Sir Keir's Speech on the Death of our Queen

Below is the full text of the statement delivered in Parliament by the Leader of His Majesty's Opposition and Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, following the death of Elizabeth II on Thursday.

Today, our country, our people, this House are united in mourning. Queen Elizabeth II was this great country’s greatest monarch. And for the vast majority of us, it feels impossible to imagine a Britain without her. All our thoughts are with her beloved family, our royal family, at this moment of profound grief. This is a deep and private loss for them, yet it is one we all share. Because Queen Elizabeth created a special, personal relationship with us all. That relationship was built on the attributes that defined her reign: her total commitment to service and duty, her deep devotion to the country, the Commonwealth and the people she loved.

In return for that, we loved her. And it is because of that great, shared love that we grieve today. For the 70 glorious years of her reign, our Queen was at the heart of this nation’s life. She did not simply reign over us, she lived alongside us. She shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times and our bad. Our Queen played a crucial role as the thread between the history we cherish and the present we own.

A reminder that our generational battle against the evil of fascism, or the emergence of a new Britain out of the rubble of the Second World War, do not belong only to the past, but are the inheritance of each and every one of us. A reminder that the creativity, the hard work, the enterprise that has always defined this nation is as abundant now as it ever was. A reminder that the prospect of a better future still burns brightly.

Never was this link more important than when our country was plunged into lockdown at the start of the pandemic. Her simple message: that we would see family again, that we would see friends again, that we would be together again, gave people strength and courage when they needed it most. But it wasn’t simply the message that allowed a shaken nation to draw upon those reserves, it was the fact she was the messenger.

Covid closed the front doors of every home in the country, it made all our lives smaller and more remote. But she was able to reach beyond that to reassure us and steel us. At the time we were most alone, at a time we had been driven apart, she held the nation close, in a way no one else could have done. For that, we say: thank you.

On the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Philip Larkin wrote of her reign: “In times when nothing stood, but worsened or grew strange, there was one constant good, she did not change.” It feels like we are once again in a moment in our history where – as Larkin put it – things are ‘growing strange’. When everything is spinning, a nation requires a still point, when times are difficult, it requires comfort, and when direction is hard to find, it requires leadership. The loss of our Queen robs this country of its stillest point, its greatest comfort, at precisely the time we need those things most.

But our Queen’s commitment to us, her life of public service, was underpinned by one crucial understanding: that the country she came to symbolise is bigger than any one individual or any one institution. It is the sum total of all our history and all our endeavours, and it will endure. The late Queen would want us to redouble our efforts, to turn our collar up and face the storm. To carry on.

Most of all, she would want us to remember that it is these moments that we must all pull together. This House is a place where ideas and ideals are debated. Of course, that leads to passionate disagreement, of course, temperatures can run high. But we all do it in pursuit of something greater. We do it because we believe we can make this great country and its people greater still.

At this moment of uncertainty, where our country feels caught between a past it cannot relive and a future yet to be revealed, we must always remember one of the great lessons of our Queen’s reign. That we are always better when we rise above the petty, the trivial, the day to day, to focus on the things that really matter. The things that unite us, rather than those which divide us.

Our Elizabethan age may now be over but her legacy will live on forever. And as the children of that era it falls upon us to take that legacy forward. To show the same love of country, the love of one another, as she did. To show empathy and compassion, as she did, and to get Britain through this dark night and bring it into the dawn, as she did.

We join together today, not just to say goodbye to our Queen or to share in our mourning but to say something else important: God save the King. Because as one era ends, so another begins. King Charles III has been a devoted servant of this country his entire life, he has been a powerful voice for fairness, and understood the importance of the environment long before many others. As he ascends to his new role with the Queen Consort by his side, the whole House, indeed, the whole country, will join today to wish him a long, happy and successful reign.

The emotions we see across our nation today are echoed across the Commonwealth to which our Queen was so committed, in the church, to which our Queen was so devoted, and in the armed forces, which she led and her family served. Around the world people will be united in mourning for her passing and united in celebrating her life.

We have already seen beautiful tributes flow from across the world. It would be impossible to capture them all here, but each one is a reminder of the esteem in which she was held, of what she achieved on behalf of her country, of the shared values we treasure.

The reason our loss feels so profound is not just because she stood at the head of our country for 70 years, but because, in spirit, she stood amongst us. As we move forward, as we forge a new path, as we build towards a better future – she will always be with us. For all she gave us, and for all she will continue to give us, we say thank you. May our Queen rest in peace. God save the King.

Sir Keir has captured the mood very well, and speaks on behalf of so many of us. 

Image by Jessica Crawford from Pixabay