My Lords, I shall say a few words from these Benches on behalf of myself and my co-deputy leader, my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who is unable to be with us today.
Her late Majesty, like many women, was thrown into a difficult role at a time when she least expected it, yet, like many women, she pulled herself together despite her grief and got on with her job—or her calling, as she saw it. She did it in her own way, as I am sure our new King, King Charles, will also do, adapting her approach as appropriate over the years. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, just said, she managed to achieve a balance between consistency and flexibility, and she did it with grace, charm, dignity and dedication. She was at the heart of her family and the nation, and supported us all in good times and in bad. We will miss her among us, as she has so often been.
Everyone who met her has an anecdote about our late Queen, but I am not going to share mine today. Instead, I should like to share just a couple of things that I take away from her long life of service.
First, you always knew which side she was on. She was on my side and your side. She was on the side of all the people of our nation and Commonwealth. She wanted us all to do well. I had the impression that she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to recognise people’s achievements and contributions to the nation or their community when she honoured them at investitures and visits throughout the country. She never took sides, expect when there was a chance that her horse might win the race.
That was one of the occasions when we saw the other thing I will always remember: her radiant and rather infectious smile, which often gave us a glimpse of her famous sense of humour. She smiled at young and old, rich and poor—especially poor. She smiled at heads of state and little girls making wobbly curtseys as they presented a posy of flowers. She smiled at Paddington Bear and made us all smile too. So, as we go about our own public duties, perhaps we should remember to smile a little more, as Her Majesty often did even when she was tired. Perhaps we should do it especially when we do not agree with each other.
As we mourn the loss of our Queen and express our loyalty to our new King, King Charles, who takes up the responsibilities for which she prepared him at a time when he is also mourning his mother—and, indeed, his father, so recently passed away—I am sure that we will all want to express our sympathy to him and his family in their very personal loss. As I look back at more than 70 years of service, I want simply to say, “Thank you, Ma’am.”