“Queen Backs Brexit – EU going in the wrong direction she says” was yesterday’s Sun headline, which has given rise to Her Majesty’s displeasure, lots of debate in various media and a complaint to the press regulatory authority, for regardless as to whether she is in favour of Britain leaving the EU or not or the “evidence” presented (and not presented, which the Sun says they have) is true or not, the question is – should this be something for public broadcast? There has been a wide range of opinions as to whether the Sun article is true and/or appropriate for publication, starting with the Sun’s own defence of its action in today’s edition and all sorts of comment, now made available in the public domain (see here, here and here).
I suspect, depending where one stands in the debate on the In/Out referendum, to be held 23rd June, this will be either an unwelcome development or one to bolster arguments of the “No” campaigners. It is likely, although not finally settled (I still need to evaluate the various arguments) that I will voting No to staying in the EU when I do get to vote on the matter. As for the row we are seeing, I suspect a lot of it is about political jockeying for position. But I am of the view that the Queen should not be dragged into this anyway, and it is regrettable that she is. Just like with the “No” (to leave) camp in last year’s Scottish referendum campaign, it is more than possible the Queen is in favour of Britain coming out of the EU, just as she was for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, but it is right that such views should not be made public, if only because that is what the Queen, who like us all is entitled to an opinion, wishes.
As I have argued in my recent blog about the Queen, while the monarchy is such these days that in practice she is a figurehead that exercises no real official power, she does have considerable influence, and this is down as much to her strength of character, wisdom and personality as to her position or any other factor. I believe the significant factor in all this is that her conversations with the good and the great (and that list is now very large given she has been on the throne since 1953) are meant to be confidential. There have been leaks as one might expect and sometimes when adding two and two together the right answer is reached, but it is better that silence as to what the Queen thinks is maintained. It is understood those who have dealings with the Queen usually respect this position, for anything else would rightly be deemed as out of order.
I for one feel a tinge of sadness that when she delivers her speech every year, outlining what her government is going to do, there must be elements with which she profoundly disagrees. But her role is to be consulted and advise, and while there is a thin line between that and offering her personal views on a particular matter that is then made known to all and sundry, she of all people treads that line with considerable skill and due decorum. While the Sun has tried to maintain the moral high ground over its actions, it and others would do better not to draw the Queen into whatever point they wish to make and let her do what she does best – “be consulted and advise”.