One of the most attractive points in a London that never tires of reinventing itself is Battersea Power Station. The huge power station on the banks of the Thames – with its six million red bricks, its four chimneys and its futuristic art deco style – became the cover of the album Animals of the group Pink Floyd, in 1976, in addition to generating for many years a fifth of the energy to supply the metropolis. After a decade of neglect, today it is a complex of shops and luxury homes that has generated a new cosmopolitan and entrepreneurial neighborhood around it. At the foot of the plant, hundreds of people drank, ate and danced this weekend in the celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Just one more place of the thousands that, throughout the country, have turned the long four-day bridge into a street party to celebrate 70 years of her reign.
Elizabeth II was also there. Two huge screens remembered, with an old fragment of a black and white film, the visit of the then princess, with her grandmother Queen Mary, to the control room of the building, in 1946. Suddenly, Paul, John, George and Ringo —or, at least, the doubles of the members of the Beatles— appeared on the stage prepared in front of the headquarters with the corresponding wigs from the early days of the band. Throughout his performance —with songs like Help!, Twist and Shout, Get Back, Hey Jude...— the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, remained fixed on the two screens. And those present, many of them Spanish, Italian, French or from the Middle East, sang at the top of their voices, with their better or worse English, some songs they knew by heart. “Three cheers for the queen!” asked Paul McCartney’s double to an audience completely dedicated to the cause.
The power of the Commonwealth
“The most cynical may say that we have lost our influence, that all the power we had at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II has disappeared, and now we live on the periphery of Europe,” the historian and expert on the royal family explained to the BBC. British Robert Lacey. “But through that instrument called the Commonwealth [Comunidad de Naciones], which has been the great work of the queen during these 70 years, 45 nations have become independent under her enormous influence. That has given us enormous soft power that we would never have had.”
It was the American professor Joseph Nye who first introduced this concept, that of “soft power” (soft power), to define the ability of some nations to influence the international sphere through the seduction of their culture (also their popular culture) and the prestige of their political institutions. In times of downturn, UK residents need to remind themselves and the world that there will always be the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Police, the Cure or the Spice Girls; that James Bond, agent 007, is as British as the Aston Martin sports cars he destroys in each of his films; that the National Health Service (NHS) is a national pride born out of post-World War II reconstruction and imitated around the world; or that her queen, Elizabeth II, is one of the most respected and admired figures in dozens of countries, along with Winston Churchill.
As in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, or in the parade that will tour the British capital this Sunday, with shows and performances to commemorate the main milestones of 70 years of reign, the United Kingdom injects a dose of friendly patriotism and see how the world continues to pay attention to what happens on that island so eccentric, so admired or so hated, but never fails to generate interest. Whether it’s because of Brexit, because of Boris Johnson, because of the joys, misadventures and entanglements of his extended royal family or because of his contribution to culture.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The streets of London remain the most coveted setting for new films, The Crown remains one of the most international hits on the Netflix platform, and the plot of downton abbeywhere social classes detest or admire each other without questioning their position, continues to fascinate in the same way that it did in the eighties Return to Brideshead with Jeremy Irons.
Elizabeth II is a fundamental part of a British iconography that does not happily lend its support. Tell that to Boris Johnson, who was booed this Friday — he and his wife Carrie Symonds — when he attended the religious service in honor of the queen at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Johnson is just one of the 14 prime ministers with whom the monarch has lived. And it is possible that he will also see it happen. “Any political career inevitably leads to failure.” He was the famous maxim of a politician as infamous for his racism as popular for his oratory as Enoch Powell was.
In the same way that she has dispatched politicians, Elizabeth II has also managed to seduce the most reluctant to pay homage to her. It is very likely that Republican sentiment in the United Kingdom, reduced to a timid 18%, will revive when she is gone and her son Charles of England reigns. But during this Platinum Jubilee it has hardly been heard. “Each generation of leftist activists has been forced to learn the lesson that by denigrating patriotic symbols, they inflicted defeat on themselves. A defeat equivalent to surrendering in the battle to tell the story, thus ceding control to the nationalists”, Rafael Behr, a political analyst at Guardian. Isabel II has already become, at 96 years old, the heritage of all Britons, after verifying that liking the rest of the world is the first step to liking oneself again.