Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Queen's politics

The monarchy in the UK is officially head of state, but not, in theory, politically active.

Did the Queen Just Weigh In on Brexit?
Over the last few years, as Britain has divided into warring tribes over its exit from the European Union, Queen Elizabeth II has retained a sphinxlike neutrality, imperturbably getting on with the business of conveying knighthoods and hosting garden parties.
But this week even the queen was drawn into Britain’s constitutional turmoil, after a prominent lawmaker suggested she employ a royal prerogative that has not been used for centuries: the right to tactically adjourn, or “prorogue,” a rebellious Parliament.

The 92-year-old queen then made a veiled reference to Brexit in a speech on Thursday, delivering a plea for “respecting different points of view” and “coming together to seek out the common ground.” In line with her constitutional obligation to remain neutral on political matters, she revealed nothing about her views…

Commentators spent much of Friday morning deconstructing these words for signs that the queen was recommending a particular course of action, with many concluding that she was throwing her weight behind Mrs. May’s deal.

From the queen’s words it was hard to tell. But one thing was clear: She is worried enough to get involved…

Some complained that she had overstepped her constitutional powers. “I don’t think Her Majesty should be wading in,” wrote Sean O’Grady, an editor of The Independent, who supports a second referendum…

Journalists… braced for another round of frantic interpretation. “If anyone else came out with these sort of cliché-ridden, impossible-to-disagree-with, back-of-a-greetings card platitude, they would be ignored,” complained Adam Bienkov of Business Insider on Twitter. “But this is Queen talking in Britain in 2019…

The queen was criticized in 2014 for telling a well-wisher on the eve of a referendum on Scottish independence that “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.” The remark was seen as aiding the unionist side…

She is also being urged, by a few, to be more involved. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hard-line Brexiteer sometimes referred to as “the honorable member for the 18th century,” suggested on Wednesday that the queen might have a role in resolving the country’s constitutional dilemma…

Stephen Laws… a senior fellow at Policy Exchange, a research organization in London… described the prospect of the queen’s involvement as “unthinkably awful.”

“There is always the likelihood that people will question whatever she does,” he said. “It is the responsibility of politicians to arrange their affairs so that there is never a need to involve herself in a controversy.”

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