ON Tuesday we watched a crown worth an estimated £3-5 billion driven in its own Rolls-Royce to the state opening of the British parliament. The crown, a rather kitsch diamond-encrusted affair with purple trimmings, was there in place of the Queen, who isn’t well. The Crown’s two inanimate friends – the ‘Cap of Maintenance’ (nope, me neither) and the ‘Sword of State’ – followed behind in their own Roller.

Later, the Crown was placed beside the Queen’s son, Prince Charles, as he sat bedecked in sumptuous man-jewels, his regal backside upon a golden throne against a golden backdrop. The Prince then read out the Queen’s speech – in words prepared for him by Boris Johnson – outlining the Tory Party’s coming programme for government.

The man in the jewels, sitting beside the Crown, let the nation know that even though millions of Briton’s face starving and freezing and sinking into poverty, Johnson’s government is going to do precisely zip to help. Rather, the Tories will continue their authoritarian agenda, stripping away citizens’ rights. Johnson also blithely intends to trash Britain’s remaining tattered international reputation – and shred the rule of law – by threatening to tear up the Brexit treaty, it signed with the EU, over the Northern Ireland protocol, thereby risking Ulster’s fragile peace.

But hey, subjects, look! Crowns! Man-jewels! Golden thrones! Oh what a splendid nation we are, oh the pomp, oh the circumstance. Oh, the gross hypocrisy of a country dying by inches with each passing day.

READ MORE: Scotland and the Union

If ever there was a metaphor for the decline of Britain it was the events of Tuesday at – forgive me while I expire laughing – the ‘Mother of All Parliaments’. It didn’t even feel Victorian. In fact, it didn’t even feel medieval. It felt almost prehistoric. The people of this nation were being asked to offer obeisance to an inanimate object representing a very old and quite unwell lady. I hate to tell all the monarchists out there this fact, but there’s a word for that: it’s called ‘animism’, the belief that objects possess some special quality. Bronze Age people were good at it, worshipping golden calves and such.

I almost felt sorry for Prince Charles. In some primal and very creepy way, it’s hard not to feel that the Queen is all that remains of the glue holding this dysfunctional country together. The Union is basically done in Scotland and Northern Ireland – and Wales most likely won’t be far behind. Unpleasant though it is to discuss, the Queen is approaching the end of her life, this is the twilight of her reign. She came to power in the age of deference and was able to maintain her mystique and dignity – mostly, bar a few episodes like Diana’s death – and so hover regally above the shambles that’s Britain.

Charles, though, has been tarred in scandal after scandal. There is no deference to Charles. He has no mystique. He will, for sure, make it to the throne but how much longer will the royals stagger on? And will future Windsors simple reign over some ‘Little England’, as big Britain disintegrates, Scotland goes its own way and Ireland unites?

There’s a sense that the Union is a drama in search of an ending, and the passing of the Queen may well provide the final act that’s so clearly coming. Once she goes, what really holds this mess of a nation together? Surely, it can’t be what passes for government in Westminster.

A bunch of Etonians are scratching their pampered behinds while ordinary people queue at food banks, in a nation where Tory austerity created those food banks, for pity’s sake.

READ MORE: Union on its death bed

Now Tory MPs trot along to food banks making donations as if they’re the good guys. It’s like watching a psychopath punch their victim unconscious, then help them up and pose for selfies as the White Knight.

Nothing is going to be done by the Tories to help the millions who are going to have their lives destroyed this year. We’re possibly looking at the worst financial catastrophe since the Great Depression of 1929. Yet, Michael Gove – minister for levelling up, for which read ‘minster for levelling down’ – adopts a phoney Scouse accent on TV and tells people worried about this economic disaster to ‘calm down’, mocking public fears.

Rather than help the suffering, the Tory government will gut human rights legislation and restrict the right to protest in a way that feels distinctly Soviet. This government has already gone after voting rights, the judiciary, our right to challenge government decisions in court, as well as planning to send refugees to Rwanda and plotting to privatise the NHS by stealth. It’s also got free speech online in its sights. And this is the party which shouts about ‘freedom’ and ‘cancel culture’.

It’s an authoritarian, gaslighting bunch of feather-bedded vampire capitalists, who pose as eccentric toffs and clowns the better to dupe a nation distracted by its phoney culture wars, like plotting to sell off Channel 4 because it’s too left-wing. Don’t make me laugh – Channel 4 cooked up Benefits Street, a programme that did more to demonise the poor than Norman Tebbit.

Tories are threatening to tear up the Brexit treaty which they negotiated with the EU – an act which will set Ulster on a dangerous course. The largest party in the north of Ireland, Sinn Fein, backs the Northern Ireland protocol but Conservatives want it dead. So much for democracy.

Shredding the treaty will show the world that Johnson is indeed no better than Donald Trump, who treated diplomacy like his toilet. Who will trust Britain if it reneges on its own agreement? Such moves would shatter the already flimsy relations between Britain and the EU at a time when the continent needs unity in the face of Putin’s fascist aggression.

So here we are: a basket case nation, falling to bits in every direction you look, mocked internationally. But we’ve got a gold crown with its own fancy car. So everything’s cool. No need to worry, folks. Just keeping thinking that as the curtain slowly falls, and the Queen and the Union exit the stage, leaving Britain … where exactly?

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