Queen attends cabinet meeting in Downing Street

The Queen was greeted by David Cameron as she arrived to attend her first cabinet meeting.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Queen attends cabinet meeting in Downing Street” was written by Rajeev Syal and Hélène Mulholland, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 18th December 2012 11.10 UTC

The Queen was greeted by David Cameron as she arrived at Downing Street to attend her first cabinet meeting, as part of the government’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

Dressed in a royal blue coat, the Queen walked up the red carpet on the steps of No 10 before standing chatting with the prime minister at the door to pose for photographs.

However, claims that this was the first time a monarch has attended a cabinet meeting since Queen Victoria were disputed by one historian, who said King George III was the last to have done so.

In honour of the Queen’s visit, secretaries of state conducted a ministerial whip-round and bought her a gift, to be presented at the gathering in Downing Street.

The prime minister’s spokesman declined to say what the gift might be, although the BBC reported that ministers all chipped in an equal amount.

The Queen, who arrived just after 10am, was attending as an observer and was expected to stay for around half-an-hour at the meeting, which will last approximately 90 minutes. She is expected to sit between Cameron and the foreign secretary, William Hague.

“This has been long-planned as part of diamond jubilee celebrations,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Historian Jane Ridley, biographer of Edward VII, cast doubt on claims that Queen Victoria was the last monarch to attend a cabinet meeting.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I don’t think there is any evidence that Queen Victoria sat in on cabinet or went near cabinet. She did occasionally get rather cross with her politicians and when that happened she would very occasionally write a furious letter to be read out in cabinet.

“George III went only very occasionally.”

She added: “If she was a party political figure, of course, it would be a political act for her to be there today, but she isn’t.”

Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell said he believed the Queen had been invited to attend cabinet as a way of the government expressing its gratitude to her.

He told Today: “It’s an observer role. I’m sure cabinet want to do this because they want to say thank you. I’ve always viewed the Queen as the ultimate public servant.”

O’Donnell added: “The Queen … did come and visit the Cabinet Office and sat in on a meeting of the perm secs [permanent secretaries] so we got there first.”

The Queen’s attendance “just shows how far the monarchy has come. This is right for her to be doing this. I think it is exactly the right thing and it shows she would have done this whichever party had been in power.”

The Queen was also due to visit the Foreign Office. Hague tweeted that the union flag was flying in the Foreign Office for the Queen’s first visit since 1982.

“I’m delighted that Her Majesty The Queen will visit the @foreignoffice this morning, the last engagement of her Diamond Jubilee year,” his tweet said.

The conventional phrase is that the Queen is “above politics”. Walter Bagehot, the 19th-century essayist, wrote: “We must not bring the Queen into the combat of politics, or she will cease to be reverenced by all combatants; she will become one combatant among many.”

The prime minister visits her regularly for an audience where he updates her on events, while she is also expected to give formal approval of ministerial decisions at meetings of the Privy Council.

The Queen plays a central ceremonial role in the state opening of parliament, when she travels by horse-drawn coach to the House of Lords to read out a speech prepared by ministers announcing details of their legislative plans. She also retains the power to appoint the prime minister.

It is not often that the sovereign sets foot inside No 10. In July, Cameron is believed to have become only the sixth prime minister to extend a social invitation to the Queen when he asked her and the Duke of Edinburgh to a lunch with four of the 12 prime ministers to have served during her 60-year reign.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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