Shropshire Star

Political column – May 6

If you're looking for a Coronation-free zone, you won't find it here.


I'll be watching today, bar illness, interruption, or incident (whether it be royal, or personal).

It's history, isn't it? Both the turning of a page and the beginning of a new chapter. May 6, 2023, is going down in the history books, just like June 2, 1953, almost exactly 70 years ago.

Even if you are not a supporter of the monarchy, you'll surely want to say you witnessed history. When years hence your grandchildren ask: "What did you do on Coronation Day?" you will cause some crestfallen faces if your reply is: "I was binge-watching a crime series on catch-up telly." You can do that any time. Coronations are once a generation, or two.

One thing that is said of the 1953 Coronation is that it marked the coming of age of television.

If somebody had a set neighbours went round to watch, and others looked through the window. Not in all cases, obviously. They were tiny black and white sets and were so expensive that not many people had them, and the picture quality was pretty rubbish.

Things have changed immeasurably since then. Today tellies have superb picture quality but it is what they show which is often rubbish.

Oh, we're having a Coronation party as well, sorry you're not invited, but we've got to keep the numbers down. We've got the Union Jacks ready and some bunting's gone up, although travelling around I notice hardly any other house is decorated – perhaps just one in 500. It's all my wife's doing, like the outdoor Christmas lights. We have solar lights even when it isn't Christmas. Clutter, I call them.

It's going to be tomorrow, because we're assuming folk will be glued to their sets today. And by the way, if you're about to put pen to paper to inform me that we can't have Union Jacks in our house or garden because jacks are only flown at sea, I'm afraid you're definitely wrong about that. Ask the Admiralty, or the flags body, whose name I forget.

In other news today... Well, we'll have to see, but back in 1953 the news that a British expedition had conquered Everest, the world's highest mountain, broke on Coronation Day.

For our region, there was an additional reason to be proud, as the expedition was led by John Hunt, who lived in Shropshire, Llanfair Waterdine to be exact, which despite its name is on the English side of the border.

That's one of the big changes since the last Coronation. For modern Britons there's nothing left on such a scale to conquer, or achieve. Everest is so popular with mountaineers now that they queue for the summit.

We knocked off the Moon well over 50 years ago. Mars would be on a par in headline-grabbing stakes but it remains a distant prospect in all sorts of ways.

In the absence of such opportunities, maybe we have to look inwards, to personal achievement.

So, on this Coronation Day, what will be your Everest?


I took my passport to vote on Thursday.

A lot of people won't have one, or any other ID which allows them to participate in our democracy. The ladies at the desk said it was too early to tell if photo ID had made a difference.

Turnout in local elections tends to be low anyway, and making it more difficult to vote can hardly help matters.

Much has been made of the wider political implications of the results. What happens in local council elections doesn't necessarily translate into a similar impact at a general election, but it does give the commentators lots to prattle on about.

My dad once stood in a local election, for Labour, and got in, topping the poll and beating the local vicar. He stood down after two or three years. As I was a child I don't know exactly why, but I suspect he wasn't temperamentally suited to those political group meetings in which they all decide how to vote in advance.

My mum had tried unsuccessfully a year or so earlier, standing as an Independent. She was beaten by Thelma Panter, whose name became seared in my childhood brain.

Thelma Panter, the person who beat my mum.

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