The Sun was right to publish ‘Queen Backs Brexit’ story

I wouldn’t care if the Queen’s thoughts on a whole range of issues were known -  it would strip away a layer of mystique around the monarchy

Simon Kelner
Thursday 10 March 2016 19:11
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An 89-year-old woman known to have conservative views is reported to be in favour of Britain leaving the European Union. Not much of a story, if you ask me – particularly when you factor in that this woman doesn’t actually have a vote in June’s referendum. But the Queen’s unwitting intervention in the European debate has thrown two of Britain’s four estates – the nobility and the press – into something of a constitutional crisis.

The Sun’s front-page splash story on Tuesday morning, “Queen Backs Brexit”, was based on information from a “senior political source” who told the newspaper that the Monarch had a “bust-up” with Nick Clegg over lunch at Windsor Castle in 2011, during which she made some critical remarks about the EU. She, reportedly, told Clegg that she felt the EU was heading in the wrong direction. The Sun also reported that, some years earlier, she had commented (or, in the words of the paper, had “snapped angrily”): “I don’t understand Europe.”

Whether that amounts to her unequivocal backing of a British exit in June is highly moot, but The Sun is sure of its source and, given that its responsibility lies with its readers and not with the House of Windsor, it was perfectly within its rights to publish the story. It is, of course, convenient for The Sun that the monarch appears to support its own editorial line – there are many reasons why I can’t imagine the paper running a “Queen Backs Europe” story on its front page – but I fail to see why the paper’s journalism is being questioned.

The reaction to the story, however, is most instructive, It doesn’t speak terribly well of the strength of our democracy, or the maturity of the electorate, that we seem to care so much about the Queen’s views on this subject.

Can she really influence voters? OK, I know that almost every major business figure, the most senior politicians, and now Stephen Hawking and 150 eminent scientists, believe that Britain’s interests are best served by staying in Europe, but if the Queen says we should get out... well, I’d better revise my opinion.

I wouldn’t care if the Queen’s thoughts on a whole range of issues were known. For one thing, it would strip away a layer of mystique around the monarchy, and that can only be a good thing for a modern democracy. I know that this would be deemed unconstitutional, but she is an intelligent, well-travelled woman of great experience, so why shouldn’t we be told what she thinks? We could then discount her views on this particular subject. I’d be amazed if she wasn’t Eurosceptic, given her age and demographic profile.

In any case, if I had my way, no person of her vintage would be eligible to take part in the European referendum. It is the young people of Britain who should decide what their future is. They must have the power to shape the land they inhabit in years to come. No one over 80 should be allowed to vote. That’s not to suggest they shouldn’t have a say, and if a woman in her 90th year, over saddle of lamb in the baronial hall at Windsor Castle, wants to bang on about the iniquities of the EU, who are we stop her?

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