How Prince Philip’s death will affect UK politics

How Prince Philip’s death will affect UK politics

The machinery of the British government spun into action to facilitate formal arrangements following the death of the Prince Philip, but a period of mourning will mean a major pause in politics at Westminster and beyond.

All political campaigning for the Scottish, Welsh and English local elections in May has ceased, while ministers will no longer be taking to the airwaves and government announcements will be pared back.

On Friday, Boris Johnson chaired both a cabinet meeting and a separate operational meeting for secretaries of state with a role to play in the co-ordination of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral arrangements.

Home secretary Priti Patel and defence Secretary Ben Wallace were expected to attend because of their roles overseeing security, as were operational policing leads and royal household representatives.

Ministers were told their usual broadcast rounds had been cancelled, while many planned announcements and visits had been shelved for the time being.

Mr Johnson concluded the cabinet meeting by telling his ministers that “in the coming days the entire country would have a chance to reflect on his life, work and legacy”.

MPs and peers will get the chance to make public tributes to Philip on Monday. Parliament will be recalled from its Easter break a day early so respects can be paid from the Commons, while peers will also voice their condolences in the Lords.

What happens to the May elections?

After learning of Philip’s death, Mr Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer spoke to each other and agreed to suspend campaigning for the 6 May local elections.

All main political parties across Britain have now agreed to pause their campaigns ahead of the votes covering council and mayoral positions in England, the Scottish parliament and Welsh parliament.

The pause will effectively bring forward the pre-election “purdah” period – during which time the activities of civil servants and ministers are curtailed– from Thursday 15 April.

Both the Scottish and Welsh parliaments will also be recalled on Monday to allow MSPs and AMs to pay tribute to Philip.

It is not year clear whether political campaigning for the elections – which had been under way for the past two weeks – will resume from Tuesday, or after the duke’s funeral.

What happens to coronavirus rules?

The planned easing of England’s lockdown will go ahead on Monday as planned. However, Mr Johnson was understood to have cancelled his celebratory pint to mark the reopening of pub gardens at the beginning of next week.

While no Downing Street press conferences are expected in the coming days, urgent matters of public health will be communicated if required.

One message communicated from the government was a plea for the grieving public not to head to royal residences to mark their respects, amid concerns over mass gatherings.

“We are supporting the royal household in asking that floral tributes should not be laid at royal residences at this time,” a Cabinet Office spokesman added.

How long might things be different?

The Queen has entered a period of mourning, with the duke’s funeral expected to take place at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel eight days after his death.

Since the Queen will not carry out any duties, any laws that need to be given the Royal Assent of affairs of state will not be put to her to approve.

Although the period of mourning will affect the tone of any local election campaigning which does resume next week, normal government business and the political to-and-fro should begin in earnest again after the duke’s funeral.

There will, however, be a further official period of mourning for the royal family for 30 days after the funeral at St George’s Chapel.

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