October 1

Indiscretion

 The revelations by Tony Blair of conversations with The Queen have been criticised. (See this column, "You are my 10th Prime Minister, Mr. Blair" 16/9)

According to Tim Walker in the London Daily Telegraph (2/9) there is a "profound sense of disappointment" in him at Buckingham Palace.

He is seen to have betrayed Her Majesty's trust by revealing sensitive details of private conversations he had with her when he was the prime minister. One courtier told the Telegraph:

Her Majesty has to be able to talk to her chief minister in confidence, without any sense of trepidation that her words might some day be retailed in a cheap and cheerful volume of memoirs.

No prime minister before has ever done this and we can only hope that it will never happen again.

Among other indiscretions in his book,A Journey, Mr.Blair tells of a chat he had with the Queen at Balmoral after the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in which he claimed Her Majesty had told him that lessons had to be learnt from the way things had been handled after her death.

He claims that at their first meeting, the Queen had told him:

You are my tenth prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born.

  

In what Mr. Walker describes as a remarkable example of lèse majesté, Mr. Blair writes, too, of how the Queen occasionally exhibited "hauteur" towards him.

Kenneth Rose, the constitutional historian described by the Telegraph as having  close links to the Palace, was not surprised by the degree of concern.

In Bagehot's words, the monarch has 'the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn' his or her chief minister, he told Mr. Walker.

That has to be done on the basis of trust. I recall James Callaghan telling me that, after his audiences, he would refuse even to divulge details to The Queen's private secretary about the issues which had been raised.

 


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