During the independence referendum, those who suggested that David Cameron’s government had intervened with the monarchy in order to get the Queen to make a statement favourable to the Better Together campaign were dismissed as cranks, conspiracy theorists, and crackpots.
That’s OUTRAGEOUS!!!! We were told in capital letters with multiple exclamation marks because if you’re going to affect to be outraged you may as well go the whole hog. The Queen is NEUTRAL!!!! That’s what being British is all about and the fact you can even think to the contrary that shows that you are a vile untrustworthy person who can never, NEVER, aspire to the heights of moral probity of the British state and you’d put Scottish democracy at risk. How very DARE you vile cybernats impugn the neutrality of Her Majesty who has never, NEVER, had a political thought in her entire life. Or indeed any thought that didn’t involve horses or protecting her second son from accusations of being pally with a paedophile. Well this is precisely the kind of conspiracy theorising we can expect from these vile cybernats with their evil ways and horrible tendency to throw an egg, an egg I tell you, at that nice Mr Jim Murphy. Vote yes and it’s one step to the end of civilisation.
Yet now we know that is precisely what happened. In his expensively written memoirs, coming soon to a Bargain Bookshop near you with a £1 sticker on the cover, former Prime Minister David Cameron admits that he did indeed intervene with the monarchy after he was panicked by an opinion poll which showed that support for independence was edging ahead. He didn’t want to go down in history as the man who’d lost Scotland. No indeed. Instead because of his Brexit referendum he’ll go down in history as the man who lost the entire UK.
What Liz did in response was to tell a random royalist punter stood stanning outside Crathie kirk that people ought to “think very carefully” before casting their vote in the referendum. This was taken in the spirit in which it was intended by the BBC and the rest of the British media. It was the sort of “you need to think very carefully about that” you’d get from yer maw just after a teenager told her they intended to get a facial tattoo and she knew that if she’d said “For god’s sake don’t be such an idiot” that they’d go ahead and do it just to annoy her. This is because even though the form of the words “think very carefully” are in themselves studiously neutral, no one has ever been told to “think very carefully” by another person who shares their belief that they are doing the right thing.
That’s exactly how the Queen’s words were presented by the media. She knew that is what they’d do. There was no intervention from the palace to clarify that the Queen meant that both sides in the debate needed to think very carefully, or that what she meant was that she hoped that both sides in the debate should carefully consider their positions. She was quite happy that her wee intervention should be used as an aid to the Better Together campaign. That’s always exactly how it was intended.
Today we’re hearing reports from the palace that the Queen is channelling Victoria and is not amused by Cameron’s none too surprising revelation. Apparently there is “an amount of displeasure” about the former Prime Minister’s admission. I’ll bet there is, quite a large amount too. But it’s not displeasure at having intervened in a democratic debate, it’s displeasure at having been found out. Coming as it does on top of the crisis provoked by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s decision to abuse the royal prerogative and prorogue Parliament in order to escape democratic scrutiny, it’s a very bad time for anyone to be shining the spotlight on the monarch’s true role in politics.
We have been told this week that Lyin’ Bastert Johnson lied to the Queen in order to prorogue Parliament, when in fact she was well aware of what he was doing and why he wanted Parliament to be prorogued. The dugs in the street knew the real reason. All of Parliament knew the real reason. The judges in the highest court of Scotland knew the real reason. Everyone knew the real reason. It is ludicrous to suggest that a monarch who has been dealing with Prime Ministers since the early 1950s didn’t know the real reason too. Indeed there have even been rumours that the Palace planned the entire affair with Downing Street.
This is far bigger than the decision of a deeply conservative member of the British establishment, indeed the very figurehead of the British establishment, to intervene against Scottish independence. That development was always entirely predictable, and she will do exactly the same the next time round. All the more so because the next time round the British state will not be going into the independence referendum campaign with the same casual arrogance that it’s going to win handsomely that it had early in 2014. There will most certainly be some weasly worded intervention from the monarch, carefully phrased in order to be deniable. However the next time round we will be able to assert that there has been political intervention citing David Cameron as evidence that opponents of independence had done it before. We will no longer be able to be dismissed as conspiracy theorists for making the allegation.
What this is really about however, is the systematic weakness of the collection of laws, conventions, traditions, and precedent which together comprise the British constitution. An unelected head of state is not and cannot be any sort of guarantee against undemocratic actions on the part of the executive. An elected head of state would have told Lyin’ Bastert Johnson where to get off if he had approached her or him with the proposal to prorogue Parliament for such nakedly political, anti-democratic, and self-serving ends. Instead of placing the protection of democracy as its paramount concern, Buckingham Palace had as its priority the minimisation of damage to the Queen’s reputation.
It is one thing when an extremely expensively funded head of state has no political influence and is merely a decorative figurehead. It is quite another when that head of state does have political influence, but those of us who pay for the privileges and luxurious lifestyle of her and her family are not allowed to know what that influence is. Then the monarch shifts from being merely a massive waste of public money, to becoming a massive waste of public money and a danger to democracy. The real scandal here is not that Lyin’ Bastert Johnson lied to the Queen, it’s that the entire British constitution rests upon the lie that the head of state has no political influence.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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