by Sir Thomas Crapper
Suppose the Queen did say to Nick Clegg, “I don’t understand Europe.”
And then: “Europe is going in the wrong direction.”
Haven’t we all, at some point, at least thought these things?
But, having thought them, or said them – even crossly – many of us are still going to vote to stay in the EU.
And the reason for that is, we are conservative, and we prefer the status quo to ‘a leap in the dark’.
If Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has stood for anything in her 60-year reign it has been for the status quo. She rather plaintively hoped that the Scots would “think very carefully” regarding their independence referendum. It is hardly surprising that she would not want to see her United Kingdom broken up, but still she kept her own counsel.
It is a massive leap – one that tabloid newspapers love to make for the sake of a headline, particularly in support of a favourite campaign – to take comments made in private in 2011 (nearly five years ago) and translate them as support for Brexit in 2016.
First of all, the Queen did not say five years ago – because no referendum was planned then – “I will vote for Brexit”. (Not to mention that she doesn’t have a vote in any event).
More importantly, whatever she said, she did not say in public. There’s no point speculating that anything said to a politician in private is fair game. It is not. Otherwise, the weekly appointment with the Prime Minister of the day – and this monarch is on her 12th – would be impossible. Her discretion and that of her Prime Ministers is a bedrock.
The Sun can say what it wants (always has; always will) and Michael Gove might now be fighting for his ministerial life. That’s just grist to the mill for the tabloids.
But it’s safe to say that “Queen Backs Brexit” is a headline that can only be stood up by a tortuous and fragile thread, unless the Sun can actually produce evidence that she said, in absolute terms, and only since the referendum was announced, “If I had a vote, I’d vote to leave the EU”.
Hands up those who think that will happen.