Boris Johnson plans to use the Queen to deliver an election broadcast for the Conservative Party

Boris Johnson Queen


Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth II

  • Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that he plans to suspend parliament again after his previous suspension was ruled illegal by the UK Supreme Court.
  • He claims the new suspension is to allow a Queen's Speech, in which the monarch sets out the governments' legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary session.
  • However, this is an abuse of the traditional role of the Queen's Speech, which always comes after a general election.
  • Johnson instead plans to hold the speech before an election, meaning he will in effect use the monarch to set out his party's election manifesto instead.
  • Professor Robert Hazell of the Constitution Unit brands Johnson's plans a "sham" that will "embarrass" the Queen.
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Boris Johnson is up to his old tricks again. Having been rebuked by the Supreme Court for breaking the law and misleading the Queen by suspending parliament, the prime minister plans to do almost exactly the same thing again.

Unlike his initial five-week suspension, which was struck down as illegal by the courts, his new suspension will only run from Monday 8 until October 14 and is unlikely to fall foul of the courts.Advertisement

Downing Street claims that the suspension - known as a prorogation - is purely to allow time for the prime minister to prepare a so-called Queen's speech.

Read more: Boris Johnson told to resign following Supreme Court defeat and become the 'shortest-serving prime minister ever'

Under the UK constitution, the monarch comes to the House of Lords at the start of every parliamentary session in order to set out the government's agenda for the new parliament.

However, as Robert Hazell of the Constitution Unit points out, UK prime minister's traditionally call a Queen's speech directly after a general election in order to set out the new government's agenda.

What Johnson is attempting is the complete opposite. Rather than wait until after the public have voted to hold the speech, the prime minister is planning to hold the speech immediately before a general election.In effect he is asking the Queen, not to set out his government's legislative agenda, but to set out the Conservative party's manifesto for a general election.Advertisement

Given his government has a majority of minus 43, the list of bills the Queen announces will be meaningless other than in the context of what Johnson hopes to do after he has re-secured a majority in a general election.

By timing the Queen's speech as he has, Johnson is in effect asking the monarch to deliver a publicly-funded election broadcast.

As the Constitution Unit puts it, Johnson is planning to use the speech as a "trailer for the Conservative party's election manifesto."Advertisement

Hazell adds: "if indeed the government hopes for an election and for there to be no coming session of parliament, then the Queen's Speech is a sham."

Using the Queen for political purposes

Boris Johnson David Cameron

REUTERS/Luke McGregor

David Cameron and Boris Johnson

Johnson's maneuver looks even worse when you examine what will happen after she has delivered her speech.

Immediately after her address, members of parliament will hold a vote on whether they will approve the legislative agenda she has set out.Advertisement

Given that Johnson has no majority in parliament, the vote will simply give him another opportunity to put pressure on his opponents to hold a general election and to repeat his own attacks on them for refusing him one.

Buckingham Palace took the rare step last month on briefing their "displeasure" at former Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to reveal the details of private communications he had with the Queen's aides.

The palace was reportedly similarly displeased after the Supreme Court ruled that Johnson had asked her to illegally suspend parliament.Advertisement

Johnson's abuse of the traditional role of the Queen's speech is only likely to increase that displeasure further.