Derek Simpson backs moderate to lead Unite
Leaked emails over Mike Hancock scandal
David Miliband tipped for top EU job
87% of MPs raking it in with second jobs
David Cameron exclusive interview
"Red Ed" negotiates a minefield
"Red" Ed's knife-edge win
Don't strike over cuts, says union boss
Harman blocks Gordon Brown's farewell honours
Child benefit for older kids faces axe
Ed Miliband edges ahead of bruv in Labour leadership race
Queen's fears over hung Parliament

By Robert Jobson, Royal Editor and Ian Kirby, Political Editor

Whitehall mandarins are battling to protect Queen from party politics in event of a hung parliament, we can reveal.

They fear she could be sucked into party politics after the election, according to senior advisors.

The Royal Family are aware a hung parliament and an unstable Government could be divisive for the country.

The Queen and her team have not had to face this issue since the 1970's when there was a Lib/Lab pact.

Senior sources have told us the monarch and the heir to the throne are "scrutinizing the polls and developments in the election closely" and are "concerned" about being dragged into party politics.

In Whitehall, Senior civil servants mandarins are now pulling out all the stops to avert a possible future constitutional crisis.

One senior figure told us: "The last thing the Monarchy and the Queen in particular need is being dragged into party politics.

"Should David Cameron, or anyone else for that matter, fail to win an overall majority in the General Election it could be left to the Queen to make the call and that is the last thing she would want." the source told us.

Senior civil servants - the grey suited "Sir Humphrey's" who advise any sitting Government - fear if Her Majesty is forced to pick the next Prime Minister, which as Head of State she has power to do, it could prove "divisive."

Whitehall mandarins are now "pulling strings" behind the scenes to avoid a compromising the Queen and her being blamed for picking the wrong man to lead our country.

Several senior sources have told the News of the World that Buckingham Palace has been "scrambled" into action, with senior royal aides spending months stydying legal advice and emergency guidance from Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell.

One senior Buckingham Palace source - a member of the Queen's Household - told us: "Everyone was handed a massive document and told to read it as fast as possible.

"Even that is based in part on speculation, because we really do not know what will happen.

"Our main priority is to protect the Queen.

"It is our job to ensure she is not placed in a position where she has to intervene.

"The problem we had is that almost all the top constitutional lawyers who might know about this are dead."

But yesterday a Buckingham Palace spokesman confirmed the Queen is very well briefed and is being kept up to speed.

The Palace official said: "The Queen is above Party politics. She has a strong team of constitutional advisers that have been around for many years.

She added: "We cannot offer an opinion on the hung parliament because the Queen must remain politically neutral."

We have discovered that the Queen is relying on three constitutional experts to advise her.

They are Vernon Bognador, CBE the media savvy Oxford don - a Professor of Government at Oxford University and a Fellow of Brasenose College.

He advocates constitutional reform including proportional representation but supports the retention of the monarchy.

The other two advisers are less well known in the media and the wider public.

They are Rodney Brazier, Professor of Constitutional Law at The University of Manchester and a barrister.
He is an expert in constitutional law as well as being a specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee for its inquiry into ministerial powers.

The other key adviser to the Queen is Professor Robert Hazell the Founder and Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London, the UK's foremost independent research body on constitutional change.

Professor Hazell's expertise extends to the entire constitutional reform agenda, including devolution in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.

It also includes freedom of information; parliamentary reform; Lords reform; a British bill of rights; referendums; electoral reform.

The source added that the advisers have all been Constitutional advisers to the Queen since the days of Lord Janvrin, the Queen's well respected former Private Secretary to the Queen and career diplomat who retired in September 2007.

He was kept on by Her Majesty as a "Permanent Lord-in-Waiting" in the Royal Family - and is seen by many as the "eyes and ears of the Queen."

In the 2008 New Year's Honours List of New Zealand he was made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for "services to New Zealand as Private Secretary to The Queen" - one of the country's top honours.
In January 2008 he took up his appointment of Deputy Chairman, HSBC Private Bank (UK).

But the use of her "shadowy" advisers is causing ripples of discontent in academia.

One Professor, a leading Republican, has dubbed these men "Shadowy Advisors."

Professor Stephen Haseler, Director Global Policy Institute, told us: "If there is a hung Parliament The Queen, under our out of date rules, will need to act.

"She will have a duty both to appoint a PM and then to allow or to block a new election. She cannot avoid these responsibilities.

"After all this is the job- head of state- for which she and her lavish courtier class are paid. She faces two big decisions.

"First, who to pick as PM? And then whether to allow who she picks to hold a new general election.

"There remain big questions for the Queen. If the Conservatives get the most seats will she grant Mr. Cameron the right to become a minority PM? And then will she grant him the right to hold a second election?

"If Labour and Liberals together have a majority will she agree to Gordon Brown remaining as PM? And if he resigns, how will she pick the leader of the Lab-Lib coalition?

"And the monarchy need to answer another question. Should we not be allowed to know more about the unelected shadowy advisors- like Professor Vernon Bognador, Professor Robert Hazell and the Queen's political advisors- who are going to play a big role in the event of the coming crisis."

The Queen has been involved before in picking the PM.

In 1957, following the resignation of Anthony Eden, she picked Harold Macmillan over Rab Butler.

In 1963 she picked Sir Alec Douglas-Home after secret soundings with leading Tories who she selected to advise her.

And in the last hung parliament in February 1974 she picked Harold Wilson to become PM and then, controversially, allowed him to call and election by granting him a dissolution.



    Keeping one eye on the rest of the web
  Westminster blog spy