letter from the editor

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The Independent Online
Don't start. Don't even mention it. For those of you inclined to write sorrowful letters reminding me of the great days when The Independent never carried Royal stories, and shaking your heads over yesterday's front page about Blair and the Queen, and threatening to report me to Andreas Whittam Smith ... let me put the record straight. All we ever did was to refrain from publishing meaningless Royal stories at inordinate length. This one was not, I think, meaningless.

Far from it. Tony Blair's lavish verbal tributes to the Queen provoked various reactions around this office, from pleased acknowledgement that the era of sneering was ending, to mimicries of violent vomiting. But it was undeniably significant that New Labour, having moved so quickly into action after Diana's death, has decided to be so utterly monarchist. Whatever you say about it, this is a thoroughly pro-establishment administration. It is the new establishment, but rarely has an incoming government been as comfortable with the old one.

There was also, in the Prime Minister's words, an intimate, filial note - the son's witty tribute to his mother. Does he hope to preside over a revival of monarchical popularity, doing for Elizabeth the Second what Disraeli did for Victoria? Stranger thoughts have gone through prime ministerial bonces.

Mr Blair is a keen student of Labour and political history. Has he read, I wonder, Ben Pimlott's book on the Queen, in which the young Harold Wilson is described in 1964 as ``delighted by the Queen ... the ultimate symbol of his own success, linked to his identification with the man-in-the-street, along the lines, as one of his officials put it, of `who would have thought of a chap like me ending up in a place like this'.'' Wilson, we read, did not patronise her but treated her almost as a member of his own cabinet, using her as a sounding-board and delighting in press reports of their ``extraordinary relationship''. It is all uncannily similar this winter. I bet Blair has read Pimlott.

Anyway, it's bad news for republicans. My private hopes of seeing President Alan Bennett at the helm of the nation, or going to my final rest during the presidency of a leathery, gaunt and oracular Jarvis Cocker seem as far away as ever.

Neologism required. Position would suit pithy, one or two-syllable and friendly applicant. Acronyms considered. No time-wasters please. The vacancy is required to describe the ``young Britain'' people who have featured in this week's series, based on MORI research for the Industrial Society.

The interesting thing is that the caricature Young Briton is a person or type many of us instantly recognise as a true fit: liberal on issues like drugs, homosexuality and racism, but dutiful and conservative about relationships and marriage. They are serious, and certainly not socialist; consumerist rather than eco-idealistic. Saffy, the bespectacled daughter in Absolutely Fabulous is not so far away from parts of the composite caricature, but so too are millions of teenagers and twentysomethings.

Many older people (I'm in my late 30s but an early developer, thus vaguely post-Sixties) will agree that the portrait of the next generation has some truth in it - they are like us but not like us. As liberated, but (despite being younger) more grown-up. After a hard time from bad divorces or broken parental relationships, they want to get on in life and stick by their partners. So how do we describe them? Little Victorians? E-duks (Earnest & Dutiful Kids)? Stoned prunes? All suggestions welcome.

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