NORMAL service will resume in politics this week, with the pace at Westminster notably brisk.

On Wednesday, businesses find out what help they can expect with soaring energy costs. The following day attention turns to the NHS backlog, and on Friday, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveils his “mini-Budget”.

It is the kind of week that would usually be trailed heavily by the Sunday politics programmes. However, ahead of the Queen’s funeral today, most of them remained off air yesterday or, in the case of BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, radio only. The chief exception was BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Her guests included New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, and Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff. On the panel were Lord Sentamu, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the Commons, and Victoria Newton, editor of The Sun.

It was a suitably international line-up for a programme that was being shown around the world. For the most part the emphasis was on the momentous events of the week just gone, and the state funeral to come. Here, as elsewhere, was meant to be a politics free zone.

Kuenssberg tried, but you know how it is. You can take the former political editor out of the daily fray, but you cannot take away her curiosity when faced with Prime Ministers and other notables and quotables. First to be put on the spot, albeit gently, was Jacinda Ardern. Why did she believe it was “inevitable” that New Zealand would become a republic in her lifetime?

“The Queen herself has observed and acknowledged the evolution over time in our relationships,” said Ms Ardern. “My observation is that there will continue to be an evolution in our relationship. I don’t believe it will be quick or soon, but over the course of my lifetime.”

Pressed on how and when this might happen, she said: “We have complex arrangements, the Treaty of Waitangi – a very important founding document for Aotearoa, New Zealand, signed between Maori and the Crown.

“This is why it’s not a process I have any intent of instigating, but if and when it does occur, it will take time, and it will need to be very carefully worked through.”

For now, Ms Ardern expected little to change with the transition from the Queen to King Charles.

“King Charles has visited New Zealand many times. He’s well known in New Zealand, he shares many passions and interests that New Zealanders do. That relationship already exists, it’s a transition but it’s not a jarring transition for New Zealand.”

Ms Ardern stood out during the pandemic for her hardline stance on lockdown and closing her country’s borders. Some leaders were starting to reassess their responses to Covid to see if they had got things right, said Kuenssberg. Would she?

“We’ll go through that process as anyone else will. We have to be willing to look at every decision as we go, and we did as we went through the pandemic. But I still believe we made the best decisions we could with the information we had.”

She went on to draw a comparison between Scotland and New Zealand.

“We wanted to save lives and the evidence shows we did. Relative to say a country of the size of Scotland versus New Zealand, there were thousands of deaths, sadly. In New Zealand? 2000.”

In New Zealand, population 5.08 million, there were 1,962 Covid deaths. In Scotland, population 5.4 million, the death toll was 15,618.

Ms Ardern said lockdowns were used as a tool while the country waited for people to be vaccinated.

“Then we began a series of shifts to open ourselves back up again and it’s worked. We did save thousands of lives. No response was without pain. I know here in the UK you had both lockdowns and lives lost. In New Zealand, relative to other countries we were locked down for fewer days and we saved many lives. I’m proud of New Zealand’s response."

Ms Ardern made headlines in Scotland after Nicola Sturgeon congratulated the Labour leader on winning a second term in 2020. In her victory speech, Ms Ardern said: “As a nation, we can listen, we can debate...we are too small to lose sight of other people’s perspective.”

The First Minister said the words resonated “and perhaps they hold a lesson for Scotland too”.



Later , US climate envoy John Kerry said he “very much hoped” King Charles would continue to talk about the environment given his lifelong interest in the subject. “He’s for real, believe me.”