Donald Macintyre's sketch: The Queen proves she’s a pro, and Lib Dems leave happy
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 04 June 2014
It’s unsurprising that the Queen didn’t miss a beat when a page boy fainted during her Speech.
As in: “[My Government]… will work towards a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.” Thump, “the United Kingdom will lead efforts” etc.
If you’ve done a State Opening of Parliament where the 80-year-old Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, no less, keeled over while holding the Sword of State, (as in 1968) –there’s not much that can stop you from getting the job over with.
As she must be keener each year to do. It’s no fun reading out such semantic atrocities as “Legislation will allow for the creation of an allowable solutions scheme to enable all new homes to be built to a zero-carbon standard...”
That said, had there been some Royal red lines? Take “A key priority… will be to continue to build an economy that rewards those who work hard.” You can imagine the calls between Buckingham Palace and No 10 as the drafts shuffle up and down the Mall. “Look old boy, I’m sorry, but HM simply isn’t going to say the words: ‘hardworking people.’ Even with the hyphen you chaps seem to have abolished.”
“But the PM sees it as key to our core message. Frankly, given the other gibberish she’s got to read out, it doesn’t seem much to ask.”
“Well no means NO.”
“Oh all right then, but we must have a ‘long-term economic plan’ in the first sentence.”
“You must be joking. It’s just a Tory slogan.”
“But my master will go ballistic.” “Well he can say it himself when he gets up in the Commons.” [He did. Five times.]
“This is our final offer: ‘My Government’s legislative programme will continue to deliver on its long-term plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society’.”
“But the last seven words are a Lib Dem slogan!” “So?”
The Commons star was Tory backbencher Penny Mordaunt, who pointed out that she was the first woman to propose the Loyal Address since Lady Tweedsmuir 57 years ago, when Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell “said he was unable to respond to any of her points” such was “the distraction of her soft, attractive voice – and [because] she was rather easy on the eye”.
Cameron scored a point off Miliband, pointing out that his strictures against “sedentary” interruptions by MPs were being stubbornly ignored by Ed Balls. But Miliband scored one back, suggesting – at his own expense – that having taken part in ITV’s Splash, Mordaunt should try “wrestling a bacon sandwich live on national television”.
Cameron then made the same joke – adding a hasty “as the Leader of the Opposition said” – suggesting he hadn’t pre-read his script very carefully. None of this overshadowed the day’s big question: Is the Queen a Lib Dem?
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