Power once belonged to our kings

Power is dangerous. Kings often used it badly. That is why we took it from them and created constitutional monarchy. Do I want to put the clock back?

I wrote about the conflict between Charles I and Parliament in the novel Blood and Secrets.

Constitutions control power

Most countries have constitutions which limit the power of politicians and others. In Britain we don’t have a written constitution, but things work by tradition, precedent and unwritten understandings. I used to believe we didn’t need to put it in writing because it worked better the way we did it. So what’s changed?

The PM misused his power

Boris Johnson pushed it to the limit and beyond.

  • He prorogued parliament without agreement and was stopped only by the judges.
  • This PM rejected the findings of independent bodies which were supposed to ensure ministers and MPs followed certain rules:
    • the complaint of bullying against Preti Patel
    • and of corruption against Owen Patterson.
  • Boris broke lockdown rules and lied about it, remaining in office even after the police fined him.
  • He often failed to correct untrue facts he gave to parliament.

Did you know that if you lie in court, they can charge you with perjury and if you refuse to answer a question they can charge you with contempt of court? No such penalties apply in parliament, but there is a parliamentary select committee investigating an allegation that Boris lied to parliament which is taking ages and the government could block it.

How do other countries control power?

  • The courts can punish breaches of the written constitution in certain countries.
  • In others, such as Germany and Israel, there is a president who is not the head of government, who can intervene.
Could a king have such power?

I don’t see why not. I am aware of cases where continental kings have intervened when the politicians got into a mess.

  • In Sweden, the king demanded a change of course when herd immunity proved to be a dangerous myth.
  • Many years ago the king of the Belgians successfully demanded resignations when the press exposed a paedophile ring extending to high places.

 What if the king abused his powers?

I am suggesting a written constitution where the king’s role would be to act as custodian of the constitution. The courts could adjudicate in the event if the king and parliament clashed. Someone needs to bring the politicians into line just as they once had to bring kings into line.

The cover of Blood and Secrets set against the struggle for power in the 17th century

Blood and Secrets, set against the struggle for power in the 17th century

If you want to know more about Blood and Secrets, follow this link.