stretch inside “At Her Majesty’s Pleasure”!
That is, if there Queen is not doing a stretch inside herself for this minor motoring faux pas. Or, more likely, after being done for “possession of an offensive husband”. 🙂
Her husband, Prince Phillip – The Duke of Edinburgh – is, of course, famous for making amusingly insulting quips. It is the reason why we love him. God bless him.
Post Script: Prince Phillip (aka “Phil the Greek”), has just retired from most public engagements at the age of 96, and previously gave good service as Chancellor at your correspondent’s alma mater, the University of Salford. Either way, your correspondent hopes that this article has not messed up his chance of a knighthood!