Dan Jarvis Says Public Would Take A 'Very Dim View' If Ministers Leaked Queen's 'Brexit' Conversations

Dan Jarvis MP
Dan Jarvis MP
Laura Lean/PA Archive

Former soldier and Labour MP Dan Jarvis has criticised the apparent leaking of the Queen's private conversation that has led to claims she backs the UK leaving the European Union.

The ex-paratrooper, touted as Labour's next leader, said "most of the public" would take a "very dim view" of a "senior government minister" who made the conversation public.

He was asked to comment on the claims that Justice Secretary Michael Gove, one of the most senior government figures campaigning for "Brexit" at the June referendum, is the source of the leak to The Sun.

In an interview with The Huffington Post UK last year, Jarvis said he "proudly" sings God Save the Queen and hailed the "value" of the Royal Family following the furore over Jeremy Corbyn's silence during Battle of Britain commemorations.

On the role the Royal Family plays with the forces, he said: "It’s right that when soldiers come back from operational commitment they are received by a member of the Royal Family rather than a politician. In that sense, I think the Royal Family add a lot of value to our country."

The Sun's front page on Wednesday (above) and The Daily Telegraph front page on Thursday (below), suggesting Michael Gove was The Sun's source

The newspaper, whose "Queen Backs Brexit" front page on Wednesday is now infamous, today continued to defend their story in the face of denials from Buckingham Palace and Nick Clegg, who was reported to have prompted the monarch to "let rip" over fears of the direction the EU was heading.

Friends of Gove have denied he leaked details of the conversation, which is thought to have occurred five years ago.

The Queen is supposed to remain neutral, making both her true views explosive. But unveiling details of private meetings breaks royal protocol.

As the rest of the press sought the paper's source, The Sun editor Tony Gallagher said his team was "completely confident" it was accurate and said the paper "knew more than we published".

He denied the paper had overwritten its headline, which suggested the Queen's five-year-old remarks amounted to her wanting Britain to leave the EU in the June referendum.

"We knew much more than we published and that remains the case," he told the Today programme on Thursday. "Two sources came to us with information about the Queen and her views on the EU. We would've been derelict in our duty of us to not put that in the paper.

"It's as simple as that. The fact the story is inconvenient for a number of people is not my fault. We serve our readers, not the elite."

Presenter Mishal Husain probed him on the headline, arguing the story, which claimed the Queen had said the EU was "heading in the wrong direction", did not support it.

She pointed out that the palace complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) is under Clause One of its code that prohibits headlines "not supported by the text".

Gallagher said: "You're going to have to take my word for it that we're completely confident the Queen's views were expressed exactly as we've outlined in both the headline and the story.

Tony Gallagher said The Sun 'knew more than we published' about the story

"It is also the case that we knew much more than we published and that remains the case. We are in no doubt that the story is accurate."

He also said there was a "second occasion", as well as the 2011 lunch attended by Clegg, where the Queen had made "similarly scathing remarks".

Husain pushed Gallagher over whether the Queen's alleged comments, said well before an EU referendum was even announced, could have amounted to her backing Brexit.

Gallagher said this was "semantics" but Husain insisted it was "entirely different". "There are plenty of people who were disparaging five years ago who are backing for the UK to stay in the EU," she said. Gallagher replied that the state of the eurozone and the European Union in 2011 suggested someone with Eurosceptic views then, would back a Brexit now.

Gallagher would not give details of the second incident where the Queen was said to have made anti-EU claims, saying it would trigger an "absurd mole hunt" among the rest of the press.

Today's papers have named Gove, who is backing a Brexit, as one of the Sun's possible sources.

The Daily Telegraph reported Gove, who was Education Secretary at the time, had "refused to deny" it.

On Today, Gallagher told Hussein: "You wouldn't expect for a single moment to reveal anything about the sourcing of a story... Those of a cynical mind might think there's an attempt to take Michael Gove out of the Leave campaign."

Clegg has denied he was the source and said he cannot remember the conversation. He said: "I've no recollection of this happening and its not the sort of thing I would forget."

The Sun's political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, who wrote the piece, called this a "non denial denial," a term used by journalists to describe an attack on a story that does not actually refute its assertions.

Labour MP Wes Streeting has written to the cabinet secretary asking for an inquiry. "Let's see what comes back," a party spokesman said.

Chris Grayling, Leader of The House of Commons, said private conversations with The Queen "should always be kept private".

But Grayling, who is Lord President of the Council, the head of the Privy Council, the role Clegg was fulfilling at the time of his alleged meeting, stopped short of calling for an official investigation into the leak, and instead said the press watchdog was right to look into the story.

David Cameron has also ruled out an inquiry.

He told BBC Sussex: "The Palace has made a very clear statement, the former deputy prime minister has made a very clear statement saying that this didn't happen and I think we should leave it at that.

"There is obviously a proper investigation now being held by the press complaints commission and I think we should let them do their work."