Tag Archives: King Charles III

The transfer of power

I am not a historian nor a constitutional expert but I was always a bit smug about the way the transfer of power happens in the UK. The evidence from the USA demonstrates that even in long established democracies the handover period can be fraught with danger. In comparison the changes from one Prime Minister to another, and from one Monarch to another, seem pretty seamless here.

The events of the last week have shown me that the processes are not as seamless as I had imagined. On Tuesday, for a short period between the visits of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, full constitutional power lay in the hands of the Queen. We were dependent on her acting in the interests of democracy and the country, which of course she did. Two days later we realised just how risky that short period had been. Although unlikely, malign interventions, or indeed death, could have thrown the process into unplanned chaos.

And then we lost her. Charles was immediately hailed as King and we all assumed that the powers that come with monarchy had transitioned smoothly at that point. But in fact there was an awkward wait until the Accession Council on Saturday, which showed that was not the case.  In Part 1 of the meeting the Council proclaimed Charles as King, without him present – this was the acceptance of him as King by the people. In Part 2, the King held his first Council during which he had to assent to a long list of Orders of Council put to him by the Lord President of the Privy Council, and then take an oath to formally recognise the status of the Church of Scotland.

Is there anyone still alive today who attended the last Accession Council in 1952, or even remembers what it was about? It was held in private and probably did not register in the minds of most citizens at the time. For some historians it has always been a matter of deep interest, but I imagine most of us were simply unaware of its complexities and risks.

Maybe you all knew that already and I am just showing my ignorance. But I think not, as judged by the many comments on social media deploring the ban on political activity until after the Queen’s funeral. At first I too thought it was excessively restrictive, and I fussed about the piles of undelivered Focusses sitting in my home and the dilemmas for people fighting by-elections this week, not to mention the cancellation of Conference. I too thought it was all about showing respect for Queen Elizabeth during a period of mourning, and I sympathised with the view that she would have wanted democratic practices to continue. But the events on Saturday were a revelation and changed my mind.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Peter Davies
    I'm not sure we should be welcoming the fact that we no longer hold any of Labour's target seats but it might well prove convenient in this context....
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Neil I think my natural tendency to see the best, gets the better of me on judgement based on youthful inexperience, in that case, on Truss, when a teen. You...
  • Paul Holmes
    Also, as the always excellent William Wallace notes, it is perfectly possible to devise the rules for a second, revising, Chamber in such a way that it is not j...
  • Jeff
    To massively cut taxes only for the richest,… The principal tax cut is the 1% off basic rate which benefits all Income Tax payers. Other ’tax cuts...
  • Paul Holmes
    Any argument in favour of unelected people wielding legislative power is an argument against democracy. For all its shortcomings democracy remains the best alte...