Now bored by Brexit, the UK is apparently instead turning itself into a sort of nationalised Britain’s Got Talent.
We have had the Royal wedding. Rules for the guests – and the groom – were no swords and no mobile phones. But there were celebs galore – actors, footballers and ageing pop singers. And a star turn from an American bible-basher who evoked the image of Robert Mugabe being given a special guest slot on the Muppet Show. The people, it seems, loved it.
And now Grenfell Tower – The Story. Abandoning everything he knows about the admissibility or relevance of evidence as a judge, enquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick is playing the part of a beneficent Simon Cowell as relatives of the dead from Grenfell Tower get their moment in the spotlight of momentary fame on the public stage. Moore-Bick says their evidence is integral to his enquiry. He does not mean it, of course, in the traditional sense. Rather, he has understood that the public has a healthy appetite for amateurs doing turns at funereal addresses. The result of the whole thing will probably tell us nothing very useful about the rather dull topic of building regulation. It is all about how people feel. Will you cast your vote for the aspiring immigrant who had given up all for a new start? Or the young person who had a glittering career cruelly snatched away?
Both events are, in their different ways, distraction strategies. And both have their dangers. The Royal family, in particular, is supping with the devil. Rachel Engleson, or Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex as she is now styled, is plainly ambitious, clever, and an accomplished actress. She will certainly shake up the Royal Family in terms of its profile. She might, perhaps, become a loyal and prudent servant of the royal “firm”, but that would be a welcome surprise. More likely, she will be well onto the point that she has just won the biggest talent show on earth. And she will probably milk that celebrity for all that it worth. After all, the way the wedding was organised shows that it is she, and not her pleasant but rather ordinary second husband, who will be calling the shots.
The trouble with all of this is that the new supporting cast will steal the limelight from their somewhat dull hosts. And then, what will be the point of the whole thing?
All will be show business.