James Belchamber

Prince Philip's death has unearthed the fake patriots

Philip's story is sometimes controversial, sometimes inspiring. It is sad that he has died, and I am sure I reflect the feelings of all Liberals in sending my condolences to the queen and to everyone that is grieving their loss. It is reasonable for public resources to be used in supporting and reflecting that grief, and I take no issue with reasonable coverage of Philip's death and his funeral.

But what isn't reasonable is the national tub-thumping that's going on, treating the population like worms that must rise to the beat of a drum of conformity. What isn't reasonable is the selective reading of Philip's own wishes for his death, in pursuit of a specific political agenda.

So let's talk about what it means to be a patriot - and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with royals, nothing to do with big black funereal bars on children's programmes, and absolutely nothing to do with the size or prominence of your flag.

Philip was an old man, and his death has been unfortunately expected for a long time. It is definitely news, but it isn't very shocking. He has been in and out of hospital for a few years now, including well-reported stays in December 2019 and February 2021. Philip was 99; the average age of mortality in the UK is 81, and nobody has ever been recorded to have lived beyond 122.

Anyone that has had an elderly relative die recognises this pattern - it's painful to watch, it's heart-wrenching. But it's not shocking news.

Philip's death, however, has been seized on from all sides. There has been a sickening clamber to demonstrate the most public grief, and to issue the most coverage. The well-practised Operation Forth Bridge has well and truly been put into motion, with pre-recorded and rehearsed shows being put out around the clock.

The public has taken notice of this grotesque display. The BBC are carefully not reporting on the fact that their coverage has created so many complaints they now have a dedicated form just for this purpose (something I don't think I've previously seen from the broadcaster). This is an entirely unnecessary amount of coverage, from an organisation that now clearly fears what the Tories will do to them.

Philip wouldn't even want this - he was famously matter-of-fact, with a close aide confiding that he had "no time for bullshit". He asked for a funeral of "minimal fuss" and explicitly requested not to lie in state - yet we have almost shut down all of our media to lay him in the living rooms of every household in the country.

My two year old son couldn't even sit and watch Sarah and Duck on Cbeebies without being constantly interrupted by a massive black bar encouraging you switch to BBC One for a "major news report". Imagine Philip's response to that - "For god's sake - I'll still be dead in an hour", I can almost hear, in his dontopedalogic style.

But this is what lies at the heart of the response - this isn't a news report, it's an obedience test. Johnson has "cancelled his Monday pint" (something he allegedly only drinks in public anyway); I originally thought was a weird sort of satire. They've even cancelled COVID press conferences, like somehow even the pandemic is doffing it's cap.

But we saw none of this with our COVID heroes - in fact, the reward for those on the front lines of this pandemic that have survived were offered an average of £6/week in pay rises, after a decade of freezes (those that have fallen will have to make do with claps). The black bars on childrens programmes weren't used at all during the pandemic, which has now claimed over a hundred thousand deaths (all people of equal value to Philip).

Philip's death has brought out the fake patriots - draping themselves in flags and prostrating themselves in mourning for a prince that has lived, by all accounts, a healthy and full life (oh, and if you aren't publicly and performatively mourning then where is your patriotism). These frauds are conspicuously absent when we're fighting for real, meaningful, British values like tolerance (in the face of government gaslighting of ethnic minorities) and fairness (in the face of £6/week pay rises for nurses) - but they're here now, and they're demanding your acquiescence to their reductive conception of patriotism.

Patriots are not found draping themselves in the flag; they're found defending our values, and building our country on those foundations. Spot a fake patriot by their absence on the front lines, and spot them by their hand-wringing whenever they're asked to help build a fairer society. Often you'll spot them, draped in flags, fighting from the other side.

Philip, may those that want to honour you do so in the quiet and unwavering duty to the values you adopted - and made your own. May they find inspiration in your unerring sense of service, and may they seek to respect your wishes to be remembered quietly.

May you rest in peace.

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