The heated debates in Parliament, the massive events with Queen Elizabeth and other ‘royals’ and the ‘obligatory’ visit to the pub for a pint of beer, make, for now, part of the nostalgic memories of a country that has had to accommodate times when social distance is mandatory.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced paralysis and confinement. A contingency that the United Kingdom has suffered particularly hard, currently only appeased with its ambitious vaccination campaign, the only antidote that science made available to such a challenge. While it takes effect and the government devises de-escalation plans, Britons miss such everyday actions as grabbing a beer with their friends, stumbling upon royal advertisements or watching for angry and exciting debates in Westminster. Here is a review of those activities and their transformation:
Euphoria at the Palace of Westminster
The House of Commons is a benchmark for democracy in the world. Their debates are so passionate, effusive and exciting that witnessing one of them is an unforgettable experience. There have been many memorable moments there, such as Winston Churchill’s speeches in the middle of World War II.
In the compound, the prime minister is confronted every Wednesday at noon. As the prime minister speaks, the opposition party deputies, who sit right in front of the government benches, whistle, yell, and others slap each other on the legs to emphasize their discontent. He is also interrogated by his own bench or ‘backbenchers’.
Since April, when the lockdowns began, Parliament took a step into the digital world. Out of 650 deputies, only 50 can be in this giant building to maintain social distance.
“We are really using the House as a giant television studio that runs a daily outdoor broadcast with guests from all over the country,” summed up Matthew Hamlyn, the ‘clerk’ or one of the administrators of the House of Commons, in an interview with France. 24.
“Allowing parliamentarians to participate in video-linked debates represents one of the biggest changes in our procedures in more than 700 years. It shows that Parliament really led the way in an innovative response to the crisis, ”says Hamlyn.
The debates are, since then, online … less effusive, not very spontaneous, without shouting or much noise. They don’t allow you to feel a real confrontation.
“Some members feel that it is more difficult to scrutinize ministers effectively through Zoom and there is a loss of the ‘big match’ atmosphere, such as football games that are now played without a crowd. But others have argued that the quieter camera allows for less noisy and more serious discussions, ”says Hamlyn.
Voting is one of the most exciting times. Before the virus, each deputy had to go to the side of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, depending on how they wanted to vote. Then, when the result is obtained, three deputies communicated the vote with a single protocol. Then there was applause or a “noooo!”, But always wacky.
“The House changed its rules of procedure to allow extensive use of proxy votes, so that a small number of MPs can cast votes on behalf of all 650 deputies,” Hamlyn notes.
The most famous monarchy in the world
The events and life of the royal family interest not only locals, but are also a source of tourism for the country.
Queen Elizabeth II, head of the British state and one of the most famous women in the world, has been seen very few times since the lockdowns began in 2020.
“The pandemic has made the ‘royals’ less visible and possibly less significant,” says the director of the Foreign Press Association in London, Deborah Bonetti.
Since then, the monarch has remained with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in strict isolation due to his age (almost 95 years old) although she has appeared on television a couple of times to send strength to the country in the midst of the crisis.
For his part, Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, William and Kate, and others have continued with their tasks, especially to support the work of those who directly attend the pandemic.
The ‘royals’ have also quickly adapted to video calls to continue being present, but these ‘online’ encounters do not have the same effect.
Bereavement is never easy, especially for frontline workers during these unprecedented times.
It is so important to have services like Just ‘B’, who provide a listening ear for those coping with the loss of colleagues, loved ones, and people they care for. pic.twitter.com/5pmr0IiNDw
– The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) January 15, 2021
“People in general, and the British in particular, love pomp and tradition. They are too worried about surviving the pandemic, for now, but once the confinement is over and the population is vaccinated, the royal family will once again occupy that exalted state in the imagination of the people, with their tiaras, horses and carriages. They will survive this, as they survived everything else up to now, ”says Bonetti.
The ‘Garden Parties’, which are held in the lavish gardens of Buckingham Palace, to which the queen invites hundreds of people who work in charities, were canceled this year.
But the traditional military parade ‘Trooping the Color’, which will celebrate the Queen’s 95th birthday, is expected to take place in June.
Nostalgia for the pub
It doesn’t matter where you are in the UK. There is always a pub. This isn’t just a place to enjoy iconic beers, it’s a fundamental part of what it’s like to be British. Here you not only have breakfast, lunch or dinner, but you cry, you conquer, you celebrate, you fight, you marry, you divorce and above all you live.
One of the most missed activities in the days of confinement is that: the freedom to go to the pub.
“Now more than ever people need hope of social reconnection in the near future. The reopening of the pubs, as the heart of the community, will allow families and friends to reconnect in a welcoming, safe and regulated place, something that we have all lost, “the spokeswoman for the British Beer Association explained to France 24. and Pubs.
In the summer of 2020, when pubs and restaurants were allowed to open with measures of social distance, a part of being British was briefly revived.
❌29,000 pubs will still stay closed if outdoor service is permitted from April
❌This is because they do not have enough outdoor space to open and operate properly
❌Outdoor service is not the same as fully opening pubs. It is not commercially viablehttps://t.co/ibvgVDIAO9
– British Beer & Pub Association (@beerandpub) February 16, 2021
The losses for this sector, as for much of the economy, have been enormous. The British Beer and Pub Association says beer sales fell 56 percent in 2020, which translates to a reduction of 7.8 trillion pounds.
To return to a new kind of normality, vaccination needs to move forward. The government anticipates that the country’s adult population will receive the first dose of the vaccine by the end of July. An ambitious but hopeful goal.