Some people think the Queen will 'take control' of the UK if there is no clear winner tonight

Once the polls close in London there will be two crucial decisions to watch for:

  • Will the Conservatives’ David Cameron declare himself “the winner” even if he cannot command a majority in the House of Commons? (The tories are likely to take most seats but unlikely to have control.)
  • Will the Queen give a speech opening the new parliament even if one party hasn’t managed to form a working government?

In that second scenario, The Times of London is suggesting — but not actually saying — that the Queen might “take control” of the UK in the interim:

That will not actually happen, of course. The Queen isn’t stupid. She’s not going to do anything which makes her look political.

Rather, this is about whether Cameron has the ability to declare that he has “won” (yes) and then get the Queen to open parliament by reading a speech he will likely have written or approved (uncertain). if Cameron does pull that off, the Conservatives will look like they’re a government even if they’re not.

The problem for the Queen is that if she reads a speech it will look like she is siding with Cameron, and if she doesn’t it will look like she is against him. The Times:

Whitehall officials feared that the decision to stay away would in itself be a political act, since the Queen would effectively be prejudging the outcome of the vote by MPs. It would also break with precedent. In January 1924, George V gave a King’s Speech shortly before the government was defeated.

Yesterday a royal source said that the plan was to go ahead with any speech recommended by the sitting prime minister. “The Queen will act on the advice of her prime minister,” the source said.

That will infuriate Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, who actually have a decent shot at putting together a governing coalition. Cameron may be hoping to usher through the Queen’s speech before Miliband, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have come to terms. Here is The Guardian on that topic:

Labour is preparing to fight any attempt by David Cameron to declare victory on Friday as leader of the largest party even if he does not have enough seats to command a majority, senior party sources have indicated.

The Guardian says it will be clear by Friday whether Cameron can persuade the Queen to sit in the House of Commons and begin reading. So the race is on: Can Cameron “win,” and get a new parliament seated, before Miliband can announce that he has a coalition?

It will be dramatic stuff.

(Unless of course Cameron can pull off the “conspiracy theory” coalition, in which he bands together with the SNP under the promise that the Scots get more power as long as the Conservatives can run Westminster, which would grant the tories a virtually permanent majority of seats in England and Wales.)

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