A New Regency Bill

Ever since the state opening earlier this year, the topic of counsellors of state has been prominent in my mind, and in the minds of many others. Just as Elizabeth II’s health was failing and the necessity of this constitutional device was more pressing, so the actual availability of counsellors was at its lowest since the device was invented. Many in academic and political circles were discussing possible updates to the legislation. I even had a go at drafting a new bill myself. As the original 1937 Act had already been amended twice, and as I wanted to avoid a confusing change of pronouns mid-paragraph, I did consider neatening things up by repealing it wholesale and typing out most of its provisions again, but that version turned out to be too long-winded for the amount of actual change I needed to effect. By early September it was nearly in a presentable state, but then Her Majesty’s death seemed to render the matter moot for a while.

Today the Lord Chamberlain of the Household announced that King Charles wished his siblings Anne and Edward to be re-appointed as counsellors. This will require new legislation, which we can expect to be brought forward swiftly. I hope it’s not too late to send in my own.

A

BILL

TO

Amend the provisions for a regency in the event of the incapacity of the sovereignty due to illness or minority, and for the performance of certain of the royal functions in the name and on behalf of the Sovereign in certain other events.

BE IT ENACTED by the King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1. The Regency Act 1937 is amended: –

  1. In subsection (1) of section two, replace “Lord Chancellor” with “Prime Minister” and “Chief Justice of England, and the Master of the Rolls” with “Speaker, and the President of the Supreme Court”.
  2. In subsection (2) of section two, replace “His Majesty’s Dominions and to the Government of India” with “His Majesty’s Realms and to the Commonwealth Secretariat”.
  3. In subsection (1) of section five, replace “mother, if she is living” with “living parent”.
  4. In subsection (1) of section six, replace “by telegraph” with “electronically”.
  5. For all of subsection (2) of section six, substitute “The counsellors of state shall be any five persons of His Majesty’s choosing, appointed by Statutory Instrument under this Act and subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.”.

2. The Regency Acts of 1943 and 1953 are repealed.

3. This Act may be cited as the Regency Act 2022, or it and the Regency Act 1937 may be cited as one.

4. This Act takes effect upon the approval by both Houses of Parliament of the first statutory instrument passed under section one.

EXPLANATORY NOTES

This bill updates the Regency Act 1937, as well as repealing the 1943 and 1953 Acts which had amended it already.

Section 1 (1) changes the list of persons empowered to determine the monarch’s absence or incapacity. It adds offices whose jurisdiction encompasses the whole United Kingdom (Prime Minister, Lord Speaker, President of the Supreme Court) and removes those whose roles are only applicable to parts of it (Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls).

Section 1 (2) removes reference to defunct bodies and adds reference to current ones.

Section 1 (3) updates the list of potential counsellors of state. The original text specified the consort and the first four adults in line to the throne. In early 2017 this would have meant Princes Philip, Charles, William, Harry and Andrew. By 2022 the former had died and the latter two had withdrawn from royal duties, leaving only two counsellors still active: the minimum for this provision to be used. The accession of King Charles III dulls the urgency of the situation by adding Queen Camilla and Princess Beatrice to the list (as consort and fourth adult in line respectively) but the current arrangements are still less than ideal. The new text allows for counsellors to be added or removed as necessary without the burden of new primary legislation each time.

Section 2 repeals intermediate legislation whose provisions are now redundant. The 1943 Act lowered the age of eligibility for the heir-apparent to be a counsellor, but that is negated by this Bill. The clause regarding counsellors’ absence is also covered by the revised wording. The 1953 Act anticipated minority reigns by persons who have since reached the age of majority and gave powers to persons who are now deceased. The sole active provision of the latter Act is to reduce the age at which the heir-apparent could be regent from twenty-one to eighteen years, but as the present heir-apparent is over the higher age that point is likewise moot.

Section 4 delays implementation of the legislation until His Majesty’s appointments have been approved, to avoid an interim situation in which there would be no counsellors of state at all.

Heralds-a-Heralding

Today and yesterday, Charles III was formally proclaimed as King across the world, following the meeting of his accession council. This is only the fourth accession in Britain since the invention of the television, and the first time that the council itself has been broadcast live. Indeed, to my knowledge the only other time that any meeting of the council in Britain has been recorded was for the 1993 documentary Days of Majesty, and even then only a small clip was shown. There was supposed to have been a meeting (probably done virtually) some days ago for the swearing in of Liz Truss’s new cabinet, but the fading of Queen Elizabeth’s health prevented it. When that session will eventually take place is unknown. The ceremony was something of a consolation prize for Penny Mordaunt, who lost the bid to become Prime Minister but was instead appointed Lord President. She took the lead role in the day’s proceedings. Once the proclamation had been approved and various oaths had been taken it was read out by David White, Garter King of Arms, on the palace’s balcony. Not long later it was repeated by Timothy Duke (Clarenceux) on the steps of the royal exchange. The next day it was read by Robert Noel (Norroy & Ulster) at Hillsborough Castle. Joseph Morrow (Lyon) read it at Mercat Cross, as did Morfudd Meredith (Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan) and Thomas Lloyd (Wales Herald) in Cardiff. The other proclamations made around the British Isles, and the Commonwealth, are far too numerous to list.

Times such as this are a rare opportunity (others being state openings and, next year, the coronation) to see officers of arms in their full finery. They will be very busy over the coming months.

It can be taken as read that, following his ascent to the throne, the undifferenced arms of the United Kingdom, and those of all his other realms and territories, now belong to His Majesty. The arms of his siblings, niblings and cousins have no reason to change from what they were before. The arms of his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law are all due for upgrades.

Probable arms of Camilla, Queen Consort


Camilla, as Queen Consort, can now be expected to impale the Shand arms with those of the King. Given that William now has all of the statuses and titles that his father held a week ago, it is most probable that he will bear the same heraldic achievement, with which Catherine will impale the Middleton arms. It is yet to be seen (and there are conflicting precedents) of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex will similarly upgrade by swapping their five-point cadency label for one of three points, and removing the strawberry leaves from their coronets. The ever-present yet ever-uncredited Sodacan has already uploaded multiple illustrations of how he expects the revised armorial achievements to look.

Probable arms of Catherine, Princess of Wales

There is some controversy over whether Charles will change the heraldic depiction of the crown from St. Edward’s (depressed arch) to Tudor (no depression). There is a perception that St. Edward’s Crown is for queens and the Tudor crown for kings (due to the latter being preferred from 1901 to 1952) but this is not binding and St. Edward’s was regularly used by kings before Victoria’s reign.

FURTHER VIEWING

 

Demise and Disarray

The death of Elizabeth II is a time of serious grief for her family and her many peoples. It is also a time of mild confusion for public bodies, and of course Wikipedians. Here is a run-down of some of the changes that have recently been made.

The Monarch

The man long known as Charles, Prince of Wales is now King. For many years there had been speculation that he would take the regnal name George VII in honour of his maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, but shortly after his accession it was confirmed that he would indeed go by Charles III. There was a brief period when his page was at Charles, King of the United Kingdom before being changed to Charles III. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the article title should include “of the United Kingdom”. The side in favour argues that there have been many other monarchs over the centuries called Charles III from whom the present monarch needs to be differentiated. The side against argues that Charles is king of far more than just Britain, and that if you included one realm in his title you would have to include all of them, lest you imply that one is more important than another.

The Consort

Camilla Shand, at the time of her marriage in 2005, was not popular among much of the public still grieving Diana Spencer. So as to avoid appearing to usurp her legacy, she never styled herself “Princess of Wales”, instead going by “Duchess of Cornwall”. It was also suggested back then that, upon her husband’s accession, she would be styled “Princess Consort” (presumably derived from Prince Albert) rather than Queen. How true this proved to be was always a matter of public relations rather than constitutional law. By the start of this year it was clear that her reputation had recovered sufficiently to abandon that idea, and Elizabeth II in an open letter explicitly endorsed her daughter-in-law to be called Queen Consort. Currently all major media and government sources are very insistent on styling her “The Queen Consort”, rather than simply “The Queen” as other queens consort were before her. It is not yet clear if she will be described this way for the whole of Charles’s reign or if it is simply a temporary measure so as not to confuse the public while the late queen regnant is still being mourned. Again, there is dispute over whether her article title should include “of the United Kingdom”.

The Heir Apparent

In 2011 Prince William of Wales was ennobled by his grandmother as Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He has not ceased to hold these titles, but they are now buried beneath several others. The dukedom of Cornwall, in the peerage of England, is governed by a 1337 Charter instructing that it belongs automatically to the eldest living legitimate son of the incumbent monarch and the heir apparent to the throne, and that if these two statuses are held by different people then the title is left vacant. This means that all dukes (save Richard of Bordeaux) are deemed to have held the original peerage, rather than it being created anew each time. The Duchy of Cornwall, a substantial land-holding corporation in the south of England, is governed by the same. The dukedom of Rothesay in the peerage of Scotland is mandated by an Act of Parliament from 1469 to follow an identical succession, as are the titles Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince of Scotland and Great Steward of Scotland. The titles of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, by contrast, are not automatic. They are conferred by letters patent at the discretion of the monarch. It appears from news reports that Charles III has opted to do so almost immediately after coming to the throne, though I am still waiting to see this formally confirmed in the Gazette or the Court Circular. There was a short interlude in which the royal website and Wikipedia styled him “Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge”. I argued that it was poor form to include Cambridge while leaving out Rothesay, to which an anonymous user replied:

It would, but we don’t have a basis for that usage in Wikipedia practice. The hierarchy is very much What the Papers Say > legal/heraldic/formal/official names > anything that actually makes sense. I’m guessing there will be a followup announcement about his distinct style in Scotland and indeed in Northern Ireland, and maybe they’ll end up with something more logical and less clumsy. After workshopping every other possibility.

The Others

The accession of a new sovereign causes a reshuffle in the orders of precedence among the royal family. In the male order, Charles is naturally now on top. His sons William and Harry also move up, as do his grandsons George, Louis and Archie (their position before, as great-grandsons of the sovereign, was a little unclear). Andrew and Edward are demoted from sons to brothers, James and Peter from grandsons to nephews, and the Earl of Snowdon from nephew to cousin. The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and Prince Michael are unaffected. On the female side Camilla achieves supremacy, followed by Catherine, then Meghan, then Charlotte, then Lilibet, then Sophie, Anne, Beatrice, Eugenie, Louise, Zara, Birgitte, Katharine, Marie-Christine, Sarah and Alexandra.

The styles and titles of Charles’s descendants are also upgraded (though those of his siblings and niblings are not diminished). William and Harry both gain a definitive article in their princely titles. George, Charlotte and Louis are now “of Wales” rather than “of Cambridge”. There has, of course, already been a famous Princess Charlotte of Wales, so until an alternative solution emerges their Wikipedia pages must be differentiated by the awkward use of years in brackets. Archie and Lilibet, as children of a younger son of the sovereign, now qualify as royals under the terms of the 1917 letters patent. They could now correctly be styled as “His Royal Highness Prince Archie of Sussex” and “Her Royal Highness Princess Lilibet of Sussex”, though no move has been made in that direction so far. The situation regarding the Earl of Wessex’s children remains ambiguous. Charles could, of course, amend or revoke the letters patent however he wishes, but there has not yet been any indication in that regard.

The dukedom of Edinburgh, earldom of Merioneth and barony Greenwich, which were conferred by George VI on his daughter’s fiance Philip Mountbatten in 1947, and were then inherited by Charles in 2021, have now merged with the crown. Any of them can be bestowed anew on whomever His Majesty chooses. His brother Edward has long been presumed to receive them next, but no decision has been taken at this time.

Under the Regency Act 1937 Camilla (consort) and Beatrice (fourth adult in line) have become Counsellors of State.

The office of Lord Great Chamberlain of England (not the same as Lord Chamberlain of the Household) has automatically transferred from the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley to the 7th Baron Carrington. The former therefore loses membership of the House of Lords under Section 2 of the 1999 Act while the latter gains it. What happens to the place he already held among the ninety elected hereditary peers is still to be determined.

The Courts

The Queen’s Bench Divisions of the High Courts of England & Wales and of Northern Ireland, as well as the Courts of Queen’s Bench for the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, have all been renamed King’s Bench. The status of Queen’s Counsel in Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand has likewise changed to King’s Counsel, and all who hold it have had to amend their post-nominals accordingly. Only last month I created a new template for judges of the Queen’s Bench Division and had scrupulously added the specification to each of their infoboxes. Now I have had to change all of them. Still, it helps boost my edit count I suppose.

Double David

For a while now the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has had two vacancies, caused by the retirement of Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lady Arden of Heswall in January. Yesterday it was announced that appointments had been made: Arden’s place is to be taken by Sir David Richards, formerly of the Court of Appeal of England & Wales, while Lloyd-Jones’s successor is… Lord Lloyd-Jones.

The reason for this bizarre phenomenon is found by looking at legislation relating to mandatory retirement ages. The Judicial Pensions Act 1959 set the retirement age for people entering the judiciary thereafter at 75, though it was not binding on those already holding office by then (so Lord Denning and Lord Cameron continued until ages 83 and 85 respectively). The Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993 lowered this to 70, but again was not retroactive so that those who had held judicial office before 31 March 1995 were grandfathered in. Lady Arden was the last such grandfathered member of the UKSC. The last overall was Sir James Holman, appointed a judge of the Family Division (EWHC) on 18 March 1995, who retired on 28 June.

The Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Act 2022 (which received Royal Assent on 10 March) raised the retirement age back to 75, and this time it was retroactive, so that those already in office can now serve an extra five years, and some who recently retired at age 70 (such as Lloyd-Jones and Richards) can come back for an encore.

Incidentally, I discovered these appointments through the Twitter feed CrownOffFOIDs. The name is a shorthand for “Crown Office Freedom of Information Disclosures”. This is the Crown Office in Chancery, a small section of the Ministry of Justice responsible for the production and management of certain state and royal documents. Whether the office itself, or a private citizen, is operating the Twitter account is not clear. The output includes photographs of the Great Seal of the Realm as well as many of the different types of document to which it may be attached. There are writs, warrants, patents and proclamations of a great many kinds, including the proclamation of the present monarch’s accession, which the Tweet notes is not as physically impressive as one might have expected.

EXTERNAL LINKS

The ‘Brexit Freedoms’ Bill and Retained EU Law

Video

This was another session with the Constitution Unit of University College London.

The topic of “skeleton bills” and “Henry VIII powers”, which have been highlighted a lot in recent political blogs and podcasts, was also prominent here. Although this problem is said to be particularly bad in the post-referendum era, it has been in the making for many decades. I asked the panel (at 1 hour and 35 seconds in):

“If the trend towards skeleton bills and secondary legislation gas been noticed for many decades, does this indicate a problem with the permanent government rather than the politicians?”

It was put to the panel simultaneously with two other questions. I will try my best to disentangle the answers.

Doctor Tom West said: Absolutely this is a long-running trend. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 had very wide powers and people called it the “Abolition of Parliament” Bill. There are all sorts of examples of this being an issue, such as the financial crisis of 2008. Ministers, once they’re no longer in power, will come clean that there is an issue – Theresa May mentioned it at an IfG lecture last week. It’s very difficult while you’re in power to give up these very convenient ways of making law through secondary legislation. Brexit and COVID have raised the profile of this problem, but it is not exclusive to them. That’s what our Delegated Legislation Review Programme is looking at – we think there’s a need for a reset of the whole system of what these powers can be used for in the first place and how they can be scrutinised. We are in the middle of developing proposals.

Ruth Chambers said: This trend towards framework bills has been going on a long time. I’ve worked on environmental legislation for over twenty years. Just to give one practical example – it used to be that when governments would state consultation requirements on the face of the bill they would be quite explicit about which sorts of people and groups the minister should consult before taking powers forward. Now the more standard construction says the ministers can consult whoever they think they need to. Obviously that has consequences – bills often lack the future-proofing edge. It doesn’t matter how many times you have that conversation with ministers while they’re passing legislation, it doesn’t quite register that at some point in the future someone else will be wielding those powers. It also has huge implications for the public – the public businesses and civil society organisations really need to stay the course and engage with the secondary legislation not just the bill.

A Note on the Leadership Race

As Boris Johnson’s premiership draws to an undignified conclusion, a new leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party is to be elected for the third time in just over six years.

When last that happened, Professor Norton blogged about about four different types of Prime Ministers: Innovators who want to implement specific and ambitious goals of their own design (e.g. Thatcher), reformers who want to implement the goals of the party overall (Attlee), egoists who are in it for their own fame (Eden, Wilson, Johnson) and balancers who are concerned with keeping the peace between rival factions (Macmillan, May). He has not claimed these to be definitive or exclusive, but merely the labels he finds most useful. Recently he has revisited the idea.

In my view the roles of innovator and reformer are a little difficult to distinguish, as political ideas are often credited to the prime minister who enacted them even when their invention was owed to another (e.g. much of Thatcherite thinking was actually the product of Sir Keith Joseph). It might be better to merge them into one category of ideologue.That of balancer more obviously stands apart as someone less ambitious about specific goals and more concerned about overall stability. Egoist, of course, is something that few politicians would admit of themselves and which often comes across as a slur (not that it is untrue).

At present the nomination window has yet to formally open let alone close, so the field is still prone to change, but let us take a look at those declaring so far:

  • Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden), lately a junior local government minister
  • Suella Braverman (Fareham), current Attorney General
  • Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey), current health committee chair
  • Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove), lately health secretary
  • Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North), a junior trade minister
  • Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield), current transport secretary
  • Rishi Sunak (Richmond Yorks), lately Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk), current foreign secretary
  • Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge & Malling), current foreign affairs committee chair
  • Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon), current Chancellor of the Exchequer

At present Sunak and Truss are perceived as most likely to make the final ballot. Sunak seems to be positioning himself as a balancer. He wants to be perceived as a safe pair of hands and broadly popular among the public. Truss is going more for the ideologue side, particularly those who had favoured a harder departure from the European Union. Both are obviously egoists at heart, given that both appear to have registered their campaign websites some time before there was any hint of Johnson’s resignation. Concerns have long been raised about Truss spending government money on her own publicity, while Sunak seems to have hired a social media specialist to improve his personal brand.

Among the other candidates, Mordaunt and Tugendhat might be considered together. Their support (and that for defence secretary Ben Wallace, who was the front-runner before he ruled himself out) seems to come from the same source – a desire to clean up the party’s image and get politics back to normal. The quest for them is less about any specific policy goals and more about cleaning up the party’s image. They are seen to have demonstrated competence in their roles so far (a rare treat in modern politics) and avoided the scandals plaguing those at the top. Their military backgrounds are likely a large part of their appeal.

Javid and Hunt are somewhere in between. Hunt was the runner up in 2019 and has stayed out of Johnson’s government, so is a champion for the opposing faction (especially Remainers). Javid is more closely associated with Johnson but not seen as a lackey to the extent that Sunak or Truss are. Both are well-established within the parliamentary party so probably seek the same safe-hands image, as well as leaning on their reputations as businessmen.

Badenoch and Braverman both have fairly low national profiles which they are probably hoping to raise. They are unlikely to win but may be securing higher offers in the new cabinet or the next leadership election, whenever that may be. The former is well regarded for her chamber and studio performance, and promoted as a competent officeholder, whereas the latter seems to be favoured more as a stalking horse for an economic sect of the party.

That leaves Shapps and Zahawi, whose analysis must be very carefully phrased. Like Hunt and Javid they both have business backgrounds, but these may prove more a hindrance than a help. Shapps has several times attracted controversey over the conduct of his companies as well as denial of operating them under pseudonyms while serving in the Commons. In late 2015 he had to resign from the government due to alleged negligence in handling bullying claims within the party. He’s even been caught editing his own Wikipedia page to remove inconvenient details. Zahawi is distrusted by some in the party for having accepted a great office of state from Boris Johnson immediately before demanding he step down. There have also been numerous concerns raised about his private business interests, and flags raised by HMRC over his tax affairs.

Without commenting on the veracity of these particular claims, it raises the prospect of another category of leader – the featherer. Like egoists, no candidate would outright admit to being one, but unlike them the goal is less to acquire personal fame and more to protect one’s personal interests – or those of a different person supporting them. This would be hard to use in an academic textbook though, since such nest-feathering typically does not become known until many years after the accession has taken place.

UPDATE (12th July)

Shapps and Javid have withdrawn, Rehman Chisti dipped his toe but shortly withdrew again. Badenoch, Braverman, Hunt, Mordaunt, Sunak, Truss, Tugendhat and Zahawi have qualified for the first round.

An odd way to promote oneself

In early July, two by-elections are to take place in the upper house, following the retirement of the Lord Brabazon of Tara in April and the death of the Lord Swinfen in June. Both were among the Conservative section of the excepted hereditary peers, which means there is no partisan competition for their replacements.

Despite the smallness of the electorate, the statements made by the twelve peers to offer their candidacy have been released on Parliament’s website. Most are essentially short CVs, with nothing particularly jumping out save Lord Wrottesley’s self-description as “closet tree hugger, as reflected in my business interests”, apparently forgetting that the whole point of being a closet anything is precisely not to announce it in public.

The exception is the Earl of Dudley, who instead of giving any information about himself simply linked to his YouTube channel, technodemic. Its content comprises nothing but music videos, some featuring (I would guess) the earl himself and others made up of television clips. There is a lengthy description on the about page, but confidence is not inspired by the lack of an avatar, nor the names of some of the channels to which he subscribes.

Somehow, I don’t think he’ll win.

UPDATE (6th July)

The by-elections have been won by the Lords Remnant and Wrottesley. Dudley received no votes at all.

York and Swinfen

Late last night Professor Norton blogged about the decease of his noble friend Roger Swinfen Eady, 3rd Baron Swinfen. The photograph he used in his post was a screenshot of him in the upper chamber on 1st February 2018, taken from parliamentlive.tv, and displayed on his Wikipedia page. I know because I put it there.

Swinfen was not photographed for an official parliamentary portrait, nor in any other setting that resulted in an image released with a Wiki-compatible licence, so I had to resort to a Fair Use screenshot, as with so many other deceased parliamentarians, in order to illustrate his page. Thankfully the fact that both houses (and indeed the devolved legislatures) have recently gotten into the habit of publishing high-quality portraits under CC-BY-3.0 or similar means that such a trick will likely be needed less often in the future.

Of course, I also illustrated his coat of arms a year ago, and being the copyright owner for that graphic I released it under the same.

Last month Norton blogged on a different topic – the repeated floating by the government of plans to move the House of Lords to York. Not, to be clear, moving Parliament as a whole along with the royal households, the senior courts and the departmental headquarters of the executive, but just moving the upper house while leaving everything else in London. On Thursday he secured a lengthy debate in the chamber on that topic. The peers who spoke were unanimous in their savaging of their proposal. Many of the issues I commented on Norton’s post regarding the practical absurdities of a separation and the apparent powerlessness of ministers in the upper house to influence their Commons colleagues were repeated by members in their speeches. My favourite contribution was by the Lord Addington: Michael Gove’s comment was the sort that usually comes up halfway through the third round in a pub, that should be forgotten by the end of the fourth, and certainly not remembered the next morning.

Thanks for the Memoiries

Politician’s autobiographies are a strange beast. Everyone who’s anyone (and some who maybe aren’t) eventually publishes a weighty tome detailing their time in (or out of) power with a view to putting a favourable account of themselves in the public’s minds, as well as perhaps generating income and attention lost since holding office. A few of these, such as Alastair Campbell or Alan Clark, become famous in their own right but I suspect the majority sink into obscurity as fast as their authors do.

When I discovered it four days ago, the Wikipedia article on British political memoirs was a left much to be desired. The list was long and disorganised. After many hours of code crunching, I had rearranged it into three big tables, searchable by name and publication date. I also added details of the authors’ notability as well as the publisher. The list is, of course, incomplete, given that there are new memoirs coming out every year as well as older ones overlooked (indeed I discovered a few along the way), but with as much as is already there I can spot a few trends. Harper and Collins (together or apart) got the top picks of the right wing while Penguin and Random House (ditto) got the left’s. I don’t know if that says anything about those companies’ corporate politics or if it’s just a herd mentality among their clients. Biteback, a company dedicated to political publications, is happy to print for any party.

I am sometimes struck by how early some of these books were published: Jess Phillips, who became MP for Birmingham Yardley in 2015, released her first book Everywoman in 2017 and already seems to be on at least her third. Gerald Kaufman published How to be a Minister in 1980, when his own ministerial experience amounted to just five years as a junior minister. Maureen Colquhoun wrote A Woman In The House having been voted out of the Commons after just five years. Even those who have served a long time still stand to miss out on what happens after – Ken Clarke’s Kind of Blue, debuting in 2016, mentioned how he was glad that Kaufman cut ahead of him when taking the oath in 1970, for he had no desire to be Father of the House. I presume he didn’t expect Sir Gerald to die so soon, to say nothing of the chaos of 2019.

The titles of such books are also interesting. Both Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester 2001-10) and Matthew Parris (West Derbyshire 1979-86) described themselves as “outsider”. Almost forty of the books listed actually had “memoir” as part of the name. Some attempted puns on their own names, such as Coming Up Trumps or Teddy Boy Blue. Of particular significance is the number of books actually named after people other than the subject: Three Conservative autobiographers defined themselves in relation to Thatcher, while only one Labour book similarly refers to Blair.

Although a large proportion of the writers end up being members of the House of Lords at some point, relatively few devote more to it than a brief note in the epilogue. Those who were MPs tend to regard their time on the green benches as their real career, with ennoblement marking its end. Often the book is already out by the time the scarlet robes are put on. Clement Attlee stands out here – he apparently wrote and released As It Happened in 1954 while he was still leading his party!

FURTHER READING

Privy to the Details

Meetings of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council are not usually a big event. Although the committees (particularly the Cabinet and the Supreme Court) are very busy institutions, the plenaries generally take place once per month, minimally attended (the quorum is four) and enacting mere formalities.

A major exception to the norm is upon the demise of the crown. Then an Accession Council is swiftly convened to greet the new monarch. This is typically the only occasion on which the entire council meets.

Nowadays, even that is set to change. It was reported in Private Eye some time ago that places at the next accession will have to be rationed, on account of the council having grown too large over the course of the present reign. Certain office-holders will be invited automatically, but everyone else will have to enter a ballot.

Recently there has been a freedom of information request which revealed which offices would grant automatic invitation. As it turned out, the list was still quite long. I have endeavoured to break it down by category for ease of understanding.

The Firm

  • Members of the Royal Family who are Privy Counsellors
  • The Lord Great Chamberlain
  • The Earl Marshal
  • The Garter Principal King of Arms
  • The Lord Lyon King of Arms
  • Members of the Royal Household who are Privy Counsellors
  • Certain senior members of the Royal Household who are not Privy Counsellors

Political figures

  • The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Prime Minister
  • The Lord President of the Council
  • The Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The Lord Speaker
  • Serving Cabinet ministers (and ministers who attend Cabinet)
  • The Leader of the Opposition
  • Members of the Shadow Cabinet who are Privy Counsellors
  • Westminster Leaders of political parties represented in the House of Commons
  • The First Minister of Scotland
  • The First Minister of Wales
  • The First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
  • The Presiding Officer of the Welsh Parliament
  • The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Deputy Speakers (of where?)
  • Former Prime Ministers
  • Former Lord Presidents of the Council
  • Former leaders of political parties who are Privy Counsellors

Religious figures

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Archbishop of York
  • The Bishop of London
  • Former Archbishops of Canterbury and York
  • Former Bishops of London

Judiciary

  • The Judicial Committee
  • The Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales
  • The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
  • The Lord President of the Court of Session
  • The Lord Advocate
  • The Master of the Rolls
  • The President of the Queen’s Bench Division
  • The President of the Family Division
  • The Chancellor of the High Court of England & Wales
  • Lord and Lady Justices of Appeal

Diplomats and civil servants

  • The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
  • High Commissioners of the Commonwealth Realms
  • The Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps
  • The Cabinet Secretary
  • The Permanent Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The City of London

  • The Lord Mayor
  • The Sheriffs
  • The Recorder

Notably the reply did not specify how many places were available by ballot.

UPDATE (8th September)

Elizabeth II died earlier today. The council website currently advises attendees to await for an email giving further instructions.