Royal bombshell: How Queen chose new Prime Minister despite no election or leadership race
Queen Elizabeth II has astonished many this weekend, as Her Majesty’s thoughts on Britain’s political leadership have come to light. The Queen and the rest of the Royal Family traditionally remain politically neutral, but a royal source revealed to the Sunday Times how Her Majesty holds some strong private opinions. The source said: “I think she’s really dismayed. I’ve heard her talking about her disappointment in the current political class and its inability to govern correctly.”
The comments came shortly after the referendum when David Cameron handed in his resignation, however the source claimed that Her Majesty’s frustration has only grown in the years since.
They said: “She expressed her exasperation and frustration about the quality of our political leadership, and that frustration will only have grown.”
The bombshell disclosure comes amid claims Prime Minister Boris Johnson would refuse to quit if he lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons.
A Prime Minister who loses such a vote is expected to resign – and refusal to do so would lead Britain into the biggest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.
Queen Elizabeth II
Her Majesty welcomes Boris Johnson last month
Last week, shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested that, if Mr Johnson refused to step down in such an event, he would respond by sending Jeremy Corbyn to Buckingham Palace “in a cab” to tell the 93-year-old monarch the party was ready to assume power.
Although the revelations have surprised many, and thrown the role of the Queen in government into heated debate, there is in fact a precedent for Her Majesty choosing a Prime Minster.
Constitutionally, the Queen can choose the Prime Minister as she retains the “right to appoint” the premier but conventions surrounding her role mean the monarch seldom, if ever, intervenes in matters of state.
However, in 1963, the Queen appointed Alec Douglas-Home as Prime Minister despite him not being elected the leader of his party at the time.
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Queen Elizabeth II and David Cameron
The move was highly controversial as she has traditionally been there to “consult, encourage and warn” the premier.
Amazon Prime documentary “The Queen’s Diamond Decades”, which originally aired in 2012, features archive footage of the historic moment.
The documentary’s narrator Patricia Hodge relates: “In 1963, the Queen was about to be drawn into difficult political territory, as speculation swirled around Downing Street.
“After six years in office, Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was seriously ill, and decided to resign.
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The Queen opening Parliament in the Sixties
Her Majesty with Mr and Mrs Douglas-Home in 1963
“As he was too unwell to travel to Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty visited him in hospital – she would have the task of choosing his successor.
“After officials had sounded out the party, Her Majesty’ final choice was 60-year-old Alec Douglas-Home.”
Historian and biographer of Harold MacMillan, D R Thorpe, writing in 2012, explained why the appointment caused controversy.
He wrote: “When Macmillan resigned in October 1963, accusations were made that the Queen had colluded with his supposed blocking of the Deputy Prime Minister, Rab Butler, as his successor, leading to the controversial appointment of Alec Douglas-Home as the new Prime Minister.
“In fact, the Queen had distanced herself from the process, both physically – by staying out of London, at Windsor Castle – and personally – ensuring that her Assistant Private Secretary Sir Edward Ford was the conduit between the Palace and the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The Palace made it clear that the choice of a new leader should be for the Conservative Party alone, a process known as ‘You Choose, We Send For’.
“Far from colluding, the Queen maintained the monarchy’s political impartiality, waiting for a name to be brought to her.”
However, he concludes: “Today it would be highly unusual if the Queen invited anyone to become Prime Minister who was not the acknowledged leader of the party commanding a majority in the House of Commons.”
Hardest hit with No-Deal Brexit
The Queen’s constitutional role has been in the spotlight in recent months as the Brexit deadlock took shape in Parliament.
Earlier this year, Dominic Raab called for an ancient set of rules to come into play when he suggested that Her Majesty “prorogue” Parliament – meaning that the Queen could have ended the current session.
It would mean that any legislation going through Parliament would be dropped, allowing a no deal Brexit to passively go ahead.
Recently, Mr Johnson has said he is “not attracted” to the idea, but his campaign team explored it as an option.
However, businesswoman Gina Miller’s legal team has written to Downing Street threatening legal action, and claiming that the move would be “contrary to fundamental constitutional principles”.
Some also called for Her Majesty to withhold Royal Assent to the Article 50 extension, which would have been the first time the monarch withheld assent since Queen Anne in the 18th century.
However, Her Majesty has continued to stick to the long-established constitutional conventions of her role and has not made any political interventions.
One thing the Queen cannot do is dissolve Parliament and trigger a general election.
Her Majesty with Tory leaders including Mr Douglas-Home, second left, in 1987
The monarch was stripped of that power by the 2011 Fixed-term Parliament Act.
Professor Alex De Ruyter, Director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, told Express.co.uk that any further developments “have the potential to hugely politicise the role of the Queen”.
He added: “It’s almost impossible to see the Queen attempting to override our elected Parliament, but ignoring the request of a sitting Prime Minister is problematic for her as well.”
There have been reports from Whitehall that everything is being done to keep the Queen from becoming involved.
A senior Whitehall source said: “The royal household wants to manage this in a way that doesn’t damage the ongoing, long-term position of the crown.”