Next stop Balmoral for new PM Truss – here’s what her predecessors have said about it | Politics News

Former prime minister Lord Salisbury referred to Balmoral Castle as “Siberia”.

Another, Benjamin Disraeli, complained that “carrying on the government of the country 600 miles from the metropolis doubles the labour”.

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Tony Blair described his annual visit as “a vivid combination of the intriguing, the surreal and the utterly freaky” – and said he only survived the weekend with the help of strong alcoholic drinks.

His youngest child, Leo, was conceived at the home after Cherie Blair left her contraception in London due to the “sheer embarrassment” of the staff unpacking her wash bag the previous year.

And David Cameron, in contrast, recalls the “bliss” of leaving his close protection team behind as he walked the hills with his wife Samantha.

“The Queen is keen that you should have complete solitude,” he wrote.

The Queen and Prince Charles  stand next to a tree they planted at the Balmoral Cricket Pavilion in 2021
The Queen and Prince Charles on the Balmoral estate in October 2021

But Liz Truss will not meet the monarch for a relaxed summer break, as her predecessors have done.

Instead, the new Conservative leader will fly to Aberdeenshire to be formally appointed prime minister – an event which usually takes place at Buckingham Palace.

This is referred to as the “kissing of hands”, and in recent times involves only a bow or curtsy and a handshake.

The audience is expected to last half an hour, although Gordon Brown’s appointment in 2007 was followed by a “congenial and business-like” discussion lasting 58 minutes.

Clement Attlee’s meeting with King George VI in 1945 was rather more brief due to the shyness of both men. After an awkward silence, Mr Attlee opened the conversation saying: “I won the election.”

“I know,” the monarch replied. “I heard it on the six o’clock news.”

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Liz Truss will become the next prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership contest.
Liz Truss will be formally appointed the next prime minister when she meets the Queen

Prime ministers’ visits to the private castle in the Scottish Highlands date back to Queen Victoria’s reign and typically take place over a weekend in early September.

Balmoral estate was bought by Prince Albert for his wife in 1852, and features monuments to Victoria’s consort, children and her close friend and servant John Brown.

The current Queen invites guests to use her highland ponies to explore the hills and glens. Grouse shooting, deer stalking and salmon fishing are also on offer.

The climax of a prime ministerial holiday is the “Bothy Barbeque”, previously presided over by the Duke of Edinburgh and held in a stone hut originally built for shepherds.

“The Queen drives you at breakneck speed across the moor to a bothy,” David Cameron wrote in his autobiography.

“The Duke of Edinburgh is outside, tongs in hand, smoke rising from a row of sizzling grouse. And then the two of them cook and serve you dinner.

“Literally, the Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Realms topping up your drinks, clearing up your plates and washing up.”

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Historian Ben Pimlott described Margaret Thatcher’s presence at such a gathering as: “Monarch and consort cooking sausages for the disconcerted premier and her husband on a windswept hillside – each couple trying desperately to be informal.”

Ms Truss will likely need to survive in office until next September if she is to receive such an invitation.

Her visit to Balmoral is, however, an opportunity to begin a relationship that some of her predecessors have found instructive and invaluable.

Ben Pimlott describes the Queen’s role as that of “constitutionally sanctioned counsellor and therapist… the only person a prime minister talks to whose confidence he knows will not be abused”.

Analysis: At 96, Queen determined to carry out her duties

For 70 years, it has been an event that has always run seamlessly – cars toing and froing between Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, the circus of the handover all playing out in less than a couple of hours.

Moving it 500 miles north to Balmoral will add a different kind of theatre to proceedings.

The dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands means that the weather is likely to play its part, probably for the first time.

Both No 10 and the palace will be keeping their eyes on a rainy and potentially disruptive forecast that could see timings change on the day.

But while the setting is more rural, more remote and the journey certainly longer, the formal ceremony at the centre of it all will remain the same, as the monarch says goodbye to her 14th prime minister and welcomes her 15th.

In private audiences Boris Johnson will resign and Liz Truss will accept the Queen’s invitation to form a new administration.

The “kissing of hands”, as it is described in the court circular will happen, even though nowadays it’s a handshake.

The sense of continuity that the Queen is so renowned for will again be on display, even if the ceremony is happening in what is, in essence, her holiday home.

I don’t think anyone involved would begrudge the fact they’ve had to deviate from the usual travel plans, obviously because of the respect they have for the Queen but also because of the more subtle message her role in the handover will convey.

At a time when there have understandably been concerns about her health we will again see how even at 96 years old she is determined to carry out her official responsibilities.

And that’s particularly important right now. At times of political uncertainty, and with the cost of living crisis, some still see her as a steady, reassuring presence.

In the past, there was a reluctance to talk about change and transition when it came to the Queen’s duties.

That has been replaced by a more common sense approach within the palace.

Yes, plans will have to be adjusted and yes, at times they will have to tell us about it.

But all so that the Queen can keep working, at a pace that is sustainable for her, and today that will mean that once again she can carry out one of her most important constitutional roles.

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