Can the Queen do something in the current British political crisis?
The Queen of the United Kingdom remains silent on all political matters. Although the British constitution precludes a level of distance between the monarchy and parliament.
The Queen is required to remain neutral when it comes to politics. In respect to this, the royal family’s official website says:
As Head of State The Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters, unable to vote or stand for election, however Her Majesty does have important ceremonial and formal roles in relation to the government of the UK.
The monarchy can only work in the 21st century if the person occupying the throne upholds a rigorous vow of neutrality. All of the historical, legal precedents behind the weird principle of sovereignty belonging to “the crown-in-parliament” amount to one rule: the crown is for ceremony; MPs do the rest.
Back in January, when the Queen made an important statement on Brexit, the Guardian wrote “It is not craven deference to note that the prime minister is a crown appointment and many functions of government are performed by royal prerogative. Those are facts. Inevitably, when parliament looks incapable of navigating through a crisis, the power vested in the crown becomes relevant. Jacob Rees-Mogg identified that simple truth when he suggested that parliament could be prorogued to prevent MPs legislating to obstruct a no-deal Brexit. It was a fanatical suggestion but one that invokes a real mechanism. On this trajectory, it is only a matter of time before the Queen finds her position dangerously politicised. It is surely to avert that outcome that she has spoken now.
One challenge is the role of the palace in the event that the House of Commons passes a vote of no confidence in the government. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act allows for a 14-day window before dissolution, in which parties manoeuvre to assemble a majority and thereby form a new administration. The process has never been tested and the Queen could be pushed towards a decision based on uncertain Commons arithmetic against a statutory deadline.
Britain used to be admired as a paragon of stability, and that state of affairs is due in part to the combination of a liberal political culture and an archaic constitution. It is a flexible arrangement but not an indestructible one. It relies on unwritten norms and undeclared consensus around the parameters of civilised debate. Those conditions have been corroded in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. Abuse, death threats, accusations of treason and invocations of violence and rebellion have surged.
The very character of British politics has turned more extreme, more venomous. Aggressive rhetoric which rejects the legitimacy of dissenting views has become increasingly widespread. That shrinks the space where politics can be conducted within civil boundaries and in recognition that democracy itself is the overarching enterprise.”