IN some of the aerial shots, you could see the potholes. It’s as good a metaphor as any for the state of modern Britain.

As King Charles’ airconditioned carriage swept through Westminster followed by a phalanx of cavalrymen, the road looked pockmarked with sand, packed in wet, to ensure that the royal bottom wasn’t too janked or jangled before it arrived at Westminster Abbey.

No expense spared on the gilded royal taxi: every expense spared on the public domain.

Rishi Sunak described the event as “a ­vivid demonstration of the modern ­character of our country.”

For once, the Prime Minister was on to something. ­

Saturday’s ­coronation of Charles III is one of the most deeply strange events this ­country has seen in ­decades, neatly ­summing up how much the British state relies on toy soldiers, ­medieval hokum, unbelieved Christianity – and ­authoritarian policing – to maintain the ­illusion of its own stability.

Despite the best efforts of palace PR monkeys to reimagine the swearing, ­oiling, crowning – and endless dressing and ­redressing of King Charles III by two bishops – as a contemporary celebration of Britain’s diversity – the source material just wouldn’t allow it.

What was broadcast instead was a deeply boring and at points deeply uncomfortable ritual, marooned out of time, underscoring how maladapted many of the old tricks of British statecraft have now become.

And as the nobs, bishops, and politicians mingled with an incongruous cast of celebrities – what royal event would be complete without Lionel Richie and Ant and Dec? – the Metropolitan Police got down to the practical business of carting off republican protesters and impounding “Not my King” placards in central London.

While Charles was being handed the sword of temporal justice by the ­Archbishop of Canterbury, the Met’s understanding of the king’s peace was being enforced with the much more mundane “handcuffs of ­because I say so”.

The legal basis for the Met’s decision to huckle Republic’s leadership is less than clear. New public order legislation out of the Home Office? Breach of the peace? The cops wouldn’t say.

“They’re under ­arrest, end of” a police sergeant told one ­onlooker, brushing off questions about how the ­“precautionary” detention of peaceful ­protesters can be compatible with ­fundamental rights in a supposedly ­democratic country.

Over the course of the morning, more clips spilled out on to social ­media of ­police officers threatening to lift ­pro-democracy activists. Reports tell of Met officers threatening activists with detention if they shouted about “Andrew and the sex stuff”.

“If we chant ‘not my king’ on a public street today, we’ll be removed for public nuisance. Is that what you’re saying?” one protestor asks a uniformed officer. ­“Maybe,” came the reply.

The cop is clearly vague on the ­essentials of what the law did and did not empower him to do. Police ­“maybes” about the criminal law combined with vague ­menaces are the stuff chilling ­effects are made of.

Another protester was reportedly ­spotted with a loudhailer, which they were told might “frighten the horses.” These creatures can withstand the volume of bagpipes and a full brass band lashing out military tunes – but might catch fear from a few voices from the crowd crying – “isn’t this all a bit dear, a bit daft, a bit dated”? Please.

It is testament to the feebleness of ­British public life that even this small measure of dissent at this is regarded as intolerable.

This effect is only ­aggravated by the sweeping vagueness of new ­police powers which encourage officers to threaten people exercising the most basic of their democratic rights peacefully – but in a manner calculated to upset Daily ­Telegraph readers.

In arresting the leadership of ­Republic, the Met was only making good on earlier threats.

On Thursday they promised “our tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low” promising to “deal robustly with ­anyone intent on undermining this ­celebration”.

This Tory Christmas must be ­celebrated deferentially – without too many boos, too many dissenters, or too many ­upsetting references to why ­precisely Prince Andrew paid out that massive civil settlement.

The liberal handwringing was ­immediate. “This is not what Britain is,” one prominent tweeter lamented.

You’ve got to wonder what kind of world these people have been living in. This is ­precisely what Britain now is. And both of the main UK parties have made clear its exactly what they want Britain to be.

Starmer dreams of longer prison ­sentences for peaceful protestors. Sunak installed Braverman in the Home Office, well understanding what a toxic quality she brings to the role.

The Met’s boasts are consistent with the ugly braggadocio you increasingly ­encounter in official police Twitter ­accounts.

“Zero tolerance” has been transformed from the paranoid boast of ­authoritarian regimes to the preferred style of our allegedly tolerant easy-going British government and ­opposition, both of which expend significant ­political ­oxygen proposing new ­crackdowns, ­harsher smackdowns and greater ­humiliations for everyone from benefit claimants to protesters.

The smack of firm government has ­never lost its appeal for people with ­authoritarian imaginations. And Starmer and Sunak are both more than happy to give a kicking to anyone straying ­off-script or showing anything short of complete grovelling deference to the deeply weird spectacle of national subordination which took place over the weekend.

This attitude has a significant ­political constituency. Folk who spend their days girning about cancel culture and the ­menace of woke youngsters will be ­shouting “To the Tower!” at their tellies, hoping the cops rough the campaigners up a bit in the back of the police van ­before they turn them over to the Beefeaters for an improving period of solitary confinement with barely a raven to gnaw on.

The walking embodiment of this kind of outlook – Conservative vice-chair Lee Anderson MP – had this advice: “If you do not wish to live in a country that has a monarchy the solution is not to turn up with your silly boards. The solution is to emigrate.”

So many of the stories we’re told about modern Britain are gibberish. The ­official version is reliably the opposite of the truth. Up is down. The UK, we’re told, is a place imbued with rare tolerance and a sense of fair play.

Unless, that is, you’re voicing an unpopular view on Kingy’s Special Day, in which case it’s jackboots on and into the back of the van ye go.

The monarch is supposedly “frugal” – but insists on a multi-million coronation. The king is a “moderniser” – but insists on the full medieval spread of unguents, objects, clerics, outfits – all the old spells and the bells, droning on over hours. A ceremony with no discernible joy in it is described as “joyful”, unironically.

Over the last fortnight, every sinew has been strained to convince us that a ­religious ceremony which includes anointing, bowing, scraping, walking backwards, and various declarations of perpetual fidelity and subordination to this man, his family and the Protestant faith – is really a marvellously inclusive and egalitarian affair, because clergy of diverse religions have been invited to witness the head of the Church of England promise he won’t go off on any Stuart escapades or reverse Henry VIII’s reforms.

To get his chance to wear the jaggy bunnet, Charles is obliged by law to declare himself “a faithful protestant” and swear to “secure the Protestant succession to the throne”. Buddhist or Jain, Hindu or Muslim, Jew or unbeliever – all are invited to accept Christ as their personal saviour and endorse the notion that Your Man Upstairs has special plans for the House of Windsor.

Compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory religious belief, compulsory Protestantism – but apart from that, a modern institution which chimes with modern Britain. Gotcha.

There’s a perverse logic that the things done and said in these ceremonies do and don’t matter at the same time.

Ignore the declaration of Protestant overlordship – admire the breadth of the audience we invited to observe it. Ignore the crawling, the creeping, the oaths of perpetual service and servitude – this gilded parade of power and wealth is really an egalitarian moment in which all Britons – rich or poor, black or white – are invited to share in and be renewed by.

Is it really inclusive to invite Catholics along to witness you celebrating their ­formal sectarian exclusion from the ­foundations of the British state? Is it ­really cosmopolitan to ask our Hindu Prime Minister to recite greats screeds of Biblical text which are diametrically ­opposed to his own beliefs?

If this is Britain at its best – then ­Britain is in serious trouble. The golden lacquer is peeling.

Sunak’s right: Saturday staged something of the reality of ­modern ­Britain: potholes, golden cozzies, and ­circuses without bread.