The King’s Mansion House Speech

Brendan Cox, Co-Founder

The King gave a remarkable speech at Mansion house yesterday, perhaps his first serious attempt to define the character of our country. It’s worth a read as it’s far more substantive than most royal interventions. It’s clear that it articulates his central view of what makes Britain Britain – and he has had time to think about it.

He sets out five elements of what defines us:

  1. Civility and tolerance
  2. Politeness and respect
  3. Care and compassion
  4. Science, innovation and learning
  5. Humour – our ability to laugh at ourselves – he cracks a joke about the fountain pen.

He talks about how we draw on these to build a country of public service, cooperation and mutual responsibility.

He asks three searching questions too. Are we going to be able to deal with the changes that are coming – from AI to Climate Change? Have we set out our responsibilities to each other as much as our individual rights? Can we give institutions the support they need – not simply criticism and scapegoating.

These are all powerful observations and tally with Together’s thinking about our national story – a story we often don’t tell effectively.

Perhaps most substantially The King’s central conception of our country is as a ‘community of communities’

That isn’t a suggestion that we live separate lives, it’s the opposite – an emphasis on our connectedness. But its insight is that the power of our country lies in that community spirit – that the connections in our communities are where we feel most loyalty and connection, where we get respect and feel we belong. Our challenge as a country is to tap into that local spirit and build a similar spirit at a national level.

His second central conception is that we live as:

“an island nation in which our shared values are the force which holds us together, reminding us that there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.”

This can sometimes sound like motherhood and apple pie but like “more in common” there is a key insight underneath it.

We spend a lot of time talking about and fixating on our differences. Our diversity of backgrounds, faiths, races, viewpoints etc. And that’s important, it’s a key part of the story of who we are. But the incredible thing about our country isn’t just the fact of its diversity, it’s the relative success we have made in building commonality and connection.

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