King’s Private Secretary strategically seated next to Starmer in move that could cause political tension

King Charles and Keir Starmer

King Charles and Keir Starmer at Tuesday evening's State Banquet

Cameron Walker

By Cameron Walker

Published: 25/06/2024

- 21:00

Updated: 26/06/2024

- 08:27

The King and Queen hosted the Emperor and Empress of Japan on Tuesday evening

The King’s Principal Private Secretary, Sir Clive Alderton, has been seated next to Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, during tonight’s State Banquet at Buckingham Palace.

Sir Clive is responsible for maintaining an open line of communication between the King and his Government.

In contrast, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been seated next to a British computer scientist, Dame Wendy Hall.

Nine days out until the country votes in the General Election, the latest opinion polls suggest the Labour Party will win an overall majority, meaning Sir Keir Starmer is likely to become Prime Minister on July 5.

King Charles and Keir Starmer

King Charles and Keir Starmer at Tuesday evening's State Banquet


The seating arrangements for State Banquets inside the vast ballroom of Buckingham Palace are rigorously planned, and tonight’s event is expected to give Sir Clive Alderton and the Leader of the Labour Party an opportunity to engage in a lengthy conversation.

This week’s Japanese State Visit has been adapted by Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office, mindful of the General Election period.

His Majesty the Emperor of Japan will not be making the traditional visit to Downing Street, and will not address politicians in Westminster Hall.

A Japanese foreign official has said this week’s State Visit is a chance to forge “friendly relations across generations” and is not political in nature.

Keir Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with his wife Victoria attend the State Banquet for the Emperor and Empress of Japan


When the Prime Minister called the General Election, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “Following the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon calling a General Election, the royal family will, in accordance with normal procedure, postpone engagements that may appear to divert attention or distract from the election campaign.

“Their Majesties send their sincere apologies to any of those who may be affected as a result.”

The Japanese State Visit, already postponed once due to the coronavirus pandemic, was deemed appropriate to go ahead with some adaptations.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, is also attending the State Banquet.

King Charles and Queen Camilla

King Charles and Queen Camilla hosted the Japanese Emperor and Empress on Tuesday


Kemi Badenoch

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch attending the State Banquet


A number of Government ministers are also in attendance including Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, Business & Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, and Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden.

On July 5, the King will ask the leader of the political party with an overall majority in the House of Commons, unless there is a hung parliament, to form a Government.

During Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign, there were no incoming State Visits during a General Election period.

In 2017, a Spanish state visit was rescheduled because the dates clashed with a snap election in the UK.

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