Diary: So why is the Queen still waiting to speak?


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The Independent Online

The poor old Queen must be wondering how many days in her diary have to be kept blank while her ministers send out confusing messages as to when the next Queen's Speech is to be held.

This event usually happens once a year, in November, or else immediately after a general election. The most recent was on 25 May 2010. By next week, two Novembers will have slipped by, and we still will not know when Her Maj. will come to Parliament to strut her stuff once more.

The decision to delay the Queen's Speech seems to have come from out of nowhere. It was not part of the coalition agreement thrashed out in May 2010, but was arrived at later. No one outside the government was consulted, Lord Wallace, a government whip admitted in the Lords earlier this year.

Two weeks ago, the leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, announced that the Speech will be in May. That was promptly contradicted by Lord Wallace, who told the Lords that Sir George meant to say 'in the spring'. The day before, Sir George fell into line by telling MPs "I am not in a position to confirm a specific date."

On 6 February next year, the Queen will have been on the throne for 60 years, so she is not going to want to be reading out a political speech near that day. It cannot be done in the run up to the local elections, because the Speech would then be a political broadcast for the coalition parties, which would seem to rule out holding it before 3 May. Another three weeks, and the coalition will have managed the unique feat of keeping her waiting for two years.

Cameron fails as a used car salesman

One of the most effective political posters of all time was devised by John F.Kennedy's campaign team in 1960, featuring a shifty looking Richard Nixon over the caption, "Would you buy a used car from this man?"

The people who run the on-line market craigslist have commissioned a YouGov poll to see which of the best known world leaders have the Nixon look. The result, I am afraid, is not brilliant for David Cameron.

He did okay when respondents were asked from whom they would most want to buy a used car, though he was below Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. When they were asked from whom they would least like to buy an old charabanc he was down at the bottom, only just ahead of the now deposed Silvio Berlusconi.

Tory triumph lost in a cloud of CS gas

A meeting in a coffee shop in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, last May was a triumph for the local Tories when their leader, Frances Roden, persuaded an Independent, Ray Apperley, to join the group and give them the one vote majority they needed to retain control over Stroud District Council. They were so pleased that they made Council Apperley the council's deputy chairman. But it has all turned sour. On Thursday night, it was announced in Coun Apperley's absence that he is stepping down after a police raid on his home which led to his arrest for possession of two canisters of CS gas. The councillor said he imported them from Poland to protect his home against burglars, and did not know he was breaking the law.

Revealed: the curse of Steptoe

The veteran scriptwriter Alan Simpson cleared up a small mystery for me when met we met at an "Oldie" lunch this week. Reading Hansard for 24 July 1962, column 1254, as one does, I came upon a cryptic exchange between Dr Donald Johnson, Tory MP for Carlisle, and the Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins. Dr Johnson was complaining about an offensive 'epithet' or 'expletive' heard on the BBC, and wanted the government to take action to ensure that it was never broadcast again.

This discussion was interrupted by another MP who complained that he did not know what Dr Johnson was talking about, but the Speaker, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, ruled that no explanation could be forthcoming because it would involve "unparliamentary language".

But what was this appalling word that could not be repeated in the Chamber of the House of Commons? I learn that it was uttered in the closing second of an episode of Steptoe and Son called The Piano, written by Ray Galton and Simpson, in which the heroes become so frustrated in their efforts to move a piano that an exasperated Harold Steptoe exclaimed that it could "bleeding well stay there!" Yes, he actually said "bleeding", on BBC television. You can see why it was ruled 'unparliamentary'.