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    anglosphere /

    Газета School English #13-14, 2003

    Prime Minister vs Her Majesty

    By David Wright
    “School English” asks:
    There is an opinion in Russia that it’s the Prime Minister who rules your country, not the Queen and she is not of great importance any more. How much authority does Her Majesty enjoy now?

    The Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair The Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair
        This opinion is not unique to Russia. Many people in the UK also believe that the Prime Minister (PM) exercises more power and authority than the Queen. The Queen is the titular Head of State and she nominally carries out many formal duties which might seem as though she has power. For example, she opens and dissolves Parliament, authorises Acts of Parliament which makes them into laws of the land, etc., but these are largely ceremonial duties. Parliament is called ‘her’ Parliament and the Members (MPs) must swear or affirm allegiance1 to her, but effectively they then do their own thing! The Queen actually appoints the PM, but she must always choose the person who is the leader of the party with the greatest number of MPs. If the PM wishes to resign2 (and many of us wish he would!) he takes his letter of resignation to the Queen and she will accept it. She then chooses another PM, but it will be the man the last one told her to choose and will be only a temporary measure until Parliament itself chooses a new one, usually following a General Election3. Incidentally, the PM is really the ‘First Lord of the Treasury’4.

        The Queen is nominally the Head of the Church of England (C of E), but again this is a mere formality. She appoints the Archbishop5 of Canterbury, the senior cleric in the Church, but she simply accepts the person proposed to her by the PM and even he simply endorses the choice of the bishops.

        She is head of the armed forces and even the ceremonial Colonel of some regiments, but she has no say in how they are formed or what they do – it is the PM, hopefully but not necessarily, with the approval of Parliament who sends them off to fight wars.

    The Queen of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland from 1952 Elizabeth II The Queen of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland from 1952 Elizabeth II
        The present Queen is reputed to take a keen interest in the affairs of state and in foreign events, but not all monarchs have done so. The PM reports to her once a week in what is called ‘an audience’ when he is supposed to listen to what she has to say, but I think it is more often the case that she listens to what he has to say! This, like so many other duties, is supposed to show the authority of the Queen, but again the PM does not need to take any notice of what she tells him.

        There are some things which only the Queen can do, such as exercising the Royal Prerogative, which is theoretically subject to no restriction. This means that she can do anything she likes! Actually, in many cases, the PM exercises it ‘on her behalf’ and in effect, abrogates6 that authority, taking it upon himself to act as he wishes, but always ‘in the Queen’s name’.

        Civil order is maintained by the police and similar bodies, but is known as “the Queen’s peace” in acknowledgement that they act in the name of, and with the authority of, the Queen. In practice, the authority is the Home Secretary7 who reports to the PM.

        The heads of state of other countries are generally received formally by the Queen, but any real business is done with them by the Foreign Secretary8 and/or the PM. Similarly, foreign ambassadors will present their credentials9 to the Queen, but then deal with the government. The Queen may hold state dinners in honour of certain guests, but always on the advice of the PM.

        It is the Queen who presents medals and gives honours to people deemed worthy of receiving them, but I doubt whether she has any choice about who those people are. The lists will be prepared by the Civil Service10 and given to the PM for approval and only then given to the Queen to ‘choose’. Medals are often presented by the Queen or one of her family standing in for her at garden parties held in Buckingham Palace, her house in London.

        On State occasions11, the Queen has precedence – she walks first, she sits first at dinner, etc, and the PM trails along behind. There have been occasions when it is reported that the PM wished to have a more prominent position and has been snubbed12, but these are matters of show, not the exercise of authority.
    1 swear allegiance – клясться в верности
    2 resign – уходить в отставку
    3 General Election – всеобщие выборы
    4 First Lord of the Treasury – государственный казначей
    5 Archbishop – архиепископ
    6 abrogate – отменять
    7 Home Secretary – министр внутренних дел Великобритании
    8 Foreign Secretary – министр иностранных дел Великобритании
    9 credentials – мандат
    10 Civil Service – (зд.) государственные служащие
    11 State occasion – торжественная церемония (в связи с событием государственного масштаба)
    12 snub – осадить, поставить на место

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    School English #6, 2011




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