The setting, the parliamentary equivalent of Royal Ascot, didn’t seem right for an allegedly “one nation” Queen’s speech. Do those 40-odd sparkling peers’ wives sprinkled along the red benches actually own their tiaras? Either way, once the Queen had sat down after entering with her modest entourage of pages and about a dozen blokes dressed in ludicrously garish armorial finery, called things like Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary and Richmond Herald (Not a local newspaper but an, er, herald) she – and we – endured what must be the most awkward annual silence on the planet. As Black Rod marched off to fetch the MPs, she stared severely out at us for what was probably about five minutes but seemed like a couple of weeks. We stared back, distracted only by a few highlights in the sea of scarlet ermine.
The Labour peer Lord Winston’s outsized black moustache looking like it was bought off the peg from a theatrical costumier. Baroness Hale, of the Supreme Court – so posh they don’t wear wigs like mere judges – in the kind of flattish hat worn by 16th-century (male) Spanish courtiers. Then Lord High Chancellor Gove, no doubt excited in his full black and gold fancy dress, handed Her Majesty the speech. This written on best goat parchment, of course. Pity about the words.
You can’t help wondering what Her Maj thought doing this chore for the 62nd time. Was she recalling the Harolds, two favourites among her 12 PMs, and reflecting that neither Macmillan or Wilson would have made her read out this grisly pol-speak? “My government… will adopt a one nation approach… helping working people get on, supporting aspiration… continue with its long-term plan to provide economic stability” (she obviously still baulks at actually saying “long-term economic plan”) “take powers to take over failing and coasting schools… .build a Northern powerhouse.”
George Osborne smiled at this as though he’d won a bet that she wouldn’t stumble over such an overworked cliché. “New duties will require my ministers to report annually on… apprenticeships,” she announced with minimal enthusiasm as the country’s Apprentice in Chief, the Prince of Wales, sat impassively beside her, looking out at some of those lucky enough to have received his black spider missives, and wearing almost as many medals as his dad – who did actually serve with distinction in the Navy during the Second World War – and possibly wondering if and when it would ever be his turn.
Back in the Commons, the Speaker scolded SNP MPs for clapping their Westminster leader, Angus Robertson. And grinned and bore it as Simon Burns, the backbencher making the loyal address, which though borderline after-dinner rugby club in style, managed a few jokes about their enmity. Like it wasn’t true that Burns had backed into John Bercow’s car, and the Speaker had advanced on him saying: “I’m not happy,” and that Burns had replied “Then which one are you?”
Harriet Harman warned the PM: “Beware the blond on the zip-wire.” Taking a break from mayoral duties, the blond in question, Boris Johnson, looked as sheepish as he ever does (not very). Later, he yawned as the PM promised immigration curbs. But he stayed till the end, which was good of him.Reuse content