About –the stories of the world this week, 4 September to 10 September 2022: a Prime Minster, a Queen, a Turning Point, a City, new Vistas, and ta-ta to a Business Magnate.
This week saw Britain inaugurate a new Prime Minister (PM), its 56th, Mary Elizabeth Truss (Liz Truss), 47, who became its third-ever female PM. She officially replaces Boris Johnson.
How did we get here?
In July 2022 Boris Johnson resigned as PM on losing the confidence of his Conservative Party. This generated a summer-long internal contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party with the two finalists being Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, 42. In the final voting, the results of which were announced this Monday, Truss won 81,326 votes to Rishi’s 60,399.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson carefully packed his bags, and with wife Carrie and sister Rachel looking on, among others, delivered his farewell speech outside Downing Street. This brought to end a tumultuous premiership of less than three years. Soon afterwards both Johnson and Truss travelled separately to meet the Queen who was resting at Balmoral Castle, a 50,000 acre Royal country estate, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Johnson arrived first and tendered his resignation to the Queen. Then Truss arrived to meet the Queen, and after exchange of greetings was officially appointed PM. Truss then returned to London to make her first speech as PM saying said she was honoured to take on the role “at a vital time for our country”.
What is the stuff Liz Truss is made of?
Liz Truss is a Member of Parliament from South West Norfolk constituency. She was educated at Roundhay School in Leeds and Oxford University. She is married to accountant Hugh O’Leary. The couple have two teenage daughters.
In her student days, Truss was involved in many campaigns and causes at Oxford but devoted much of her time to politics, becoming president of the university’s Liberal Democrats. At the party’s 1994 Conference in Brighton, she spoke in favour of abolishing the monarchy, telling delegates, “We Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all. We do not believe people are born to rule.” She also campaigned for the decriminalisation of cannabis.
Her conversion to Conservatism, towards the end of her time at Oxford shocked her left-leaning parents, but it appears to be a natural progression of sorts. But her promise to return to fundamental Conservative values -cutting taxes and shrinking the state-proved to be exactly what party members, who got the final say over who takes over from Johnson, wanted to hear. And, crucially, as Foreign Secretary she remained loyal to Johnson until the bitter end as other ministers deserted him, winning her favour with Johnson loyalists.
Grassroots Tory supporters of Truss see in her the steadfast, tenacious and determined qualities they admired in former PM Margaret Thatcher-an image Truss herself has tried to cultivate.
She was promoted by David Cameron to Environment Secretary and worked as Justice Secretary under Theresa May. She was eventually made Foreign Secretary by Boris Johnson in 2021. That’s the climb up the ladder.
With Liz Truss firmly, liberally and democratically installed, it’s a rare coincidence that Queen’s Rule came to an end later in the week.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II, the oldest monarch in British history died at the age of 96. She passed away peacefully, this week, at Balmoral Castle where she had been spending the summer. With her death the longest monarchial reign in British history, stretching for over 70 years, comes to an end.
Recall, her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill during his second stint in the 1950’s, and just the other day she appointed the newest PM, Liz Truss in 2022. And she has seen 15 PM’s march in and out, under her watch, all these years.
The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social change during her years on the Throne. As a 21 years old princess, Elizabeth had vowed to devote her life to service, and she did exactly that. She did the job for so long with enormous dedication that unquestionably deserved national respect in the United Kingdom. Reflecting on those words decades later, during her Silver Jubilee in 1977, she declared: “Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgment, I do not regret nor retract one word of it”.
The Queen engaged herself with the public through walkabouts, royal visits and attendance at public events. Her commitment to the Commonwealth was constant, visiting every Commonwealth country at least once. She was indeed a remarkable person. Elizabeth II The Great?
The Crown now passes to Prince Charles, who remained King-in-waiting for over 70 years. He finally becomes King at the age of 73. He automatically accedes to the throne as King Charles III of Britain and 14 other Commonwealth realms.
Prince Charles is also the oldest person ever to assume the British throne. The record was previously held by William-IV at age 64. As Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay from 1952 to his accession, Charles was the oldest and the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, and the longest-serving Prince of Wales, having held the title from 26 July 1958 until his accession.
The next in line to the throne is Prince William. And the waiting list is packed with possible future Kings.
Perhaps this is the end of a Queen’s Rule: will it always be a King, from hereon? The King’s Stand in the making? There is the Coronation to look forward to. And the King’s better-half will be called Queen Consort.
The United Kingdom has a New Prime Minister and a New King – both beginning their reign at about the same time.
In the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, this week, Ukraine’s Army launched a surprise offensive in the country’s north-eastern Kharkiv province. And has met with spectacular success. President Volodymyr Zelensky said his armies liberated 1,000 square kilometres of territory from Russia. Could this be a turning point?
While nearby Pakistan was diving underwater, India seemed well above until incessant rains in the Southern City of Bengaluru called the Silicon Valley of India, became a mountain of water. This is was mainly in the new ‘under-development areas’ where construction was happening at a rapid pace. And the older parts of the City such as the Electronics City stood their ground and stayed dry.
While the bulldozer became hugely popular in the North of India its first-cousin, the Tractor-Tailer, became a local hero and helped drive people to work and even evacuate stranded passengers at the Bengaluru International Airport. Who said we need boats? Tractors can swim.
In India’s Capital New Delhi, the Government set itself the objective of improving the productivity and efficiency of administration by creating highly functional and purpose-designed office infrastructure, which it called the Central Vista Redevelopment Master Plan. In the process it also sought to erase signposts of the British colonial past and showcase a vibrant, emerging India.
The Central Vista Redevelopment Project started construction works on 4 February 2021 and is planned to be completed in 2026, in phases.
This week India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the newly christened ‘Kartavya Path’ (Path of duty) earlier known as Rajpath and formerly called Kingsway, which is the ceremonial boulevard that runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan on Raisina Hill, through Vijay Chowk and India Gate, National War Memorial to National Stadium, New Delhi. It is one of the most important roads in India, and where the annual Republic Day parade takes. He also unveiled a 28feet statue of legendary freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at India Gate.
The beauty of the Central Vista is a sight to behold and once completed it would radiate the hallowed spirit of India.
In a shocking accident, early this week, the ex-Chairman of India’s prestigious home-grown Tata Group, a major share-holder of the Group and a Business Tycoon in his own right, Cyrus Mistry, 53, died in a road accident. His Mercedes Benz car hit a road divider and crashed following which he along with another passenger, Jehangir Pandole, sitting in the rear seats were killed. Both were not wearing seat belts, as is ‘common in India’ for rear-seat passengers, despite Seat-Belt Rules being absolutely clear that it applies to the front and rear seats.
The front seat passengers – a woman doctor Anahita Pandole, 55, who was at the wheel, and her husband Darius Pandole, 60-survived with multiple injuries and have been hospitalised in Mumbai. They were wearing seat belts, and the safety air-bags did their job.
The four were travelling in a Mercedes GLC 220d 4MATIC car to Mumbai from Ahmadabad when the accident occurred at the Surya River bridge in the Palghar district of Maharashtra, where there were two bridges (at different levels) alongside each other, and both were for traffic going in the same direction. And further up three lanes merge into two lanes. It appears that Anahita Pundole suddenly swerved into the left side parapet of the bridge, and perhaps a truck must have been blocking the right side lane, and she tried to overtake from the left, as is the standard norm and practice on this highway. There were no signs of braking and tyre marks show that the Mercedes turned left to overtake, and unexpectedly encountered the bridge’s wall.
A study conducted on possible reasons concluded that there was an infrastructure issue that was the primary cause: the bridge parapet wall was found to be protruding into the shoulder lane.
There we are: Not wearing seat belts, no lane discipline-Road Rules crushed and buried-poor design of Infrastructure, and I would add lousy signage. Important lessons out there in driving and staying alive on Indian roads.
More thrilling stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Fasten your seat-belts and ride the world with World Inthavaaram.