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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Interview with Jim Callaghan
Jim Callaghan
Jim Callaghan

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Now the Queen is of course a constitutional Monarch with no direct political power but she has a great deal of political experience, so far she's had ten Prime Ministers and I'm joined by two of them, Sir Edward Heath is here at Buckingham Palace, another part of the studio complex, good morning Ted.

TED HEATH: Morning.


TED HEATH: Glorious morning.

DAVID FROST: Isn't it heaven, absolutely bliss. And Lord Callaghan joins us from near his home in Sussex, Jim are you there?

JIM CALLAGHAN: I am David, good morning.

DAVID FROST: Good morning to you. People talking there about, Jim, about ten Prime Ministers, do you think that the Queen's role has changed from when she was a fledgling Queen to such an experienced Queen, do you think her role has grown over the years?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Yes I think her role has developed because she has matured and developed, there is no doubt about that but society too has changed, one of I think the most interesting things that the Queen said in her address to Parliament when, when the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker gave their addresses was that, was that Parliament and the Monarchy must always continue to evolve, that was the first thing she said.

DAVID FROST: And that obviously she believes and they've evolved over the years, do you think the Monarchy will continue to evolve?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Oh of course, constitutionalism is bound to continue to evolve and we shouldn't try to restrain it, there will be a natural process of development, we, Parliament will continue in its role and indeed will develop it as it wishes to do so because Parliament is in the end supreme and, and the Queen recognises that.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of your experiences with the Queen, you said on one occasion that she offered you, and offers any Prime Minister, friendliness but not friendship?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Well I offer her respect, admiration and affection and I, I, I'm sure that is quite sufficient.

DAVID FROST: I'll be back with you in a moment Jim but going to Ted, do you think the Queen's role has changed over the years as she's become more and more experienced?


Ted do you think that the Queen's role has changed over the years as she gets more and more experience?


Another gremlin it would seem there, another gremlin...coming back now to, to Jim, to you down there, how does the relationship work, what are the occasions once a week, usually on a Tuesday afternoon or whatever, Tuesday evening when it can be arranged there, how does it work, the relationship, what makes it work?

JIM CALLAGHAN: I think the, the sense of constitutional propriety that the Queen always has in her relationship with the Prime Minister and of course the reverse is also true, that we, each of us knows what are the limits of constitutional propriety, it has been instilled into the Queen since her early youth and it is always obvious in her relationship to all of us. That is the important thing, of course there is then a degree of friendliness and a degree of intimacy because two people can't talk to each other every week as they do without acquiring certain characteristics and those come to the surface and I, I find the whole conversation with the Queen a very useful, valuable, interesting and enjoyable experience.

DAVID FROST: And in terms, a number of Prime Ministers have said that in fact one of the great things for a Prime Minister is that the Queen is one of the few people she can, he can, you can hear her, she can hear you but you know it will go no further, that in fact the thing is in confidence and that for a Prime Minister surrounded by people who'd like his job is invaluable?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Absolutely the, the Queen can say things that she wishes to say to you knowing that nothing will be said and the contrary is also true. I find that absolutely invaluable because a Prime Minister, you know, can be quite a lonely position in certain circumstances and it's very valuable to be able to talk intimately to the Queen and to get reactions from her. Of course you don't always get the right reaction that you expect.

DAVID FROST: Absolutely right, well we're going to fearlessly make another attempt to reach to Ted Heath and I'm, I'm supposed to shout here, can you hear me Ted?



DAVID FROST: Hello, wrong number, the, can you hear me Ted?


No, well now, I don't know whether you can hear but what makes the relationship work between the Prime Minister and the Queen, what makes that relationship work apparently so well?


Right well there's clearly nothing coming through there, I don't know what the gremlins are up to and obviously we continue in the tradition of Labour Prime Ministers by returning to Lord Callaghan and of course there is a, a Labour Prime Minister we, we know in office at the moment. It's said that Labour Prime Ministers tend to relate to the Queen even better than Conservative ones, do you believe that tribute Jim?

JIM CALLAGHAN: No, no, of course not, I think the Queen understands the constitutional proprieties perfectly well and the relationship between her and all, all the Prime Ministers is the same but you're asking me about the, about the Queen's way in which, she expressed herself, I once said to her about of difficult problems I'd got, I don't really know how to handle this in the course conversation, I don't know what I should be doing, it's difficult to make up my mind, what do you think? And the Queen looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, and said that's what you're paid for. And I thought that was a perfect answer.

DAVID FROST: And, and in fact do you think that through the years we will still have the bills, the bills sent to Royal Assent, the Queen's Speech and so on, or are they things that may evolve out of existence, what do you think?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Yes I don't think they'll evolve out of existence because as the Queen said in her address to Parliament, we are a mature and pragmatic democracy, there's no doubt about that and we are a moderate people and that is why people, that is why I think the Crown will evolve in a, in a pragmatic way and that I think is a sensible way in which it should happen.

DAVID FROST: And in her speech where the Queen sort of definitively said she was carrying on serving the nation, sort of clearly putting aside any thoughts of abdication, did you, did you welcome the putting aside of any thoughts of abdication?

JIM CALLAGHAN: Absolutely, I have never thought 25 years ago when I was Prime Minister I was always, if I were asked to express my views there should be no abdication, it is still my view. The situation hasn't changed since 1977 in that particular respect but it has changed in almost every other, our society is going to continue to evolve, that means that the, that the relationship between the Monarch and Parliament and the whole constitutional process will develop because you see what people always recognise and what those who wish to see a republic don't seem to recognise is that the, is that the, that this institution depends on a popular consensus and this is the popular consensus that you are seeing in the Mall today, in all the crowds and the, the Jubilee fun that's going to take place. And as long as that popular consensus continues to exist and as long as the institution continues to evolve then the situation will remain.

DAVID FROST: Jim thank you very much indeed for those wise words, we really appreciate your joining us today and thanks a million.

JIM CALLAGHAN: Tell Ted I'm sorry he wasn't there.

DAVID FROST: I will, we'll tell Ted afterwards, we'll have to give him a particularly large breakfast to make up for a wasted journey this morning. The words of Jim Callaghan. And the sight of Edward Heath.


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