Interesting: Less power for the Queen?

6 February 2006

I am hardly an expert in British politics, but I find this development intriguing:

Queen’s powers should be removed, says Cameron

With this move the new Conservative leader, David Cameron, “takes his campaign to reshape the Conservative party to a startling new level.” Cameron’s tactic is designed not to undermine the Queen, but to give to Parliament powers that are technically reserved to the Queen, but which in practice are exercised by (Labour Party) ministers.

That covers a vast range of government activity, from the appointment of bishops and the honours system to the right to go to war, sign treaties and fill many official jobs. However, Mr Cameron has asked it to focus on four specific areas: the right to
· declare war and send troops abroad;
· to make international and European treaties;
· to make appointments and award honours;
· to make major changes to the structure of government.

He has specifically ruled out changes to what he calls “the personal prerogative powers of the monarch, such as the power to dissolve parliament and appoint a prime minister”. Mr Cameron is anxious to make it clear that he does not have Her Majesty in his sights, but the powers ministers now exercise on her behalf. He is not, aides insist, a closet republican. […]

“I’m a staunch supporter of our constitutional monarchy and would not want to undermine it in any way,” Mr Cameron will say in a speech today. But by venturing into a debate more often heard among Liberal Democrats and the left of the Labour party, the Tory leader has opened up the possibility of significant constitutional reform. […]

Mr Cameron paints the move as something that could limit what he calls “the personal, presidential style that has taken hold under New Labour. […]”

Here’s a thought experiment: If, in some future century, Britain dissolved its monarchy, historians would subsequently write a history that traced back to the English Civil War, the Long Parliament, and so on. But when they started writing about the modern erosion of the institution–the first chinks in the wall of unthinkability surrounding the idea of removing the monarchy . . . would a move like Cameron’s figure in that chapter?

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