Note: This article is from the Guardian.
It is no great surprise that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown do not have a great fan base among Tory MPs.
But senior ministers are dismayed at the failure of St James’s Palace to invite the former prime ministers to the royal wedding on Friday.
Ministers have been rolling their eyes in disbelief at the excuses, trotted out by royal spokespeople, to explain the failure to invite Labour’s longest serving prime minister and his successor.
St James’s Palace told the Sunday Telegraph, which first broke the story, that neither man had been invited because they are not Knights of the Garter. Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher, who are members of Britain’s highest order of chivalry, have been invited.
Major, who was appointed a guardian to Princes William and Harry after the death of their mother, will attend the wedding. Thatcher will not attend on health grounds.
A spokesman for St James’s Palace dug what ministers regard as an even deeper hole by saying that it is wrong to draw parallels with the 1981 royal wedding, to which all five surviving former prime ministers at the time were invited. Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath and James Callaghan all attended the Prince of Wales’s marriage to Lady Diana Spencer because his status as heir to the throne made it a formal state occasion.
This is what one senior Whitehall source told me about the royal explanations:
This is courtier lunacy. It beggars belief that St James’s Palace is saying in one breath that the wedding is not a formal state occasion and in another that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have not been invited because they are not Knights of the Garter. They probably wouldn’t want to attend the wedding. But they should have been invited.
William Hague, the foreign secretary, is said to share the reservations about the failure to invite Blair and Brown. Hague does not hold a candle for either man but, as a strong parliamentarian, he believes they should have been invited. The Foreign Office was involved in advising St James’s Palace on the guest list for foreign dignitaries and ambassadors. But the government was not involved in advising on domestic invitations.
Downing Street therefore had no hand in the decision to invite three Tory backbenchers. Michael Crick names two of them: Nicolas Soames, an old friend of the Prince of Wales, and Rory Stewart who was a tutor to Prince William. *
But I understand that a third Tory backbencher has been invited. No doubt the invitation to Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater, has nothing to do with the fact that he is a great-great-great grandson of Queen Victoria.
The failure to invite Britain’s two most recent prime ministers, while extending invitations to a hefty number of Tories, has prompted speculation that the royals are showing their disapproval of Blair and Brown.
The Queen was said to have regarded Blair, the first prime minister to be born after she ascended the throne, as a bit of an upstart when he sought to lecture her on the need to embrace the modern world after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. She took his advice to acknowledge the public grief but is said to have put Blair in his place afterwards.
But it would be wrong to assume that the Queen has not connected with Labour prime ministers and has always enjoyed a natural empathy with Tories. She is said to have enjoyed warm relations with Harold Wilson and had a semi-public falling out with Margaret Thatcher. This happened in 1986 when Michael Shea, the Queen’s late press secretary, briefed the Sunday Times that she feared that Thatcher’s handling of the miners’ strike had damaged the social fabric of the nation.
My Whitehall source believes the speculation that the royals want to punish Blair and Brown is wide of the mark. The source says there is a simple explanation for the oversight:
No doubt the courtiers are following some rulebook that nobody understands. But it is absolutely extraordinary that they can have overlooked our two most recent prime ministers.
* Crick lists the politicians that have been invited. David Cameron, invited as head of Her Majesty’s Government, will be one of 12 Tories.
Ed Miliband, invited as leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, will be one of the three Labour politicians. The others are Carywn Jones, First Minister of the National Assembly of Wales, and Lord (John) Morris, Welsh secretary between 1974-79, who is a Knight of the Garter.
Nick Clegg, invited as deputy prime minister, is the only Liberal Democrat, apart from the Prince of Wales who was once dubbed by the Economist as the SDP King.
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