What were life and society like when the Queen ascended to the throne? Certainly poorer…many staple foods were still rationed. It was duller, travel and career opportunities were more limited, and institutions like parents, police and the clergy were afforded much deference. To the extent that it was often abused. In those days Britons took great pride in who and what they were and what they had achieved. British manufacturing was world-class, with countless blue chip companies dominating their fields internationally. If you lived on welfare you were deemed a social parasite.
There were levels of trust and social cohesion unimaginable by today's standards. (With the concomitant downsides of hypocrisy and enforced conformity). 'We played in the street with our friends and were safe; doors were left unlocked we climbed trees, skinned our knees and ripped our clothes, got into fights and nobody sued anybody. We got a clip round the ear when we had been naughty, and Mum gave us a teaspoon of malt and cod liver oil before school. People really did look out for each other.’
Football teams were drawn from their support base, and their styles reflected it. Teams from Yorkshire or Lancashire had a dour, hard and unglamorous style, leaving the fancy stuff to the spivs of Chelsea and West Ham. As late as 1967 the Celtic team that won the European Cup all came from within a thirty mile radius of central Glasgow. Even inner city areas like Pekham had the ambience of a village, close knit communities where people knew and looked out for one another.
But the country suffered from a terrible drawback. As one writer in the New Statesman recently wrote "to put it bluntly, the country was 98% white." That had to change. And boy, did it change. No need for me to adumbrate the details here, but, apart from a few remote redoubts, little of that Britain remains. The country has been enriched beyond Enoch Powell’s worst nightmare.
All of which begs the question, could Ma’am, in her capacity as Sovereign, have done anything to stop the rot? I really don’t know. As a Constitutional Monarch she operated under major constraints. But I do know she could hardly have done less.
There really isn’t too much to celebrate.