The constitutional position of the Queen
Sir : Now that the gaff has been blown and we know that Mr Heath in a passion of self-opinion rarely equalled since the days of Charles I and never since those of Neville Chamberlain is going to present his backbenchers with the choice of vote for me or face a general election, we can measure the situation. Contempt for the electorate has never been more openly displayed. I would hesitate to say it is unjustified but the occasion is surely misplaced. "Vote for my ticket : shut your eyes and see what I will give you."
But a new question arises which we cannot contemplate philosophically. What majority? Are one or two going to be regarded as sufficient? If not twenty, forty, fifty, one hundred, two hundred? What is to be the number required for this great constitutional change? The Sovereign is outside party politics but she has never been, and in the nature of things cannot be, outside
politics altogether. Nor can you keep her out, simply by labelling a serious constitutional question, demanding objective debate, with a party label; and think you have scored a winner. I suggest Her Majesty might be well advised to invite a number of Privy Councillors outside the party wranglc to advise her on the sort of majority in the House of Commons which would justify her, irrespective of the delaying powers of the Lords, in giving the Royal Assent to a measure which the Privy Council as a whole or a Committee of it would certify as having a definite constitutional significance. Of course the parties will howl but will the openly despised electorate? I think not. At least we shall demonstrate that in the land of the Mother of Parliaments not even Prime Ministers can treat vital constitutional issues according to their whim.
John Martin Brooks's, St James's Street, London SW1