I would love to have been there. Last Friday morning, 9 June, the two most powerful people in the country meeting in a state room in Buckingham Palace. One, loved but not elected, the other elected but not loved. HRH invites Theresa May to form a government. Usually ministers are standing a little straighter, looking a little more cocky when they arrive at Buckingham Palace after an election. Usually the exhaustion of the previous night is swept away in the euphoria of victory. Usually they smile, rather than grit their teeth.
HRH: “Congratulations, Mrs May” a line she delivers completely dead pan, with no hint of irony. “Will you form my next government?”
TM: “Thank you, your majesty. I will try. But I’ve got less power than before. I may have won, but I can’t actually do anything.”
HRH: “Welcome to my world, Mrs May.”
I wonder if they both look wistfully at Donald Trump signing executive orders all over the place, doing what he wants to do. Or maybe that very image is enough for them to recoil into the muddle and mess of our version of democracy. Because there is something very British about this election result. We like the idea of strong and stable government, but not too strong and not too stable, thank you very much. We’ve voted to leave the EU but we don’t want too hard a Brexit. We want a tough negotiator to fight our corner in the European Parliament, but we’re going to arm them with a comfy chair and soft cushions. We are cautious about power.
Power is the ability to do stuff. We all like it, and we’re all a bit nervous about someone else having it. I give it to the surgeon when I submit to the operation. I give it to the teacher when I listen. But I only give it because I trust them. If ever that trust is broken, they become powerless. Over the years our Queen has built up a lot of trust, which has enabled her to have an influence far beyond her constitutional power. Over the same time our politicians have lost a lot of trust. The result is hung parliaments, coalitions, or other ways of bringing together different interests. This may limit the speed at which our governments can ‘do stuff’, but maybe that’s no bad thing. Maybe this is a very British distrust of too much power. And getting people together can’t be all bad, can it? After all, I work for the Church of England. We’re very good at getting people together and very slow to ‘do stuff’. And that may be the only reason the Church of England manages to stay together. It is frustrating, but it is the way we do things round here. ‘Welcome to my world, Mrs May’.
Blog by Ian Bussell Director of Ordinands and Curate Training