Now there is an interesting situation at the heart of the UK constitution. This is due to the combination of a new but politically experienced king and a new, inexperienced and weak prime minister.
Carlos III may be new to the throne, but he has spent most of his life not only preparing for office, but also fully participating in public and political affairs. Some of this commitment has been largely hidden, although the extent of his pressure on ministers was revealed in the freedom of information case about his so-called “black spider memos” to ministers.
But much of this commitment has been in the offing. On many issues, often with an international aspect, the king has long promoted causes and campaigns for policy changes.
It was therefore not surprising that Charles delivered a thoughtful and well-crafted speech when the United Nations COP26 climate change conference convened in Glasgow. It was a much more concrete speech than a mere ceremonial welcome with bland statements.
“The scale and scope of the threat we face,” the then-Prince of Wales said, “requires a global solution at the systems level” and explained how this could be achieved if the political leaders gathered there made different decisions. to those who would otherwise take.
And it was not just a speech: he has launched a “sustainable markets initiative” with a detailed program of “Terra Carta”. In international environmental issues, therefore, the new king is a player and not a bystander. This matters to you.
The natural thing would have been for Charles to have continued this activism at the COP27 summit in Cairo. But the British government said no. The then new and now former Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss vetoed the King’s attendance.
When she was replaced, the current prime minister and the king agreed, they said, that it was logistically too late for the latter to attend.
But that was not the end of the matter, and this is where we get to see the combination of an experienced king and a rookie prime minister. Charles could have had his cake and eat it, as the English proverb goes.
The king hosted his own mini-summit, or “reception” as it was politely called, at Buckingham Palace. John Kerry, the US Presidential Climate Envoy and others were in attendance. Sunak quickly reversed his original decision not to attend COP27 and even came to the reception to give a speech, paying tribute to Charles’s work.
A less experienced or less committed monarch would have accepted the government’s decision not to go to the international conference and done nothing else. In the United Kingdom, the Crown acts on the “advice” of ministers.
In this case, however, Charles accepted the advice, but still made his important point publicly and pressured the prime minister to do something other than what he wanted to do.
In turn, a prime minister with more experience and a stronger position would not have been sacked so easily. But the current prime minister, like all British prime ministers since the 2016 Brexit referendum, is politically weak and constantly seeking to keep support united.
Over time, perhaps, the position of the prime minister will strengthen again, including in relation to the monarch. And perhaps the king loses interest in various causes and adopts a more ceremonial role in public. But until then, it appears that we have, at the center of the UK executive, a power relationship unfavorable to the prime minister.
If this is correct, then on several issues of interest to the new king, the government may again find itself on the wrong foot and maneuvering out of place. This will not be about issues of party political debate, but about issues of politics: about the climate and the environment and other issues.
After the 70-year reign of a queen who made little public display of her political views, some may have thought that the days of a monarch with pronounced views on matters of policy were over. But the reach of such a monarch was always there and now it has been revived.
Charles has spent more than 60 years preparing to exert such influence. If he had come to the crown with a well-established prime minister, his impact would have been more limited. But the political status of the United Kingdom could not have been more advantageous to the new king. The question now is how long this situation will last.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.