70 years and counting
28 November 2017
It doesn’t matter if you’re a royalist or republican. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Phillip, have notched up 70 years of marriage, and most people would agree this is some achievement. Not many people reach their platinum anniversary, and it got me thinking about the changes the royal couple must have seen during their time together.
In particular, I’ve been reflecting on changes they’ve experienced relating to our four fundamental British Values. I set myself the challenge of identifying four differences in the way we look at British Values now compared with the views of 1947 when they were married. So, here goes!
The greatest ever struggle for democracy was still fresh in the minds of UK voters in 1947. World War II had ended two years earlier, and its effects lingered on. In the same year the war ended, the Labour party came to power for the first time in nearly 40 years with a landslide victory. Back then, however, only citizens over the age of 21 could vote. It wasn’t until 1970 that the voting age was lowered to 18. Some people argue it should be raised back to 21, others that is should be reduced to 16. Where do you stand?
Rule of law
Children back in 1947 would have been familiar with a sharp slap or ‘clip round the ear’ for any misdemeanors. It’s probably fair to say that nobody really gave it a second thought. These days, of course, attitudes are very different. Laws change as attitudes change, and the legislation relating to smacking is no exception. Although there are still some grey areas, it is essentially illegal to hit a child in 2017. Hmmmm…if my old man was still alive, I’d have to consider suing him!
Imagine going to the shops and being told by the state what you could buy and not buy. Food rationing was still in force in 1947. One could buy 2oz (57g) of tea per week, 12oz (340g) of sweets per month, and spend just over a shilling a week on meat. No wonder obesity wasn’t a problem back then! Non-food items were also rationed, such as soap, clothing and fuel. These days, of course, we’re at liberty to buy more or less what we want (assuming we can afford it). This simple freedom is not shared throughout the world. There are dire food shortages in many countries and some, like Cuba, still operate a food rationing system. Never take the liberty this country offers for granted. Not everyone is so lucky.
Mutual respect and tolerance for others
The State was largely intolerant of gay men in 1947. It was illegal for two men to have a relationship and, in the early 1950s, as many as 1,000 men were being incarcerated every year, many of them the victims of police entrapment operations. Society, however, was more understanding and the 1960s saw these ‘offences’ decriminalized. In 2017, the right to same sex marriage is protected in law. Over 60,000 gay couples married in 2016, more than double the number in the previous year. Certainly, a change for the better. Interestingly, it’s still illegal in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom. What do you think of that?
There we are; challenge complete! It is because we have British Values that our society can continue to evolve and improve. The UK is not a country that is stuck in its past. It recognises its history, good and bad, and uses it to shape its future. However, our British Values remain the backbone of our country’s structure, communities and philosophy.
Imagine the changes that are going to happen in the next 70 years. I won’t be around but, hopefully, some of you will! Who knows, perhaps you’ll also be celebrating your platinum wedding anniversary one day!