I COULDN’T bring myself to watch yesterday’s benefit concert at Old Trafford following the Manchester atrocity – and now in the still closer aftermath of Saturday night’s dreadful events in London.
Musically I missed out. The talent on show would usually make such an event a ‘must see’.
My initial reaction when I heard the concert was taking place was that it was far too soon – a mere 13 days after that awful night at the Manchester Evening News arena.
I’m sure that had I been at the original concert it would be a long, long time before I’d sit again in a large public arena. But I accept that everyone is different and choose to recover in their own ways.
Yet there’s a deeper feeling of discontent in my soul.
Everything these days, it seems, is given an ‘entertainment’ twist to ensure we miss the lesson we need to heed – and this was just one example
My mind goes back to the early days of the Iraq War when I was sitting in a pub eating dinner watching Sky News doing its thing with round-the-clock footage.
Unspeakable horrors were being translated into the more comfortable form of early evening news.
Those images soon stopped – thank goodness. But the circus surrounding world changing events in the United Kingdom goes from strength to strength.
My problem is that events such as last night’s concert – although appearing to be noble and good – send out the wrong message. Deliberately so.
‘Terror’ attacks are always followed these days by the strange spectre of continual media coverage, hammering out the same old message: we are the victims of a senseless attack; it’s an assault on our democracy, our freedom our British values; they hate our ‘way of life’; now we must ‘stand together’, not allow the ‘terrorists to win’; life must go on as normal.
There’s a logical argument for all of that. Yet, at the same time, it deflects us from a deeper reflection on the wider issues beyond our blinkered shores – and coming to the obvious conclusion that this country takes a huge amount of blame.
The ‘entertainment narrative’ was truly in full swing last night. For ITV hosted a further viewing of Queen, a dramatic film recalling historic events featuring screen icons Helen Mirren in the title role and Michael Sheen as the then new Prime Minister-on-the-block Tony Blair.
This recreated those emotional, I’d venture to say, ‘sacred’ days between the death of Princess Diana and her funeral six days later during which, some would say, the future of The Monarchy was on the line.
Much of the film was historically accurate and very moving. Witnessing the sheer volume of public grief once again through real-life footage was a valuable experience. There has never been anything quite like it, not in my lifetime.
The message of the film – all accurate as well – was that Blair, although elected to office only a few months earlier in 1997, played a very large part in bringing The Crown to its senses.
The Royals were in Balmoral, out of sight and out of shouting range of unprecedented scenes in London.
No word from Her Majesty or anyone else from the family, no flag at half mast, nothing to suggest they were relating to what was going on. Indeed they were reportedly firmly against the idea of a state funeral, preferring a much smaller, private affair.
With public opinion raging against The Queen and newspapers having a field day, Blair did make a series of bold interventions aimed at provoking a more reasonable response.
As we know, he got his way: the flag was lowered, The Queen returned to Buckingham Palace, a public funeral was arranged with ‘entertainment’ by Elton John, and a carefully staged live TV broadcast gave the public the response they craved: she was in touch with our grief, she was after all a ‘grandmother’, one of us.
Cue a ‘happy’ ending. Public confidence in the Monarchy was gradually restored, Diana was given the send-off she deserved and lie went on ‘as normal’, as we’d like to say.
The problem is that ‘entertainment’ sugar coated the truth – as it continues to do today.
Diana wasn’t a tragic victim of a car crash – she was brutally and cold bloodedly murdered.
She had rocked the establishment so much in the months prior to that shattering night in Paris through her historic and highly damaging Panorama interview, her land mines campaign and relationship with Dodi Fayed.
No chance of ‘going quietly’, as The Crown wanted after being stripped of her HRH status.
This was when the future of the Monarchy was at stake – not in the days after her death.
What was ‘my secret that will shock the world?’. The establishment wasn’t going to wait to find out.
The job was almost certainly carried out by Secret Services here and abroad. But such a huge landmark killing could not have been signed off without the nodded assent of both the Royals – and, yes, the Prime Minister!
Blair knew what had really happened – his perfectly worded speech on the morning of Diana’s death rung instant alarm bells with me. So did our Monarch.
It was no co-incidence she was in Scotland, hundreds of miles from the baying crowds. That was part of the plan. The Royals would get their collective heads down and ride the storm – although they had no concept how big that storm would be.
Blair, on the other hand, read the situation accurately. He knew that both for the sake of the reputation of the Monarchy, the establishment of which he was a part and to reduce future suspicion of what had really happened, The Queen had to be seen to be ‘on side’.
‘Entertainment’ provided us with a comforting message – nothing to worry about, life goes on – instead of the shocking truth that we were betrayed by the very folk the vast majority look up to.
Coming back to yesterday, the establishment again wants us to miss the point – in this case that we need to drastically change our foreign policy.
For, whilst the 50,000 or so at Old Trafford and the millions watching were making themselves feel better and resolving to ‘stand together’, people were being killed in Yemen.
Terror attacks don’t happen three times in three months there – albeit that is dreadful enough – they occur each and every day.
Our arms and our troops are wrecking innocent lives – and for what? Can anyone honestly explain any more eloquently why on earth we are there, any more than we can understand the motives of the attackers in Manchester and London?
We should not allow the strident words of Theresa May on the doorsteps of number 10 yesterday or the more soothing and enjoyable tone of the Old Trafford concert to further deflect us from a life-changing truth.
We don’t need to ‘stand together’ and ‘carry on as normal’ at all. Instead it’s time to wake up and find out what’s really going on in our world.
You’ll find the real-life values of the United Kingdom – at least those of our establishment – are as appalling as any of our ‘enemies’.