Opinion: Labour group leader Shaz Nawaz says 'congratulations to our great Queen'

Queen Elizabeth II
(Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool / Getty Images)Queen Elizabeth II
(Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
Labour group leader on Peterborough City Council, Shaz Nawaz, gives an opposing view in his latest column

This week, the country is rightly focused on the Platinum Jubilee. It’s correct that we focus on Her Majesty: she dedicated herself to public service from day one, and despite all that has occurred since her accession to the throne in 1952, she has remained steadfast in her duty.

There are some who might say that monarchy is outdated. I have sympathy for the idea that merit should be earned rather than assigned by birth. However, I think we all must make an exception in the Queen’s case. Whatever personal desires she may have had, she hasn’t withdrawn nor shirked. Only illness and bereavement have kept her from exercising her normal duties. Let’s keep in mind, she’s 96. This is well past the age many of us are likely to see, let alone continue working. In a world in which even the Pope retires, she has carried on.

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I hope that the Platinum Jubilee provides a moment of unity and catharsis. We have had too few of those in recent years. Political divides have grown sharper. It sometimes feels like parts of the union are slowly pulling away from the rest. What do we have to hold us together? Certainly not the spectacle at Westminster. The Queen is one of the few points around which we all cohere.

This is not to say the monarchy doesn’t face challenges. When Queen Elizabeth took the throne, there were a lot more parts of the world which had her as head of state. If news reports are to be believed, more are headed towards the exit, including Jamaica. While this is entirely their choice, at the same time, there is a pang, a hint of sadness perhaps, at the thought that old certainties are fading. Naturally things evolve and change, but we perhaps should not forget that this Queen, who could have been a barrier to progress, actually, quietly, has served as a guarantor. She has been a symbol of continuity which reassures during a period of so much jarring change.

Our recently elected mayor, councillor Alan Dowson, has been involved in politics since the decade in which I was born. He is an effective ward councillor for the Fletton and Woodston ward and was re-elected in May of this year. Alan was elected unopposed by all members on Peterborough City Council. His mayoralty is long overdue as he was the primary carer for his wife, Annie, who sadly passed away a year ago. Alan has waited a long time to become mayor as the care of his wife came first and quite rightly. He has been in office for a week before our MP makes insidious remarks about Alan’s allegiance to the Queen and the Jubilee. In the name of everything just, fair and decent, why?

It does not help that Alan is not on social media. He is very much ‘old school’ in his approach and many of us can identify with him for that. His health does not help his mobility and limits his use of technology. How many older readers can also identify with that, too? Yet our MP, clearly with nothing better to do, posts on his social media pages about Alan’s perceived lack of appetite for the Jubilee. How many of us can also identify with that, too? I have yet to meet anyone who does not wish the queen well but also do not consider themselves royalists. The key point, surely, is whether the mayor does the job he has been elected to do efficiently and effectively. Alan will attend the beacon lighting on the Jubilee. He has put aside his own opinions because, as mayor, his civic duty comes first.

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I sincerely hope that the weather is kind and that people take advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with neighbours. The Jubilee provides an excuse to put aside the isolation imposed by the pandemic. Cases are falling; the Queen was right when she said we would meet again.