TWO weeks ago, Britain was in a state of absolute shambles.
Inflation was raging.
Energy and food prices were rocketing.
Violent crime was soaring in a devastatingly heinous manner with nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel shot dead in her own home and charity fundraising pensioner Thomas O’Halloran killed on his mobility scooter.
The NHS was in intensive care after a crippling pandemic that’s caused chronic staff shortages and shockingly bad treatment waiting lists.
Union strikes and picket lines were back to bring chaos to daily life.
Illegal migration across the channel was getting worse not better, with the ill-conceived Rwanda policy stuck in lawyer-infested sidings.
Housing was in crisis with rental costs at unaffordable levels.
The pound had crashed to a 37-year low against the dollar.
Brexit was developing into the act of damaging self-harm that many predicted.
If there was one symbol of where we were heading, it was surely the revelation that we’re pumping record torrents of raw sewage into our seas and onto our coastlines.
It felt like Britain was quite literally turning to sh*t, and the United Kingdom had never been more disunited.
But then the Queen died, and everything stopped.
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For the next ten days, we turned our attention away from all the negatives about our country – and focused instead on the positives.
We remembered what made Britain great.
The series of long-planned events to commemorate the seismic loss of our greatest Monarch became ever grander and more magnificent.
Our unrivalled pomp and pageantry took the world’s breath away.
Our armed forces showed why they too are the envy of the globe, in glorious military procession as well as battle.
Our much-maligned press produced some of the finest tribute edition newspapers I’ve ever seen.
Our under-fire public broadcaster, the BBC, brilliantly rose to the occasion led by masterful Huw Edwards who proved why he’s worth every penny of his controversial salary.
And two sets of people came together to provide a stunning display of all the traits and values which make me proudest to be British.
The first were the Royal Family who set aside their own tremendous personal grief at the death of their beloved Matriarch to reaffirm their status as the biggest stars on the planet – and did so with extraordinary dignity and courage, maintaining for the most part the unfashionable stiff upper lip that the Queen so often illustrated herself in difficult times.
The second group was the British public, and specifically, The Queue.
I knew just how deeply it had resonated when I co-anchored the whole funeral day for US TV network Fox News and my two American colleagues repeatedly use the word ‘queue’ instead of their own version of the word, ‘line’ and were as awe-struck as I was by that astonishing 6-mile snake of human beings.
In a way, The Queue perfectly reflected everything Elizabeth II represented: hard work, diligence, duty, service to others, commitment, resilience, humility, loyalty, courtesy and humour.
It also perfectly reflected what real Britain is like.
The Queue stirred my soul because it made me realise just how unique and brilliant the British people are
This country isn’t the cruel, intolerant bigoted place that demented ‘woke’ Twitter trolls, whiny duchesses, and the constantly Brit-bashing New York Times would have you believe.
In fact, it’s one of the most diverse and tolerant places on Earth, as we could see from the tremendous patriotic pride with which so many people of all ages, colours and creeds in The Queue spoke about their Queen and country.
I found the endless heartfelt interviews they gave very moving, as I did the live-stream footage from inside Westminster Hall where they finally got to have their own brief, personal moment with their Monarch.
The Queue stirred my soul because it made me realise just how unique and brilliant the British people are, and how we’re so clearly at our best when we’re united not divided, as we’ve shown time again from World War 2 to the first terrifying wave of the covid pandemic.
The Queen’s magic was her ability to rise above the toxic fray of political partisanship and bring us all back together, even in her death.
Nobody in The Queue, or the huge crowds lining the route of Her Majesty’s final journey to Windsor Castle, cared what anyone around them thought about the hot button issues that have torn apart families and friendship groups, from Brexit and vaccines to Scottish independence and the Northern Ireland protocol, to Donald Trump and climate change.
Instead, they came together as one to celebrate the astounding life of one woman who became the longest-reigning, most respected Monarch in history.
TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
Today, all the problems Britain faced two weeks ago will come back sharply to the fore.
Be under no illusion, we’re facing a seriously tough time ahead, with the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades and an ongoing war in Europe.
But if we embrace our newfound spirit of a true United Kingdom and the renewed global respect for our country that the past ten days of national mourning have commanded, then we will come through it stronger and better.
The Queen was the very best of British, but so was The Queue.
And as she herself said when asked how she faced up to challenges, and as those in The Queue said when asked how they endured the long cold nights shuffling alongside the Thames, we need to grit our teeth and ‘just get on with it.’
Because that’s what the British do, and we should be bloody proud of it.