Today’s State Opening of Parliament led by Her Majesty The Queen represented Theresa May’s first Queen Speech as Prime Minister, one that could quite possibly be her last.
8 weeks can be a long time in politics.
If you can cast your mind back that far for so much has happened, this was a time when Theresa May held unrivalled popularity, ‘Brexit meant Brexit’ and the weather was of a bearable temperature.
Yet, here we stand in this strange new political world where Jeremy Corbyn is some kind of political messiah, despite having lost, and Theresa May looking anything but strong and stable , despite having the most MP’s in Parliament.
Of course that doesn’t tell the full story, because 8 weeks ago no one had heard of the Democratic Union Party (DUP) and Theresa May certainly wouldn’t have imagined that she’d be dependant on their 10 MP’s support to guarantee getting a Queen Speech through the House of Commons.
But the ultimate result of all this was that today’s Queen Speech was as much about what was not in it than what was.
A break in tradition
Something instantly noticeable was the pared back nature of this years ceremony with there being no Royal Carriage and procession from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament and the Queen choosing not to wear the official robe and Crown Jewels.
Her Majesty the Queen, who wore a royal blue ensemble that had a remarkable resemblance to the European Union Flag and was performing the ceremony for the 63rd time, arrived at Westminster by car accompanied by Prince Charles who was standing in for Prince Philip who had spent the previous night in hospital.
The official reason given for the reduced ceremonial aspect was the proximity of Trooping of the Colour, it being deemed impractical and unfair for the military to practice and perform two major events in such a short period.
But thankfully, one tradition did remain…
Which was the annual heckle to ‘Black Rod’ by Labour MP for Bolsover, Dennis Skinner. Referring to the prospect of the Queen’s latter engagement at Royal Ascot, Skinner quipped;
“Get your skates on, first race is half past two!”
What hasn’t made it?
To underline what a difficult period this will be for Theresa May, many of the flagship manifesto promises from the general election were not included in today’s Queens Speech.
Pensioners will be revealed that there was no mention of removing the triple lock or reverting winter fuel payments to means testing. The government also signalled they would be having a rethink about social care policy after their manifesto commitment had been dubbed the “dementia tax”.
Other notable omissions included;
- The proposal to scrap universal free school lunches for infants has been dropped
- Although energy policy was mentioned, the prospect of an Energy Price Cap as trailed in the manifesto appears unlikely now.
- There was no proposal to review the current fox-hunting ban
Another absence, that became apparent following confirmation of the Spanish Royal families state visit was that the same hadn’t been confirmed for a certain President Donald Trump.
Sources on the Governments side have suggested not to look into this too much, however there were recently suggestions from the other side of the Atlantic that President Trump may have gone cool on the idea of a state visit due to concerns of a hostile public reception.
What did make it in?
The Queen’s Speech contained 27 bills in total that the Government are looking to bring into effect over a 2 year period.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 8 of these related to the process of Brexit, including a Repeal Bill (to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and convert EU law into UK Law).
Other highlights included;
- Space Industry Bill, with a view to granting new powers to licence a wide range of commercial spaceflights
- Travel Protection Bill, which would look to improve protection for holidaymakers
- Draft Tenants Fees Bill, that would ban landlords and agents charging lettings fees
The full details of the Queens Speech can be found below
Returning to Parliament to a chorus of cheers from his own benches, Jeremy Corbyn seemingly empowered by this managed to get his response to last over half an hour, much to ire of many a Conservative MP’s.
Referring to the current Government and their attempts to court a deal with the DUP as a “coalition of chaos”, Corbyn further referred to his own party as “a government in waiting” and repeatedly called for an end to austerity and higher pay for public sector workers.
By comparison, a muted reception from Conservative MP’s and heckles of “resign” from the Labour benches showed just how far from grace Theresa May had fallen.
Still suffering the effects of her own embarrassing election miscalculation and recent criticism for the handing of the Grenfell Tower disaster cast a much more reserved figure than we had been used to from her prior to the election.
Speaking on the west London Blaze, May admitted that the initial response had not been good enough and continued “As Prime Minister I apologise for that failure, and as Prime Minister I’ve taken responsibility for doing we can to put things right.”
For a Prime Minister accused of lacking empathy, these words felt well measured and felt genuine, yet the contents of the Queen Speech (or lack of) really do point to a leader being led by her party (and circumstance), rather than her leading the party.
And with this Parliament being scheduled for an extended period of 2 years rather than the usual 1, taking in the conclusion of Brexit negotiations in the process, the likeness of Theresa May still being Prime Minister in 104 weeks time looks slim.
Then again, if 8 weeks is a long time in politics!