What do we pay the Queen for?

Gerald Holtham asks whether constitutional monarchy is a defunct idea.

It is obvious that Parliament is deadlocked over Brexit.

A combination of the Party system and the control of the government over Parliamentary proceedings prevents it from being unblocked.

MPs can conceivably arrive at a consensus over a course of action; there seems to be a majority for a softer form of Brexit that maintains close economic ties to the EU. But the government is violently split and MPs cannot create a government to implement any such policy. Therefore an EU crash-out threatens.

Some people say that is what the referendum implied so people will deserve what they get. That, however, is an irresponsible attitude to an economic debacle that will hit nearly everyone. A general election would not necessarily solve the problem since it might well return a similar Parliament.

This is where a constitutional monarch is supposed to act, as George V did in 1931 when he encouraged Ramsay MacDonald to form a national government.

The Queen is supposed to send for Mrs May and ask her to form a cross-party national government in the public interest to enact the will of the majority in the House of Commons. If Mrs May declines, the Queen can try Mr Corbyn and failing him she can send for the Father of House, Mr Kenneth Clarke.  With luck such extreme measures are needed only once or twice a century but such an occasion is upon us now.

If the Queen cannot rise to playing her role in a constitutional crisis, it demonstrates that constitutional monarchy is a defunct idea.

The country then needs a President or Protector who can carry out the long-stop function in the constitution.


Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Flickr

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Gerald Holtham is an IWA Trustee and Hodge Professor of Regional Economy at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

3 thoughts on “What do we pay the Queen for?

  1. Surely the question should be, why do we pay one of the richest women in the UK when we have in work poverty, rough sleepers, austerity and all the other gifts the Tories have given us

  2. Well, she is paid via the Civil List for having a constitutional function: to be consulted, to encourage and to warn, according to Bagehot. She cannot compel and that is right. George V “encouraged” MacDonald to form a national government in 1931; he could not order him to do so. In a situation like the present however it would be difficult for politicians to resist the advice of the head of state to form a national administration. Both main parties are split so neither party is able to form an administration that reflects a majority view in the House of Commons on the issue of the day. The present Queen also has personal prestige, owing to her long, largely uncontroversial reign,that might not attach to a successor.

    Any intervention would of course be controversial and there lies my concern. I suspect that the monarchy is now concerned to avoid all controversy so as not to endanger its position. That reflects the fact that the hereditary principle is now generally regarded as anachronistic and is not accepted in any other sphere. If avoiding controversy means the monarchy cannot carry out the one, limited, function left to it, then the country needs other arrangements. Two possibilities come to mind. One is electoral reform so that that it becomes routine to form coalitions in the House of Commons; another is an elected head of state.

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