Opinion Op Ed 21 Jan 2019 Prince Philip’s ca ...
Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.

Prince Philip’s car crash revives debate on age limit for driving

Published Jan 21, 2019, 12:05 am IST
Updated Jan 21, 2019, 12:05 am IST
The accident took place on the estate of Sandringham, the royal estate in Norfolk.
Prince Philip. (Photo: AP)
 Prince Philip. (Photo: AP)

And if everyone thought that the UK was in the process of going through a slow car crash (thanks to Brexit!), trust the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh to take the metaphor head on and make it all very real. Though he did apparently say, at the end of it “ I am such a fool,” there are many who are now wondering if the description of “fool” was too mild a term to have been used by him, when he was prised out of the Land Rover he was driving after it sommersaulted on the road. The accident took place on the estate of Sandringham, the royal estate in Norfolk. 

While we do encourage the elderly to remain in the workforce as long as possible, and the Queen and her consort have been particularly good at executing all state duties, it has been well known that the Duke has retired from them, and now is his own man. He has always been known for being occasionally off message, but to drive around solo just short of a century is, well, not just remarkable, but downright risky. Many hope that his licence will be taken away, which apparently it has not been thus far. 

 

While he was unhurt enough to be back on the road a few days later — the inmates of the car, a Kia, that he had crashed into were not so lucky. One of them broke a wrist, but the baby on board was fortunately unscathed. The victim has expressed her own disappointment that no one from the palace had cared to call her, or even send an apology with a bunch of flowers. Have royal manners seriously declined? 

But imagine everyone’s surprise when the Queen herself was also spotted driving a car (at 90-plus) without a seat belt. What is going on? 
This has opened up a huge debate now on whether the elderly should be allowed to drive mainly because reflexes slow down as you age. Not only that, there are also questions whether the UK is far too kind to the royals. I cannot imagine a similar incident taking place in India without the media howling for some retribution.

 

Everyone is wondering at the wisdom of a 97-year-old driving his own car, but he is unlikely to listen to anyone. Even the sovereign. 
( ...Or perhaps the Duke was simply overwhelmed at the thought of his expanding family and another great-grandchild: Meghan Markle has revealed the date of arrival of the Sussex baby, around Easter.)

The real earthquake has been in Parliament of course, and last week was all about the looming prospects of a snap poll. Prime Minister Theresa May lost by the largest margin ever in British parliamentary history over the proposed Brexit deal. But if you were not at Westminster you would hardly notice. The real problem is the fear of shortages, especially medicines. According to reports, the government has asked pharmaceutical companies to start building up stocks of medicines — but this has also led to patients trying to stockpile. Some are claiming that medicines which were easily handed over at NHS now take longer. Is this a sign of things to come? People have also begun ordering medicines online — even from India, just to ensure they do not run out. While there is no emergency as yet, the strain of Brexit is being felt everywhere.

 

The real hero of the Brexit debate has been John Bercow, the Speaker at the House of Commons. The Speaker is elected by the whole House and is independent of all parties. Mr Bercow became Speaker in 2009, succeeding Michael Martin, a Labour MP, who moved to the House of Lords on retirement, as is usual. Mr Bercow has said he will retire this year. But in the meantime he has immensely annoyed the government. Although a Conservative, he has been of no help to Theresa May and has allowed many motions hostile to the government to a vote. The way he calls out “Order! Order!” has been amusing the Europeans so much that a German TV channel has made a 58-second-video which has had thousands of hits. There are mutterings that Ms May may not nominate Mr Bercow for the customary peerage on retirement. But then she may herself be gone before he does. Such are the joys of Westminster politics. 

 

It seems that a possible third marriage might be the answer to Boris Johnson’s need to be taken seriously. Under the influence of Carrie Symonds, a former Conservative Party official, with whom he is in a relationship, he has had a haircut and has also sharpened up his speaking style. If care is not taken, we may end up with Boris the Statesman! But will this be enough to get people to look upon him again as prime ministerial material ? The jury is out on that as he has lost ground on Brexit despite being an early proponent of it .

...




ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
-->