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The reason we’ve been given four days off for the jubilee has nothing to do with the Queen

The government might not have invented the jubilee, but they sure are using it to their advantage

Nadeine Asbali
Monday 06 June 2022 10:21 BST
Queen makes balcony appearance to mark end of platinum jubilee

Call me a killjoy, but I am anything but inspired by the jubilee spirit. In fact, the red, white and blue mania that has swept the nation has me feeling a little sick to my stomach. The Union Jack bunting, the garish flags bearing the Queen’s face and the double-page spreads telling us how to make coronation chicken sandwiches all strike me as tone-deaf at best, and a sinister distraction at worst.

Even if you set aside personal opinions about the royal family, or the very notion of monarchy itself, there’s something unsettling about this flag-wielding, trifle-eating agenda being thrust in our faces from all directions. While we’re being told to roll out the bunting and spend the afternoon with neighbours we haven’t interacted with since those 8pm clapping sessions, what is being hidden from sight?

We’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis so profound that every day two million adults cannot afford to eat, people are turning down vegetables at food banks because of the energy cost to cook them and children are becoming ill with food poisoning because their parents are unplugging fridges and freezers at night to save on the electricity bills. The poorest households are being plunged into a level of destitution that looks only to be getting worse, with energy prices set to soar again in the autumn.

And all the while we have a prime minister who partied through the pandemic, a chancellor on The Sunday Times Rich List and a whole host of MPs convinced that some cooking and budgeting lessons will stop thousands having to rely on food banks.

Given that this is a time when the divide between rich and poor is greater than ever, it feels all the more crass to celebrate an institution that represents inherited, hoarded wealth and unaccountable privilege. When parents are skipping meals so their children can eat, why are we spending £28m of taxpayers’ money on an establishment that embodies elitism and imperialism?

I know, I know. Some will say that if our nation is already gripped by the worst living conditions in decades, why not cheer everyone up with a four-day weekend and a little street party or two? But this weaponised nostalgia being churned out by the media and propelled by the government is not the work of plain patriotism – and it’s not there to give us all a jolly good time.

It is a deliberate distraction from the failings of the state, a dangerous nod towards nationalism – and it has us all eating right out of the Conservative Party’s hands. The government might not have invented the jubilee, but they sure are using it to their advantage.

In the post-Brexit era, where everything is a culture war threatening the traditional British way of life, invoking the Blitz spirit works in the government’s favour. Meaningless gestures such as a return to imperial measurements evoke a nostalgia for a fictional bygone era of Britain and a senseless rejection of globalism: notions that spawned Brexit and appeal to a lot of Conservative voters.

The Tories rely on this idea of the “good old days” to keep these voters loyal and the rest of us less focused on existing living conditions. Through this jubilee-induced wave of patriotism, Boris Johnson is reconfiguring himself from a prime minister who broke the law in office and is facing a potential coup by his own party into a Churchill-type saviour bringing Britain back to her glory days, fighting against the naysayers and the woke.

Incumbent leaders always benefit from crises such as wars, but the truth is that if we are in a war then it is one of the government’s own making, and it is a war against the most disadvantaged in our nation. This is no random war that has sprung out of nowhere threatening our shores – we are living the legacy of 12 years of Tory rule. This war is the result of more than a decade of austerity, cuts to public services and slashes to state support for the most vulnerable.

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We are told that it is our “patriotic duty” to celebrate the jubilee, that Britishness constitutes rallying around our flag and monarch. For ethnic minority Brits like me, there’s an extra layer of gratitude – we should be grateful to be here, apparently.

But I look around me and see a country where pensioners are forced back into work to make ends meet and pawnbrokers are experiencing record demand as people sell off their most sentimental items just to get by. I see a country where child poverty is so dire that it is fuelling an increase in the numbers of children entering the care system and where there are more food banks than branches of McDonald’s. In the face of this, what is a street party and a slice of Victoria sponge except attempting to slap a Union Jack-themed plaster over a huge gaping wound?

When I think about the grotesque, lavish displays of opulence set to fill our screens this weekend, I recoil. Like the obscene images of the Imperial State Crown in its own chauffeur-driven car a few weeks ago, surely there has to be a better way forward, a more equitable, dignified way of living in a nation where hats get their own cars and children starve.

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