Thursday 31 August 2017

How Britain Disgraced Herself When Princess Diana Died

Mexico is six hours behind the UK and pretty much exactly twenty years ago to this very minute I was sitting at a table outside a Veracruz coffee shop drinking cafe con leche and preparing to drive the 300 miles home to Mexico City. My wife bought a copy of el Dictamen, the local newspaper from one of the urchins who hawk in on the street, and the only child I had at the time was three years old and tucking into a plate of chips which he had liberally sprinkled with sugar. I suspect the wife bought the paper to avoid having to watch him munch sugared chips. 

I remember that I had just lit a cigarette when the wife told me that Princess Diana was dead. I grabbed the paper and there was the news agency report, from AP if memory serves me right, reprinted seemingly verbatim in the paper on one of the inside pages. It was an important story, but not so important that el Dictamen felt the need to rejig the front page. Much easier, you can almost hear the editor thinking, to drop something from the foreign news section and then slot the Diana story in to save everyone a lot of trouble.

We drove home and the following day I switched on the TV and tuned into what is today called BBC World, but which back then was the far better sounding BBC World Service Television. Why did I not drive like a bat out of Hell to get home quickly to get the latest updates? For the simple reason that I did not regard it as a very important story. Diana was the ex-wife of the Prince of Wales and had no constitutional role to play in British affairs. Her death was sad for her family, but no concern of the people at large, at least that was my view.

How wrong I was! Over the next few days, I was stunned to see on my TV screen the way in which the people of Britain seemed to be turning the death of that not very bright youngish woman into a Mexican-style soap opera, complete with emoting and lots of wailing.

It must have been worse for the people in London as a friend who lives in Putney reported that the heavy, pungent odour of millions of flowers hung over the city as people seemed to be competing with one another to show how much they cared about a woman that they had never met and never would have done even had she lived.

In those days the British embassy had a club for British and Commonwealth people and the next time I was in there the conversation was dominated by the way in which British people were letting the side down by behaving like a bunch of hysterical natives. 

I do not recall many people from the British diaspora in Mexico going along to the embassy to sign the book of condolences that someone decided had better be put out eventually. Three years later when HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother died we all dutifully trooped along to put our signatures down in the book and then went to a bar to raise a loyal toast to her memory, but Diana? I am sorry, but who cared, really?

It is hard to say why the nation decided to go in for such an embarrassing display of national breast-beating, but it did and as someone remarked to me that is what mob-hysteria looks like and it isn't a pretty sight.

Let us hope that we never see it again.

1 comment:

  1. The emotional incontinence of too many British subjects was yet more evidence of this nation's decline. Yes I felt shocked when she died but if you hang out with a waste of space like the idiotic Dodi Al-Fahid and get a pissed chauffeur to drive a powerful car, with which he was unfamiliar at speed through Paris you are on the way to a very nasty accident. Embarrassing, and a national disgrace!


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