Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A few thoughts on the Queen's Speech...

So council seat losses left, right and centre (including in Cameron’s own constituency), senior Lib Dems thinking of pulling out of the coalition agreement early and a situation where the two parties appeared to be agreeing that each would drop their policies in exchange for...well, the other also dropping their policies (the imagine of this manner of coalition government continuing, with continued policy shedding until all that is left of the coalition is Osborne and Alexander sharing a copy of the Financial Times is highly amusing) ; that whole Tory-Lib Dem coalition thing is going excellently, isn’t it?

But the timing was excellent; the Queen’s Speech; a perfect opportunity for the government to redeem itself by laying out its key proposals for how it would improve the lives of currently dissatisfied British electorate.

And there was a promise to establish a Green Investment Bank, measures to “ensure supermarkets deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers”, promises of banking regulation and increasing the flexibility of parental leave (and if we’re looking at general positives of the speech, might as well mention the foreign policy promises; although “we don’t like nuclear proliferation and like the spread of democracy” is not really a stance that anyone’s likely to disagree with).

There was also the symbolic but still meaningful promise of modernising the governing succession to the Crown (although, and I may just be being really ignorant about constitutional law here, but the need to “take it forward”, implying a gradual change, rather than, well, just do it, seems slightly odd to me), which is...well, quiet nice. Not all that helpful for most people’s lives, but it should be done, and it’s good that they’re planning to.

A bill to “reduce burdens on charities” is no bad thing; although a funny proposal from a government that has recently decided to tax charitable donations. Promises to ensure energy prices are “fair”, again, are clearly good in theory; but what fair means to the Tories in comparison to most people’s understanding of the word, and how exactly they intend to ensure prices are fair, has yet to be seen.

Beyond that, however, this speech was at worst bad and at best bland.

Of course suggestions we should help children with disabilities and special needs are positive suggestions, but given the government’s current record on disability benefits and funding to education for kids with special needs them implying that they want to help these children...unless it’s followed by a real policy U-turn are nothing short of disgusting.

That “legislation will be introduced to reduce burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation and to limit state inspection of businesses” is genuinely worrying in terms of workers’ rights. Of course, the exact legislation will need to be seen; it may prove fine but the implications of this statement are a serious cause for concern.

Legislation will be introduced to reform public service pensions in line with the recommendations of the independent commission on public service pensions.” ...because, clearly, the coalition, thus far, has been so excellent and fair in their attitude to public sector pensions, I’m sure this legalisation will continue to be so!

Above all, however, it is not what the bill says, but what it does not; where is the plan for jobs and growth? How does this speech show any kind of departure from what the government is doing at the moment? It doesn’t. The economy re-enters the recession and the coalition ploughs on with their economic strategy. Surely by doing the exact same thing, they’ll produce a different result this time! Because that is in accordance with all logic!

House of Lords reform is, apparently, after much dithering, still going ahead. I’m...not going to talk about my opinions of House of Lords reform here, because they’re somewhat against the general left-wing grain and I think might require a full blog post...but my own opinions aside, it’s just so...we have massive unemployment and an economy that’s going no where. And the government has no real plans to fix this. But they have plans to introduce House of Lords reform! Making a real difference to people’s lives in hard times, right there!

Individual voter registration seems like nothing but a cheap political move; when turn out as low as it is why on earth should we make it harder for people to vote? Labour will need to respond with a massive drive to ensure our voters are registered; those who require postal votes especially.

Ed Miliband was probably the best I’ve ever seen him in the Commons today. He was really funny (from yougov to penguins) but also really strongly on message; really clear about the problems with this speech and with this government. Cameron’s attempts at rebuttal were poor (and his attempts at humour even worse...); increasingly he has shown himself to be an over-schooled and under-skilled Etonian in his ability to hold this government together (and his claim that Labour did “nothing” during the financial crisis deserves a brief mention for its sheer historical inaccuracy...).

Aside from settling the will they won’t they question regarding House of Lords reform, this speech, then, this speech was mostly just...rather a time when the coalition needed to deliver something spectacular.

So well done, Cameron.
Well done, Clegg.
Clearly this whole thing’s proved to be a match made in heaven.

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