Today’s Queen’s Speech was dictated by parliamentary arithmetic, dominated by Brexit and derelict on manifesto promises.
The lack of detail is testament to a Prime Minister and government under great pressure; unable to press on with their most radical plans and unsure whether they will still be in place to deliver the next one.
The usual pomp and ceremony was 'scaled back' as the Queen arrived without her golden carriage and in day dress. Supposedly due to the lack of time to rehearse. But let’s face it, ceremonial dress and a crown is a little too much for the Royal enclosure at Ascot and 30 degree heat. You have to hand it to Dennis Skinner, he called it with his annual heckle, “get your skates on, the first race is half past two”, and that she did, the full speech lasting just under 10 minutes.
This year’s Queen Speech, the last until 2019, is largely about what’s not in there, rather than what is.
There was no mention of controversial manifesto policies to introduce grammar schools, call a free vote on fox hunting, or the remove of free school meals, despite being launched just one month ago. There was also no confirmation of a visit from President Trump and so we wait with baited breath for his official response ...on Twitter naturally!
The legislative focus was squarely on Brexit with eight out of 21 Government Bills directly related to Britain leaving the European Union. The Government narrative has remained consistent as they continue to commit “to securing the best possibly deal”. However, one new addition to the rhetoric and possibly the only real reference to the outcome of the general election was the line: “to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union”. We test claims about the impact of the General Election on in our latest Brexit blog.
The Government has compromised or abandoned many manifesto proposals. On social care, the controversial promise dubbed “the dementia tax” which pledged to make older people pay for more of their social care has been dramatically toned down. The Government instead committed to bringing forward proposals for consultation. Energy price caps have also been dropped, with price protections being extended for vulnerable customers only. The promise to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was described as ‘no longer a priority’.
The failure to agree a deal with the DUP prior to the Queen’s Speech has limited the Government’s agenda. DUP demands for a £1 billion increase in spending on the NHS and a £1 billion increase in spending for infrastructure payments in Northern Ireland were briefed to the media but are yet to be agreed with Number 10. The deadline for a deal is the 28th/29th June, when their support will be required to win a Parliamentary vote on the Queen’s Speech.
Commentators reflected that if the Conservatives are struggling to agree with 10 DUP MPs than hopes of a good deal with 27 EU member states look worryingly optimistic.