Can MPs really not talk about the Queen?
Keir Starmer fell foul of parliamentary rules when questioning the Prime Minister this afternoon and was duly smacked down by the Speaker.
His crime? Mentioning the Queen.
As part of a series of questions to Boris Johnson about the Downing Street parties, the Labour leader highlighted one of those had taken place on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
The image of the Queen sitting alone in St George’s Chapel went around the world and is seared into the nation’s psyche.
But bringing that image into parliament breaks procedure.
“Last year, Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she had been married to for 73 years,” Starmer told the House of Commons. “She followed the rules of the country that she leads.
“On the eve of that funeral, a suitcase was filled with booze and wheeled into Downing Street. A DJ played and staff partied late into the night.
“The Prime Minister has been forced to hand an apology to Her Majesty the Queen. Isn’t he ashamed that he didn’t hand in his resignation at the same time?”
Johnson started to answer, accusing the Labour leader of attempting to “politicise” the monarch.
But upon advice from his staff, Lindsay Hoyle quickly intervened. “We normally would not, and quite rightly, mention the Royal family. We don’t get into discussions on the Royal family,” he said.
And so we look to Erskine May to furnish us with the detail.
May was a Clerk of the Commons between 1871 and 1886, and literally wrote the book on parliamentary procedure.
The tome sets out all the observed rules of the House – both the Standing Orders (those which are regulated) and the rules stemming from tradition.
The rule on mentioning royals can be found in paragraph 22.15:
“No question can be put which brings the name of the Sovereign or the influence of the Crown directly before Parliament, or which casts reflections upon the Sovereign or the royal family. A question has been altered at the Speaker’s direction on the ground that the name of the Sovereign should not be introduced to affect the views of the House. Questions are, however, allowed on such matters as the costs to public funds of royal events and royal palaces.”
So, unless it’s a question specific to how taxpayer cash is used to support the royal household, you can’t ask about it because it might sway MPs. And especially don't mention the Queen.