She is the single biggest drain on the benefits system. Her grandchildren throw weddings that make the Big Fat Gypsies blush. The bling that sits on the top of her head could eradicate third world poverty. And yet the nation celebrates her every passing anniversary – particularly this latest one – as if it were a personal sacrifice for her to swan about at Her Majesty’s leisure, writes The Law Horse....
In a era of great financial hardship, when we are perpetually reminded that we’re all in this together, shouldn’t we be demanding our money’s worth? Isn’t it about time that a valid constitutional purpose was served by our Queen?
EIIR does already play at a role. She opens parliament in all her attendant portentous regalia, and a legislative Act doesn’t become the law of the land until it receives royal assent. For an Act to acquire the Crown seal of approval is, in practical terms, no more onerous than teasing a mildly chauvinistic comment out of Prince Philip: place a warm, freshly copied batch of Portcullis papers in front of her, and the Queen will have her butler sign it off in a jiffy.
Perhaps she/the butler should be more discerning in what she/the butler signs.
Many unpopular Bills become unpopular Acts, though rarely before the various disparate vested interest groups pay for their influence to be heard. The media is mobilised, the Lords are lobbied, and MPs are bombarded with rent-a-mob emails. But no-one ever writes to the Queen.
It is a missed opportunity, and it is not difficult to envisage a series of unfortunate government calamities whereby the Queen might credibly claim constitutional legitimacy in withholding her signature from a Bill.
Take the example of two opposition parties successfully voting down the government’s Bill X; these two parties pledge in their subsequent manifestos to resist attempts to revive Bill X; following the election, these two parties come together and, in their coalition agreement, state their intention to protect the country against the threat presented by Bill X. Surely, they won’t? They already did. Now that the coalition has passed Bill XXL, the voting public can do nothing to halt its passage. But the Queen can. It is, after all, her government; if she isn’t going to stop them, who is?
Refusing to sign Bill XXL could precipitate a constitutional crisis, with the dissolution of the monarchy the very likely result. Or it could force the government to take Bill XXL – for which they have a minimal democratic mandate – back to the people.
Certainly, not every necessary new law can be predicted in a pre-election party manifesto. Sometimes, in the blink of an eye, an event with the scale and horror of 9/11 changes the world forever, and governments require the autonomy to react. Politicians have always relied on current events and manipulation of the public mood to pass legislation.
But in the case of Bill XXL – about which the government specifically misled the electorate as to its intentions, and which has no demonstrable urgency to its safe passage – our unelected Queen could fulfil a valid constitutional purpose: uphold the democratic ideal and force a referendum.
Better that Bill XXL be aired in public, than tried by special advocates behind closed doors.
The Law Horse is an anonymous barrister at the criminal Bar of England and Wales. The Law Horse tweets at @thelawhorse.
Happy Diamond Jubilee, Your Madge!