Spokesperson says PM is merely attending services and never intended to do walkabouts with new monarch
No 10 moved to pour cold water on reports of a proposed tour of the UK nations by Liz Truss with King Charles, claiming she had never intended to accompany the monarch on walkabouts.
The description of the tour over the weekend suggested Downing Street was planning for Truss to accompany the new king on engagements in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – which had raised some eyebrows among MPs and the opposition.
“It’s not a requirement, but the prime minister believes it’s important to be present for what is a significant moment of national mourning around the United Kingdom,” the spokesperson said.
On Sunday, Downing Street moved to underline that Truss would only be attending services of reflection in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
“The king is leading national mourning across the UK and the prime minister will join and attend the services,” a No 10 source said. “The PM is not ‘accompanying’ the king and it is not a ‘tour’. She is merely attending the services.”
Over the weekend, newspapers had reported the pair would “tour the UK” and Truss’ spokesperson had stressed her presence was “not a requirement” but that she felt was important to be present to offer support. The Telegraph said the mini-tour, called Operation Spring Tide, would include them greeting members of the public.
First ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, as well Northern Ireland’s first minister designate, Michelle O’Neill, will attend the memorial events in their respective capitals.
Ministers have started tentative conversations about whether to cancel parts of the party conference recess in order to make up time for parliamentary business – including passing the new energy bills relief package.
Truss will face a nightmarish schedule for parliamentary business in the days after the funeral on Monday 19 September, with parliament set to rise for recess on Thursday 22 September. The prime minister was also planning to attend the UN general assembly that week in New York.
Labour insiders have voiced fears that the government could attempt to enforce parliament sitting during parts of their annual conference.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have made the decision to go ahead with their annual conferences, which begin at the weekend after the Queen’s funeral. But both parties are expected to request that fringe events and receptions are toned down, without raucous celebrations.
One senior Labour source said the party was determined to press ahead but said party chiefs would meet in the coming days to agree guidance about how the events should ideally be conducted. “I don’t think the public would see it as proportionate for us to cancel our conference,” the source said.
The Labour conference’s opening day on Sunday is expected to have its agenda amended to include tributes to the Queen. Labour insiders said they were “relaxed” about allowing fringe events discussing republicanism to go ahead.
Conservative party officials are also expected to meet to discuss guidance for the events – including the final night karaoke party which is often attended by cabinet ministers. One senior Conservative said they anticipated the tone of some political attacks may also take on a more tactful approach.
The Liberal Democrats have cancelled their conference which was due to start on 17 September and would have clashed with the date of the funeral.