Lisa Nandy MP: Death of Queen Elizabeth II was end of an era and start of another

The death last week of Queen Elizabeth II marked the end of one era and the start of another.
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For 70 years she was a steady, reassuring presence in public life, an anchor for the nation in troubled times.

As we turn to face a very tough winter, where leadership is needed more than ever, I reflected on a lifetime devoted to service and duty, with the Queen even personally appointing the new Prime Minister Liz Truss – the 15th of her reign – in her final days.

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I was in the House of Commons last Friday to listen to the tributes from Members of Parliament of all political parties.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

It was clear that the Queen was admired by politicians across the political spectrum, standing above politics but with a deep respect for our democratic system.

Senior politicians talked about the effect on Britain of having a young woman and mother at the forefront of public life at a time when women were largely excluded.

During the second world war she served in uniform, as a truck mechanic and driver, changing perceptions not just of the monarchy but of the role women could play.

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Others talked about her role in strengthening Britain’s relationships with countries across the world.

I heard this for myself when I served as Shadow Foreign Secretary when I met with leaders of the Commonwealth.

She had a close friendship with Nelson Mandela, reaching out to him at a time when the UK Government took a very different stance.

The most travelled monarch ever, the Queen made a staggering 266 official overseas visits to 117 different countries.

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She was the patron of hundreds of charities and a strong supporter of our Armed Forces and veterans.

But this weekend as we gathered in Believe Square in Wigan to hear the Royal Proclamation and sign the book of condolence, it was the interest she showed in Wigan over her long, 70-year reign, that was at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Her first visit was in 1954 when she opened a new site at the then Wigan Mining and Technical College.

She visited the borough as part of her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977, opened the redeveloped Wigan Pier in 1986 and helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Heinz factory at Kitt Green in 2009.

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She was always deeply interested in the people of our town and her generosity and kindness always meant a lot to us.

This week MPs and Peers gathered in Westminster to mark the start of a new relationship between the Houses of Parliament and the monarchy, with an address from King Charles III.

As he paid tribute to his mother I remembered the image of the Queen, sitting alone at the funeral of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years during the COVID pandemic.

Leading by example and observing the rules, it must have been a huge sacrifice, a model of leadership that we will need more of in the years to come.