Leading article: A vision of Britain that unites us

 

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Normal service may have resumed in terms of the weather in London yesterday, with yet more rain, but that won't have dampened the warm afterglow left in the nation's hearts and minds by Danny Boyle's wondrous and witty Opening Ceremony at the London Olympics.

So often we hear it said that it has become impossible to sum up a coherent idea of Britishness – but Boyle pulled it off with energetic but somehow effortless-seeming panache, weaving ancient history, lines from Shakespeare, the story of the Industrial Revolution, the beginnings of post-war immigration and characters from J K Rowling's children's stories – among others – into a single, seamless whole.

It was a vision, or series of visions, with which practically everyone in this country could identify, and made all the more delightful by vibrant humour, as exemplified by the Bond sequence with the Queen.

At the same time, though not remotely party political, it was hard not to detect an implied rebuke, not so much to this Government's precise policies as to its general priorities, in this particular story of Britain. This was a vision of our past and present which, for one thing, paid tribute to the cost paid by ordinary people in such vast phenomena as industrial change, and then went on to suggest that nurses have played a much more important, or more benign, role in most people's lives than have either generals or businessmen.

Bearing in mind the audience ratings for this show in the UK – around 27 million – its enormously popular reception, and the likelihood that these images will linger in the nation's mind for years, the Prime Minister might do well to ponder the ceremony's several messages, all different admittedly, but all celebrating things and experiences cherished and held in common by the many, not the few: a sense of national memory, love of and admiration for the greatest poets and artists – a simple desire to be cared for when we are sick. Mr Boyle deserves a nation's thanks not only for having impressed the world, but for having reminded us in this country of what matters.

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