King Charles' Coronation: New monarch must stand up for free speech, democracy and greater transparency about his influence on government policies – Alex Cole-Hamilton
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Saturday was a day I’ll tell my grandchildren about. Attending the coronation was, of course, an unrivalled honour, but so too was getting to spend some time with Nick Cave, to my mind one of the all-time greatest singers. Prior to the coronation, Nick wrote a letter to fans indignant at his decision to attend.
“I am not a monarchist, nor am I a royalist, nor am I an ardent republican for that matter; what I am also not is so spectacularly incurious about the world and the way it works, so ideologically captured, so damn grouchy, as to refuse an invitation to what will more than likely be the most important historical event in the UK of our age. Not just the most important, but the strangest, the weirdest,” he wrote.
It was all of those things and, in many ways, Nick speaks for me. I’m not sure, if I was designing a modern democracy from first principles, I would include a ceremonial head of state of the kind we have. But I’m not, nor am I clamouring for the removal of that ceremonial head of state either.
Our system is arcane, and in need of reform, but there’s a beauty and a constancy that comes with that arcana. That much hit home as I sat in an ancient church and participated in a set of rites and rituals that have spanned a thousand years.
The institution of monarchy is now steeped in the tradition of public service. Indeed, the first words spoken by the newly crowned King were “I come not to be served, but to serve”. In the example of his late mother, we see the truth in those words. To his credit, she’s an example King Charles has sought to emulate.
Whether that’s in the opportunities he has offered young people through the Prince’s Trust or his environmental work, you wouldn’t describe his years waiting to ascend the throne as being wasted. Queen Camilla too has given back much to this country, particularly in her work with female survivors of sexual abuse. So, I wish them well and hope, in the years that are given to them, they will continue to defend the values that make our country great.
Firstly, in upholding democracy and free speech. We’re a country that proudly finds disagreement on almost every topic. We should never be a country which seeks to stifle either side of that disagreement as we saw in the troubling actions of the Met Police arresting republican protestors.
Secondly, I hope the King would want people to have confidence in the transparency of his reign. At present, the Crown Consent procedure allows the monarch's lawyers to flag concerns about legislation as it goes through parliament and request changes. My party has been clear that details of these interventions should be made public. Like our other public institutions, we have a right to know how legislative decisions are influenced.
We are a quirky people, our traditions, eccentricities and humour are part of the rich composition that makes up the culture and identity of these islands. Saturday marked a moment in our national story, a turning of the page. I was glad to have been a tiny part of it.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western