The pictures of the Queen joining the Cabinet meeting were charming. They conveyed a reassuring image of a stable democracy with a historic back-stop. Almost always we want the democratic element to prevail, but there are perhaps very limited issues and occasions when the monarchy can make a difference. The Queen inviting Harold Macmillan to form a government rather than Rab Butler in 1957 is the occasion often quoted. It did actually make a political difference, since Harold Wilson was later reported as having feared that Rab Butler may well have won the 1964 election.
Northern Ireland may be another occasion when the monarchy could make a difference. We are witnessing renewed conflict in Northern Ireland over the decision to fly the Union flag less frequently at Belfast City Hall. I wonder what the effect would be if the Queen herself were to make a speech calling on so called ‘loyalists’ to desist from violent protest? It would call the bluff of those who make much of their ‘loyalty’ to the Crown, were the Crown itself to require them to behave considerately. And I imagine such a move would have the full support of the democratically elected government.
* Geoff Crocker is a professional economist whose book A Managerial Philosophy of Technology is published by Palgrave Macmillan.