Parliament pays tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh
By Simon Gentry
The Commons met this afternoon, recalled a day early to pay tribute and give thanks for the life of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.
The sitting began with minute’s silence after which the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle, set out the long list of the Duke’s achievements and interests, ending by calling the Duke the true Father of the nation.
The Prime Minister then proposed a humble address to Her Majesty, expressing gratitude for all that the Duke had done over his long life, from heroism at sea in the second world war, to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, the Duke’s concern for the natural world and, in particular, his lifelong support for Her Majesty, the Queen. Mr Johnson talked about the 22,219 solo events the Duke had undertaken in his life and even stepped rather gingerly into the Duke’s sense of humour, highlighting comments that these days would send the Twittersphere into meltdown, but as the Prime Minister noted, originally remarks that were intended to put people at their ease in necessarily formal and stuffy settings. The Duke’s practicality and love of industry was a theme of the both the Prime Minister and many of those that followed recalled. In closing the Prime Minister said the Duke had been a model of selflessness, and that he had undoubtedly made this country a better place.
Sir Keir Starmer followed the Prime Minister in supporting the humble address. He said the Duke had lived a life of service for which everyone would be grateful. Sir Keir revealed that he had himself participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, at one point becoming lost in the wind and rain on Dartmoor, left to find his way with a compass in a storm, remarking that it was a good preparation for politics. He noted the Duke’s support for the armed services and that they would mourn his passing too. He said the Duke was a funny, engaging and warm. He said that the Duke was a symbol of the nation and a source of stability. Sir Keir then quoted the Queen, saying that “Grief is the price we pay for love”. He concluded one of his best performances in the House since becoming Leader of the Labour party by saying that the Duke loved this county and the country loved him in return. “To the Duke of Edinburgh, for a lifetime of public service - the Gold Award.”
A long succession of MPs then paid tribute to the Duke, often recalling their own experiences of him, or noting the positive impact he’s had on the lives of their constituents. Theresa May highlighted the respect he had for people, of all creeds and colours, the effort he put into preparing for events. She noted how important it was as a woman in public life to have a partner who could be relied on during difficult times.
Over 140 MPs have indicated their desire to speak today in a session that will run until 10pm. The Scottish Parliament and the Senedd in Cardiff are also meeting today to pay their respects. That in itself is a tribute to the Duke, his remarkable life and the support he has given for over seven decades to the Queen.
We’re unlikely, as the old saying goes, to see his like again.