Bring the Queen into politics?

Britain's politicians are daring each other to press the monarch button

Daily Telegraph

John McDonnell threatens to march on palace and tell Queen: 'We're taking over' if Boris Johnson loses no confidence vote

John McDonnell has threatened to drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis by claiming Labour would "take over" if Boris Johnson refused to quit were he to lose a confidence vote.

The shadow chancellor suggested he would send Jeremy Corbyn to Buckingham Palace "in a cab" to tell the 93-year-old monarch the party was ready to assume power, in the latest sign that MPs seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit are planning to embroil Her Majesty in politics as they run out of parliamentary options.

Mr McDonnell was also accused of forming an "unholy alliance" with nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland after he claimed that he would not stand in the way of a referendum in either country to split.

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Should politicians try to involve the Queen in their wranglings?

By Joe Harker

We know part of his this story is going to play out. Labour intends to propose a motion of no confidence once parliament returns from summer recess in September.

If they succeed it'll be because they gained the support of the other parties in the House of Commons and a handful of rebellious Tory MPs, though even success may not oust Boris Johnson.

The prime minister has indicated that he wouldn't leave even if he lost the confidence of the Commons, which brings the Queen into play and threatens to set dangerous precedents over the role of the monarch in British politics.

The Claim:

Labour have indicated that if they win the confidence vote and Johnson refuses to step down party leader Jeremy Corbyn would travel to Buckingham Palace and ask to be appointed prime minister.

If a prime minister loses a confidence vote they are obliged to resign and recommend someone to the monarch to take the position as a caretaker. This is an obligation rather than a strict legal requirement, hence the fears over setting new precedents.

Johnson's refusal to meet the obligation would be what brings the Queen into politics. She could be asked, with justification, to dismiss Johnson on the grounds that he had lost the confidence of parliament but calling on her to intervene is a dangerous step.

You would be asking the monarch to force a prime minister out of office. That's putting the UK on the road to a constitutional crisis, with former Tory foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind suggesting it would be the worst since the days of Charles I and the English Civil War.

By refusing to resign when he is obliged to Johnson would be daring his opponents to go to the Queen and ask her to get involved. It may lead to disaster but the alternative is the erosion of the motion of no confidence.

How is a democracy meant to operate when its parliament's ability to express no confidence in the government becomes ineffectual?

The Counter Claim:

On the other hand, the Daily Telegraph believes Johnson himself should make a dash for Buckingham Palace if he loses a no confidence vote to inform the Queen he intends to stay on as caretaker prime minister.

If he stays on as prime minister and the 14 day period specified by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passes with no government gaining the confidence of the Commons then the UK is headed towards a general election, with the prime minister recommending the date to the monarch.

Johnson and his team have indicated that they would choose a day on or after the Brexit deadline of October 31 in order to prevent the next government from preventing the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

The Telegraph also suggested Johnson should ask the Queen to use her veto powers on any bill that would block a no deal Brexit. If the opposition parties can take control of the legislation and pass such a bill then it could go to the Queen to receive her signature.

This again is a dangerous precedent, as the last time a British monarch refused to give a bill Royal assent was in 1708. If Johnson asks the Queen to refuse the bill that would cause another crisis.

The Facts:

This is democracy on life support, with politicians considering employing tricks of procedures to resolve the most important issue facing the UK for decades.

British politics relies heavily on precedents and unwritten rules, there is no one single constitution governing how politics is done. This allows the British system to be flexible but leaves it open to abuse and manipulation.

During Theresa May's time in government many precedents were broken or warped. Hers was the first government ever to be found in contempt of parliament, while her first attempt to put her withdrawal agreement to the Commons resulted in the biggest defeat any government had ever suffered in British political history.

Many would have expected her to call a general election, recognising that her government had been unable to enact its flagship Brexit policy. The previous largest defeat of a sitting government was in 1924, resulting in a general election.

Old precendents have been trampled and new ones are being made. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act is relatively recent, having been introduced this decade, so the way certain parts of it would work in practice are yet to be determined.

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