Cameron admission ‘damaging for Queen’

David Cameron's admission he sought the Queen's involvement in the Scottish independence referendum has raised questions about the legitimacy of the nation's constitutional monarchy, an expert has said.

Mike Gordon, professor of constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, said the revelation would be an "awkward and embarrassing" incident for the former prime minister, the monarch and those advising her.

But in the long term, the "viability" of having a hereditary head of state would also come under scrutiny, he said, in light of Mr Cameron's comments which suggest the Queen appeared to step away from her position above party politics.

Mr Cameron has told a BBC documentary he made contact with Buckingham Palace officials in 2014, suggesting the monarch could "raise an eyebrow" in the closely fought referendum campaign.

A few days before the referendum in September that year, the Queen told a well-wisher in Aberdeenshire that she hoped "people would think very carefully about the future".

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The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow (L) speaks as Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Prime Minister David Cameron and Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons listen, at a reception in Buckingham Palace to mark the The Queen's 90th Birthday, London, Britain May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Tory leadership hopeful David Cameron is congratulated Thursday September 29, 2005, by his wife Samantha, after making his case for the party leadership in London. See PA story POLITICS Tories. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson / PA
Tory leadership hopeful David Cameron stands with his wife Samantha, after making his case for the party leadership in London.
Tory leadership contender David Cameron during a reading class in Dewsbury Sunday October 2 2005, before heading to Blackpool foe his party's annual conference. See PA Story POLITICS Tories_Cameron. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: John Giles/Pool/PA
Conservative leadership rivals Kenneth Clarke (left) and David Cameron (right) during seperate radio interviews in the lobby of the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool.
Conservative leadership contender David Cameron salutes the audience following his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.
Billie Piper with the Most Popular Actress award that was presented to her by Conservative Party leadership candidates David Davis (left) and David Cameron at the National Television Awards 2005 (NTA), at the Royal Albert Hall, central London.
Conservative leadership candidate David Cameron meets Kent and Sussex party members at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, Sussex.
Tory leadership candidates David Davis (right) and David Cameron appear in a special edition of BBC One's Question Time Thursday November 3, 2005. The programme was broadcast live from Nottingham's Albert Hall at 10.35pm. Watch for PA story POLITICS Tories. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: Rui Viera/PA
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Conservative leadership contender David Cameron travels on the Northern Line tube from The Oval to Kings Cross while on his Conservative leadership campaign.
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Conservative party leader David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, stand outside their home in Notting Hill, west London, with their son, Arthur Elwen, who was born Tuesday this week.
The Shadow Cabinet stand outside at the Racquet Club in Liverpool,after a meeting. They are: (front L to R) Theresa May, David Lidington, Theresa Villiers, David Cameron, William Hague, Cheryl Gillan, Peter Ainsworth Caroline Spelman, (middle L to R) Oliver Letwin, Alan Duncan, Andrew Mitchell, David Willetts, Andrew Lansley, (back L to R) David Davis, Patrick McLoughlin, George Osborne, David Mundell, Chris Grayling, Phllip Hammond, Francis Maude, and Oliver Heald.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron shakes hands with a man wearing a Tony Blair mask as he addresses a demonstration by hospital workers and patients against hospital closures opposite the Houses of Parliament in central London, Tuesday March 28, 2006. Watch for PA story. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: Johnny Green/PA
Conservative party leader David Cameron and his wife Samantha leave after casting their votes at a polling station at Oxford Gardens Primary School near their west London home.
Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron (right) is given a tour of Kandahar airbase, Afghanistan by Major Guy Maverley from York, Commanding Officer of General Support squadron on a surprise trip to the country to visit the British troops
Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron meets French Politician Nicolas Sarkozy (left) at the Lanesborough hotel in central London.
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Left to right: Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Menzies Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Conservative Party Leader, David Cameron prepare to lay a wreath at Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London where the Queen led the nation in two minute's silence in honour of Britain's war dead.
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Conservative leader David Cameron (right) during a walk-about in Sheperds Bush, west London.
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Embargoed to 0001 Thursday February 11 File photo dated 29/6/2008 of former South African President Nelson Mandela with Conservative Party leader David Cameron at The Dorchester in central London. On the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release from prison, a senior Labour MP and former trade union leader today called on Cameron to apologise for his visit to apartheid-era South Africa.
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Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the House of Commons, London, as MPs gather for the first time since the General Election.
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British Prime Minister David Cameron (second left) his wife Samantha (right), French President Nicolas Sarkozy (second right) and his wife Carla Bruni (left), meeting in 10 Downing street, London.
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Prof Gordon said: "In a democracy, the whole idea that you have a hereditary, unelected head of state is premised on the idea that she will try and keep herself out of politics and try and be impartial."

He said when one of her ex-prime ministers reveals he asked for a "subtle political intervention", then: "The idea the Queen has in some way perhaps acceded to the request by making even a very vague, guarded comment does start to raise all sorts of difficult questions about the legitimacy of the position."

Prof Gordon added: "The Queen has made major efforts to generate and sustain that image of herself as being above politics and that's why the revelation from Cameron is particularly damaging or challenging for her because she has tried to position herself as above this."

The former prime minister's comments are the latest major constitutional issue involving the Queen – following hard on the heels of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's controversial advice to the monarch to prorogue Parliament.

Mr Johnson's decision is the subject of a Supreme Court hearing, with justices asked to determine whether the prorogation move – which has closed down Parliament until October 14 – was unlawful.

The academic said: "It does show when you have tumultuous political times that place real strains on the formalities of a system of monarchy, if we are going to continue living through a tumultuous political period then questions about reform to the role of the monarch and powers of the monarch are only going to intensify."

Mr Cameron's discussions of the conversations that have taken place between his office and the Queen's private secretary have broken the convention of keeping communications between the head of state and prime minister secret.

Prof Gordon said: "These sorts of conventions governing the relationship between the prime minister and the Queen are absolutely central to maintaining a system with an unelected, hereditary monarchy as head of state.

"The Queen acts on the prime minister's advice but there is that confidential space in which they can have those discussions, and the confidentiality of that space is keenly protected to ensure the continuation of this idea the Queen is politically impartial and above the political fray."

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