Kishwar Desai | Young stay aloof from monarchy; Liverpool hit by Eurovision fever

The Asian Age.  | Kishwar Desai

Opinion, Columnists

It seems the elderly British are super-loyal and believe the monarchy is a strength. But those under 30 are indifferent or hostile

Crowds are on the way to Buckingham Palace after the coronation ceremony for Britain's King Charles III in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

There is still a bit of euphoria left over from the coronation, last week. Newspapers are still coming out with multicoloured supplements of the King and his extended family. So everyone is still a little giddy with the parties and the celebrations. And the wall-to-wall coverage.

We escaped any crisis, thanks  to Prince Harry maintaining a low profile as he came, sat quietly in a back row through the coronation and then scooted back to Heathrow to be present at his son’s birthday in Los  Angeles. A sigh of relief that the joyous occasion was not marred by any tantrums which would have only inspired another Netflix movie!

India sent the Honourable Vice-President to attend the coronation. So Londoners had the benefit of meeting him at the local Taj where he spoke to the large gathering followed by a dinner.

But as always, there is a reaction following all that jollity.

This being Britain in the 21st century, there is a debate about whether royalty will survive for long. While the splendour of the coronation ceremony should have silenced such debates, there has been a reverse effect. There are a growing number of Republicans in the British population, who were standing around even in the coronation crowds, with placards stating “Not My King”. As expected, the police overreacted and arrested some of them fearing that these demonstrators may upset the procession or, even worse, upset the tight timetable by blocking it, lying down in the road as the climate change rebels do. The procession went through on time but as a consequence the Republicans got a lot of publicity. Questions were asked in Parliament about them. But there has been an increase in their membership and newspapers are agog with shock at such unseemly behaviour. However, for many in India who got rid of their maharajah system post-Independence this addiction to royalty appears to belong to a different era. Somewhat quaint and old-fashioned.

It seems the elderly British are super-loyal and believe the monarchy is a strength. But those under 30 are indifferent or hostile. So unless the youngsters mature into monarchists, there is a problem for the young Prince George — the next but one in line of succession — though William the Prince of Wales may just get away with it. Maybe because he and his wife are already trying to look like one of the masses: he will be the king connected to the people, unlike his father who may still need someone to squeeze the toothpaste tube for him every morning.

But let’s not forget that the monarchy is a whole industry and far too many people — including the tourism industry — depend on it. Not to speak of the staff who maintains and manages the various palaces.

But out in the real world, business as usual has resumed. We had local elections in most parts of the country except London. It is a rule of British politics that the ruling party loses seats in local elections. Then we get into a debate as to what this will do to its chances in the general elections. The truthful answer is, “no one knows”. But that does not stop speculation. As the Conservatives lost more than they had expected, there is much speculation about Rishi Sunak.

He has, however, done 200 days as Prime Minister, which, given recent history, is quite remarkable. But during the coronation, it was Penny Mordaunt who had a starring role as Leader of the House of Commons (a post established centuries ago), carrying a sword and preceding the King through the ceremony. She had contested and lost in the leadership elections which Liz Truss won. So now she is being touted as the next Prime Minister. One would have thought there is little time left before the next election to change Prime Ministers but then English politics has become like the weather — unpredictable.

There are pleasant surprises, however. The Eurovision Song Contest which has been going on for over 65 years has come to Liverpool this year. It should be held in Kyiv, Ukraine, as it was a Ukrainian group which won the contest last year. That qualified Kyiv to stage this year’s contest. But the situation being a bit dangerous out there, Liverpool was chosen (as the native place of the Beatles) to do the honours. The music will range from the predictable to the bizarre. But the thrill of the Eurovision is the final decision. Each country taking part has a panel watching which gets to cast their votes on the performance of each contesting country. As the contest is European, the language is French. The scoring is the highlight, not the music. The country getting the maximum points is the winner so this is a democratically decided contest. I always enjoy the cheeky commentary that accompanies it… and this year it is Sweden who has been voted as the winner! Well, that brings back memories of ABBA — who won the Eurovision in 1974 with “Waterloo” —  and then never looked back!