With the firm but quiet dignity that has graced her long and successful reign, Her Majesty the Queen has always declined to be drawn into the political fray. In the tense days leading up to the Scottish independence referendum, she took great care not to let her feelings be known, quite properly declining to make any pleas to the Scots, or to disclose her thoughts.
Her careful statement that she hoped voters would “think very carefully about the future” was widely interpreted as “don’t be taken in by Alex Salmond” – but voters could hear in such a statement just whatever they wished to hear. After all, everyone likes to believe that they have thought“very carefully” before voting. The famous neutrality was not breached.
And now that the referendum result is known, has the Queen made any public statement to betray her views on the outcome? No, certainlynot. Those of us who support the continued existence of Great Britain assume she is heartily relieved, but we neither expect nor want her to express that relief or show any signs of jubilation.
Unlike the Prime Minister. Dave, we know you are glad to be off the hook, scrambling out of a largely self-inflicted crisis, so we were not surprised to catch you making rather silly remarks about stomach ulcers andpollsters to the Mayor of New York. Phew, that was a close one, was the gist of it. Harsher critics might say the remarks sounded a little self-congratulatory, nay smug, but let that pass.
What is, however, unforgivable is for the Prime Minister to brag about his private telephone conversations with the Queen, in squirm-inducing terms. Yes, he may have thought he was off-mike – but that was no excuse for betraying confidences. Quite apart from the tasteless suggestion that Her Majesty “purred” (can you imagine anything less likely?), this was schoolboy showing-off, way beneath the dignity of the British Prime Minister when addressing a New York Mayor.
When David Cameron first took on the role vacated by Gordon Brown it seemed reasonable to hope that he would not embarrass us on the international stage. Here, in contrast to his churlish and awkward predecessor, was surely a Prime Minister who would know how to conduct himself? After all, he had the benefit of a very expensive education at a school attended by royalty, where he would presumably have been taught how to behave, not least around members of the royal family.
So he has no excuse for using the privileges of a private audience with the Queen to provide amusing small-talk.
I guess that’s an opportunity that will not be afforded him again. I suspect that at her next private audience with David Cameron, Her Majesty will be rather tight-lipped.