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On big national occasions, my family, like millions of others, wants to be together. For jubilees, royal weddings and funerals, the best china is dusted off, tea from Fortnum & Mason is ordered, bunting is hung (if applicable) and the furniture is rearranged so that everyone can see the TV well.
The Coronation was different. When I received an invitation, I was excited, but I put a lot of thought into my response. Would I be taking the place of someone more deserving?
He knew that hereditary peers had been lost, even those whose ancestors had taken on ceremonial roles in coronations over generations. There was a sense that the essence of our heritage was being eroded to make way for those far less worthy of attendance: namely, parliamentarians.
It took the reassurance of a trusted friend to convince me that I should accept. I have been a deputy for 17 years, she argued. I rose through the ranks: from committee chair on the Speakers Panel to junior minister, Minister of State and then Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
I was not cut from the Oxbridge PPE fabric that gave others automatic promotion during the Cameron and Osborne era. “I’ve had to prove myself and my ability every step of the way,” he reminded me.
Lord Speaker of the Council, Penny Mordaunt, carrying the Sword of State, in the procession through Westminster Abbey before the coronation ceremony
Left to right: Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove, Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt at the coronation.
Nadine Dorries (pictured) was ‘thrilled’ when she received an invitation to the Coronation but wondered if she would ‘take the place of someone more deserving’.
While at DCMS, I oversaw the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and last summer’s Commonwealth Games, while ensuring preparations for the Queen’s eventual funeral were in place before my departure.
However, the proudest moment of my parliamentary career was the day in September 2021 when the late Queen swore me in as a Privy Councillor. It was in that capacity that I was invited to the Coronation.
The Privy Council dates back to the 13th century and plays an ancient and ceremonial role, its formal function being to advise the monarch.
I am passionate about our history and traditions: what are we without them? As a nation, we punch above our weight on the world stage, and that is due in large part to the efforts of our hardworking royalty, who dedicate their lives to service.
So I accepted the invitation and felt honored to do so. But on that day, I was surprised to see so many backbenchers from all parties, particularly the more inexperienced ones from the more recent additions of 2017 and 2019.
Among all the parliamentarians, foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, recipients of the British Empire Medal and those who have helped the King in his many charitable endeavours, Charles and Camilla were only able to invite a limited number of family and friends.
According to some reports, among the 2,000 guests, there were only about 40 members of the Royal Family, about 20 relatives of Queen Camilla, plus a few Middletons. That’s less than many people can invite to their family wedding!
Seeing all those MPs there dismayed me: it made me realize that this historic occasion had been politicized. It was obvious to me that the invitations had been used to reward certain MPs for dirty political favors to their party leaders. And that contrasted terribly with the religious and ceremonial splendor of the time.
As it was, many of the MPs were sitting virtually in the rafters with the pigeons, behind a screen and away from the camera crews.
Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross (right) arrives at Westminster Abbey ahead of the coronation ceremony.
The Lord President of the Council, Penny Mordaunt, presents the Sword of State to King Charles III, during the coronation ceremony of King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.
I’m sure they would have enjoyed the service more watching it at home, but I guess at least they can tell their grandchildren they were there.
What was more disturbing was the presence of parliamentarians and junior ministers in the first seats of the cruise. There has never been a role for MPs in past coronations, so why this one? The answer, in my opinion, is that No. 10 was using a seat at the ceremony to oil the wheels of government.
Of course, it wasn’t just Conservative MPs: Labor members also received an invitation. I saw Labor whips there, along with some MPs known to be ‘whip narcotics’, telling stories about their colleagues.
How could they be there, when Lady Pamela Hicks, our late Queen’s childhood friend, lady-in-waiting and lady-in-waiting, who attended the 1953 Coronation, was not there?
Lady Pamela graciously accepted the lack of an invitation – something sadly missing from those MPs who took seats that should have gone to others.
Will Taylor Swift Go Street Smart?
The idea that down-to-earth Denise could one day be mother-in-law to Taylor Swift (pictured) – the megastar singer is dating Denise’s son, Matty Healy, lead singer of The 1975 – makes me smile . face
Many years ago, I opened a mini department store in a posh Cheshire village. I invited a neighbor, actress Denise Welch, to open it and it certainly drew a crowd.
The idea that down-to-earth Denise might one day be mother-in-law to Taylor Swift (the megastar singer is dating Denise’s son, Matty Healy, lead singer of The 1975) makes me smile.
I wonder how long it will be before Taylor gets to see Denise’s most notorious role, as Coronation Street’s man-eater Natalie Horrocks, and what she will think of it?
And, if music is the food of love, play on, Andrew Lloyd Webber!
Let me acknowledge the music of the Coronation, from John Rutter’s arrangement of Psalm 122 to Sir Bryn Terfel singing Kyrie eleison in Welsh, a Byzantine chant, and the beautiful new composition Make A Joyful Noise, by the West legend himself End. .
Lord Lloyd-Webber stirred emotions, lifted spirits and almost raised the roof.
Why Eurovision is right to support Ukraine
The stage of the 67th Eurovision Song Contest at the Bank Arena in Liverpool
I’m heading to Liverpool this weekend to attend the Eurovision Song Contest, which the UK is hosting on behalf of Ukraine.
This is not what the proud Ukrainians wanted: they explored all options, including holding the event on the border with Poland. However, the European Broadcasting Union, an alliance of public media outlets such as the BBC, ruled it out over security, transport and accommodation issues.
I know that everything possible has been done to ensure that Ukraine participates. And credit where credit is due: Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, whom I introduced to Ukraine’s Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, has acted with sensitivity and collaboration.
I am sure that Eurovision 2023 will be a great success for Ukraine and for Great Britain, as we will show not only the music but also what can be achieved by acting in solidarity with a nation under siege.
What are scout leaders doing asking parents what gender their three-year-old identifies with? Congratulations to Sarah Heath, who, when asked this question, looked at her little boy, Jonathan, who was wearing an eyepatch and carrying a machete, and responded: “Pirate!”
Lucy Frazer (pictured), the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has announced a review of the BBC license fee.
Lucy’s victory in the BBC review
I am delighted that Lucy Frazer, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has announced a review of the BBC license fee.
When I took up that role, I requested the review in preparation for having a new funding model in place by the time the Royal Charter is up for renewal in 2028.
My reasoning was that the license fee could not continue to rise at the current rate, with a bloated BBC putting even more pressure on the pockets of working families.
Unfortunately, our review was blocked by the then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
So I’m delighted to see that Lucy has shown some strength and gotten the review past 10 keepers.
The excuse they gave me at the time was that fiscal policy could only be reviewed by the Treasury. It was clearly nonsense. Well done, Lucia. I had begun to despair!