Could The Queen Take Control?

The role of the sovereign in a situation such as the one that is currently the case, where no party or coalition is able to form a government, due to the non-cooperation of the other parties, might become suddenly a lot more interesting.

The current fashion for belittling all that is established or inherited or incorruptible might be turned smartly on its toes. The Queen might be called upon to exercise her discretion in choosing her next Prime Minister. The British Constitution is not written down, but if in the past there are instances where the Monarch has exercised discretion in choosing a Prime Minister, technically she still holds those powers.

If say, after six weeks, no effective government has been able to establish itself by agreement between the various parties, the Queen might dismiss the Prime Minister who is not succeeding in governing, and have him replaced with another one. Quite a thought isn’t it.

Wikipedia explains –

The degree to which the Monarch in unusual circumstances can or should actually exercise power is a matter of academic debate. Any exercise of the Monarch’s discretion or reserve powers may well cause some aggrieved party to claim a constitutional crisis. The most obvious case for exercising powers without the Prime Minister’s advice is when there is no Prime Minister or when he is subject to a disqualifying conflict of interest, such as in advising upon his own office.

[edit]Appointment of the Prime Minister
Whenever necessary, the Monarch is responsible for appointing a new Prime Minister (who by convention appoints and may dismiss every other Minister of the Crown, and thereby constitutes and controls H.M. Government). In accordance with unwritten constitutional conventions, the Sovereign must appoint an individual who commands the support of the House of Commons, usually the leader of the party or coalition that has a majority in that House. The Prime Minister takes office by attending the Monarch in private audience, and Kissing Hands, and that appointment is immediately effective without any other formality or instrument.[11]
In a “hung parliament”, in which no party or coalition holds a majority, the monarch has an increased degree of latitude in choosing the individual likely to command most support, but it would usually be the leader of the largest party.[12][13] Since 1945, there has only been one hung parliament, following the February 1974 general election. After failed negotiations between the incumbent prime minister Edward Heath and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, Heath resigned and Harold Wilson was appointed Prime Minister. Although Wilson’s Labour Party did not have a majority, they were the largest party.
On the sudden death of a Prime Minister, it is arguable whether the Monarch is bound to appoint the successor on the advice of some (and which) of her Ministers, or perhaps of the Cabinet, or the Privy Council.

Dissolution of Parliament
In 1950, the King’s Private Secretary writing pseudonymously to the Times newspaper asserted a constitutional convention: according to the Lascelles Principles, if a minority government asked to dissolve Parliament to call an early election to strengthen its position, the monarch could refuse, and would do so under three conditions. When Prime Minister Wilson requested a dissolution late in 1974, the Queen granted his request as Heath had already failed to form a coalition. The resulting general election gave Wilson a small majority.[14]
It is notable that, whatever the authority of the Lascelles Principles when published in 1950, in 1994 the English historian Peter Hennessy noted that they had somehow been varied: “the second of the three conditions has since been “dropped from the canon”, being no longer included in internal Cabinet Office guidance”. However, although the letter and guidance might indicate their current views, neither the King or his Private Secretary, nor the Cabinet Office is legally definitive upon the subject.

Dismissal of Government
The monarch could in theory unilaterally dismiss a Prime Minister, but in practice a Prime Minister’s term now comes to an end only by electoral defeat, death, or resignation. The last monarch to remove a Prime Minister was William IV, who dismissed Lord Melbourne in 1834.[15]

It will come to the point where someone’s got to do something. Meantime, the real Queen is going about trying to fix up his new puppet to occupy Downing Street. I wonder if people will notice. The relationship between power and elections seems to have become disconnected. The people who lost the election are now about to run the country. The Lib Dems will be finished, I imagine as an electoral force.

But what do I know? The controllers of the media seem to know how to get votes into ballot boxes one way or another, or prevent them from arriving there, as required.

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3 Responses to “Could The Queen Take Control?”

  1. So in theory the Queen can dismiss the current Prime Minister, but this is highly unlikely as her taking control will cause constitutional outrage and perhaps even abolition of the Monarch by future Parliaments.

  2. Tapestry says:

    It is far more likely that David Cameron’s own backbenchers will dismiss him than anyone else after the 81 rebelled against a 3 line whip two weeks ago.

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