David Calling

The Queen and Abu Qatada

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her diamond jubilee on the throne. In a statement characteristic of the lady, she said that she would continue to serve for the rest of her life. A few years more, and she will have exceeded even Queen Victoria’s reign. Both queens succeeded in giving Britain a sense of continuity and stability. In Queen Victoria’s case, this corresponded to reality. The abiding symbol was a coinage that did not change. Queen Elizabeth has lived in the same palaces as her august predecessor, performed the same ceremonial duties, set an extraordinary example of dedication, and won the admiration of pretty well all her subjects.

As bad luck would have it, the actual day on which the diamond jubilee was celebrated was also the day when Abu Qatada, the European representative of Osama bin Laden, was released from prison on bail. The man is wanted in his native Jordan on charges of murder and terrorism, but the European Court of Human Rights forbids the British from deporting him, and the British comply. Abu Qatada’s defending counsel concedes that his client poses a danger to national security, but the hapless judge babbles about assurances from Jordan without which “a continued deprivation of liberty is no longer justified” and in the end Abu Qatada will simply go free.

Britain is no longer a sovereign country, in plain language, but subject to another jurisdiction. By force of personality, the Queen holds to precedence and example. When she is no longer there, the institutions of the country will be seen to have the substance of mirage.


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