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The Queen above politics? Not when Cameron and Johnson come calling

3 30 0
21.09.2019

The Queen is a sham head of state. She cannot act as a constitutional president and force rival politicians to look for ways out of a national emergency. She cannot insist that the prime minister obeys the rules, because there are too few rules in Britain and too many woozy, unenforceable conventions.

Elizabeth II’s strength came from being “above politics”. Now even that pose – how can a head of state be above politics? – has been exposed, as Buckingham Palace’s “displeasure and annoyance” at David Cameron reveals. It is not angry because he “dragged the Queen into politics” but because he revealed that she happily got stuck in without the need for dragging.

She did not slap down Cameron in 2014. She did not cry: “Never in my reign has one of my prime ministers dared to suggest that I intervene in a political debate.” Cameron asked her to tell the Scots that she did not want them to vote for independence. She was to keep it classy – she was the Queen, after all. He was “not asking for anything that would be in any way improper or unconstitutional, just a raising of the eyebrow, even, you know, a quarter of an inch”. She duly urged Scottish voters to “think very carefully about the future”. The popularity of the Queen rests on the notion that she is not political. Naturally, that made her political intervention all the more effective.

Cameron has revealed that the tearing up of the conventions that once governed Britain did not begin with Brexit and no amount of smoke from the “constitutional experts” the British have in place of a written constitution can hide the fact. Peter Hennessy, who I like enough to suspect........

© The Guardian