It’s easily and widely forgotten in Britain that “Her Majesty’s Government”, or HMG, headed by Mr Cameron at Westminster, is only one of the Queen’s 16 governments around the world. The Queen has been the head of state of 32 countries in all, the UK being just one of them. According to Wikipedia,
The Queen has had 12 British Prime Ministers, second only to George III, who had 14, and two more than the number had by Queen Victoria. She has also had 14 New Zealand Prime Ministers, 12 Australian Prime Ministers and 11 Canadian Prime Ministers. The Queen has had a total of 157 Prime Ministers during her reign.
Ignoring for the purposes of this note the intriguing reference here to ten British prime ministers who were “had by Queen Victoria”, I just want to make the point that any of the Queen’s prime ministers naturally has automatic access to her whenever he or she needs or wants it. A telephone call, letter or email to the Palace is all that’s needed. All 16 of her prime ministers are heads of government of independent sovereign states, and all are of equal constitutional status — even Mr Cameron. The prime minister of Canada discusses Canadian and international affairs with the Queen of Canada; Mr Cameron discusses British and international affairs with the Queen of the United Kingdom. When the Queen is visiting The Most Honourable Mrs Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller, ON, MP, Her Majesty is the Queen of Jamaica. She’s the same person but she acts in different capacities.
So it was surprising to read in the Guardian newspaper of 14 June (yesterday) a report by Patrick Wintour according to which:
The prime minister was meeting continued resistance from his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, over critical plans to require countries to reveal the true beneficial owners of shell companies and trusts. The measure is vital to combatting money laundering, fighting tax evasion and turning tax information exchange into something meaningful.
Cameron laid on the diplomatic red carpet for Harper, giving him the rare honour of speaking to both houses of parliament, a visit to the Queen and a lengthy bilateral meeting at Downing Street. But Harper is worried about exposing private Canadian tax affairs and fears complications arising from Canada‘s federal structure. [Emphasis added.]
I submitted a letter to the Guardian drawing attention to this constitutional nonsense:
The suggestion that in his efforts to win over the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, to the cause of transparency over company ownerships for the G8, David Cameron has “given him the rare honour of … a visit to the Queen” (Cameron faces 11-th hour battle over G8 objectives, 14 June) ignores the reality that as the prime minister of one of Her Majesty’s Governments (namely her Canadian government), Mr Harper has precisely the same right and opportunity of access to the Queen as Mr Cameron, the prime minister of another of HM Governments. Mr Harper needs no help from Mr Cameron in arranging to see the Queen.
14 June 2013
With remarkable self-restraint, I forebore to mention the Guardian’s spelling of ‘combating’, focusing [sic] instead on the constitutional issue. My letter hasn’t been published (yet, anyway). I suppose it’s regarded in the newspaper’s letters section as nit-picking — as, indeed, it is. There are about 35 million Canadians, less than a half of 1 per cent of the world’s population, and it would be surprising if as many as 1 per cent of them read the Guardian. I doubt if Mr Wintour is kept awake at night by the thought of a maximum of 350,000 Canadians wincing when they read his blooper.