However mildly and concordant with the historical dignity of the palace, the Queen of England has bared her angst again. And she has done so even before Brexit has materialised, if at all, and Boris Johnson has settled down in 10 Downing Street and more than two months ahead of an anticipated election in November.
Three years after the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, the 93-year-old monarch has “expressed her resignation and frustration about the quality of our political leadership, and that frustration will only have grown”. It almost certainly has and to an exceptional degree; governance in the United Kingdom has been destabilised ever since the Brexit referendum.
Verily is Queen Elizabeth II dismayed over the indecisive turn of events. She has reportedly spoken of her disappointment “in the current political class” and what she calls its “inability to govern correctly”. Not that the brewing constitutional crisis will impinge on the generally insulated palace; it will on the contrary involve the courts. Those close to the royalty are seeking to reassure the public, albeit without authorisation, that she “gets it”.
The resilience of the monarchy depends hugely upon its silent understanding with the people. Evidently, at least some of the Queen’s courtiers and confidants have concluded that the time has come to emit a signal that she shares the voters’ frustrations.
It is a measure of that frustration that the monarch ~ in a rare conversation on politics ~ has articulated her exasperation and frustration about the quality of the political leadership.
The revelation comes amidst increasing speculation that Buckingham Palace and Downing Street are trying to keep the monarch out of a looming constitutional crisis over Brexit and Prime Minister Johnson’s pledge to leave the European Union by the 31 October deadline.
Misgivings that a section of the political class will seek the Queen’s intervention if Johnson loses a noconfidence vote ~ with or without a deal ~ are not wholly unfounded. In that event, the Prime Minister will call a general election in the aftermath of a “nodeal Brexit”.
British history is richer than the contemporary chaotic narrative. Johnson is astute enough not to take for granted a monarch who has reigned for 67 years. If he does so, a constitutional crisis can only escalate.
Arguably, the Queen may, in the weeks ahead, be “dragged into a constitutional crisis” if, as is now entirely conceivable, Johnson is forced under the complex terms of the 2011 Fixedterm Parliaments Act to hold a general election, but seeks to delay polling day until after a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. In practice, the monarch’s personal constitutional powers ~ as opposed to the extensive crown prerogatives delegated to her ministers ~ are minimal. And the instances in which they have been exercised are described by constitutional historians as “vanishingly rare”.
And rare indeed is the deepening uncertainty of the current phase of British constitutional history.