The excuse of ‘the king’s evil counsellors’ – Part II

18th July 2021

Over three months ago, his blog had a brief post about ‘the king’s evil counsellors’.

Here it is:

And: he still is – or at least he seems to be.

But: is he?


Here is a tweet today from a news journalist about the latest of many rudderless u-turns:

Yet again: the kings evil counsellors.

The plausible deniability of the ‘kings evil counsellors’ is, of course, a thing as old as kingship.

But with the current prime minister, however, perhaps there is a certain plausibility to this plausible deniability.

It is plain that there is little or no central direction – the only driving force from the prime minister is that he wants to get away with things and he is happy for his ministers to get away with things too.

In a strange and curious way, we now have something like the (supposed) classic model of cabinet government in the United Kingdom: the ‘government of departments’.

Each minster seems to be doing exactly what they want.

And, similarly, each Number 10 adviser seems also to be doing what they want.


The premise of the old notion of the ‘kings evil counsellors’ is that the ruler would be horrified to know what was being done in their name.

The reality, of course, would be that the king knew full well – the counsellors were just being set up to take the blame.

The current prime minister seems to go one step further: he just does not seem to care.


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One thought on “The excuse of ‘the king’s evil counsellors’ – Part II”

  1. In 2016, Cabinet Office celebrated its 100th birthday as did the taking of Cabinet minutes as we know them, today.

    Up until 1916, when David Lloyd George became Prime Minister, the conclusions of Cabinets had been shared between gentlemen in letters and memoranda.

    It was not a very business like process.

    The lack of a filed paper trail of Cabinet minutes has made it possible to put the inspiration for the Dardanelles Campaign down to Winston Churchill.

    The well kept War Council minutes, on the other hand, show that the driving force was Lord Kitchener, who, conveniently for his reputation was lost at sea when HMS Tiger, the ship in which he was sailing to Russia, hit a mine.

    Had it not been for pressing business in Ireland, Lloyd George would also have been with Kitchener on the mission to Russia.

    There was a public inquiry into the Dardanelles Campaign that makes interesting reading in the context of how much advisers should keep their concerns to themselves when major decisions are being made in committees made up of officials and Ministers.

    Given your post, one now wonders how the Cabinet minutes of our 99p Shop Winston Churchill read?

    What insight will they provide to historians into the collective mind of this government?

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