Political leaders unite in tribute to Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh death
Duke of Edinburgh death (PA Wire)
18:42pm, Fri 09 Apr 2021
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Political leaders from across the spectrum have paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh after his death at the age of 99.

Speaking at a podium outside Downing Street on Friday, Boris Johnson said Philip would be remembered for his “steadfast support” of the Queen, as well as his awards scheme which “inspired” countless young people.

The Prime Minister said: “He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.

“With his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.”

In a reference to the duke’s love of carriage driving, Mr Johnson said Philip “helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life”.

The flags above Downing Street were lowered to half-mast after the news broke at noon.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK has “lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip”.

He said: “He will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the Queen.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said she was “saddened” by the news and sent her “personal and deepest condolences, and those of the Scottish government and people of Scotland, to Her Majesty the Queen and her family”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the Duke “dedicated his life to our country” and “we will always be grateful for his amazing service”.

Campaigning was suspended ahead of elections in May as a mark of respect to the duke and the Commons will be recalled from its Easter recess on Monday.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Downing St (PA Archive)

Mr Johnson’s predecessors in 10 Downing Street also paid tribute to Philip.

Tony Blair said the duke was a “man of foresight, determination and courage”.

“He was often way ahead of his time in protection of the environment, in reconciliation between religious faiths and of course in the creation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which remains one of the most innovative and effective programmes for the betterment of young people anywhere in the world,” the Labour ex-prime minister said.

David Cameron said Philip left an “incredible legacy”, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

“He showed true dedication to our country, with unstinting service stretching back to his courageous naval duty in the Second World War,” Mr Cameron said.

“He has been a huge part of our national life since long before most of us were born.

“It was an honour and privilege as prime minister to see up close what a powerful advocate the duke was for the causes he believed in.”

Gordon Brown said he had benefited from the duke’s experience early in his career.

The former Labour prime minister told the PA news agency: “I  was personally fortunate to benefit from the duke’s wisdom  on many occasions, not least early on when I was rector of Edinburgh University at the age of only 21 and he was the chancellor, and he gave good advice.”

Mr Brown added: “Like the whole of our country, I am grateful not just for the public service he gave but for his dedication of his life to our country.”

Theresa May said: “The nation and the entire Commonwealth owe Prince Philip an extraordinary debt of gratitude for a distinguished life of service to the Queen, our country and so many around the world.”

She also described him as a “man of many talents”, telling the BBC: “He was an engineer, an inventor, a sportsman, he loved cricket, he had so many different interests, he was incredibly knowledgeable about so many different things – and of course a very dry sense of humour.”

Sir John Major said it was “impossible to exaggerate” the role played by the duke in a lifetime of service to the monarchy and the nation.

“A distinguished naval officer, he was – for over 70 years – the ballast to our Ship of State,” Sir John said.

“Modest to the core, and hating any kind of fuss or bother, he epitomised the British spirit and remained true to himself right up to the very end.

“The outpouring of affection and sadness that will follow his loss would both surprise and embarrass him, but it will be real and heartfelt.”

The Prime Minister assembled his Cabinet on Friday afternoon to remember Philip and share their recollections of meeting him.

“He referenced the duke’s long and devoted public service, noting he had known 16 prime ministers,” Downing Street said.

“Ministers said they had already received thousands of messages of condolence from all over the world.”

Downing Street said the Prime Minister “concluded by saying that in the coming days the entire country would have a chance to reflect on his life, work and legacy”.

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