A mixed bag of measures will be the legacy of Mr Blair

Share

The Queen's Speech turned out to be even more crammed with legislation than anticipated. Parliament was promised 45 new Bills - a highly detailed agenda, and one, no doubt, intended to demonstrate that the Prime Minister remains very much in control. Despite this, a disappointing lack of ambition remains at the heart of Tony Blair's government.

The Queen's Speech turned out to be even more crammed with legislation than anticipated. Parliament was promised 45 new Bills - a highly detailed agenda, and one, no doubt, intended to demonstrate that the Prime Minister remains very much in control. Despite this, a disappointing lack of ambition remains at the heart of Tony Blair's government.

We were told that the key theme would be establishing a "culture of respect", which explains the heavy emphasis on law and order legislation. Some is justified, such as tighter restrictions on buying knifes and replica handguns. But too much of it smacks of New Labour gimmickry. The creation of "Alcohol Disorder Zones" to combat binge drinking falls into this category. The problem of anti-social behaviour and low-level violence is growing, and it is often, although by no means always, young people who are the culprits. But the only effective way to tackle this is through better policing, improved schools, and local schemes and facilities for the young. By floating the repellent idea of forcing those on community service to wear lurid uniforms, the Government has shown how far it has swung towards reactionary conservatism.

Indeed, far too much illiberalism was evident. The foolish insistence on an ID cards Bill will constitute a huge test of Mr Blair's authority when it comes before the Commons. It is a contest he deserves to lose, since this scheme would be an unprecedented and wholly unjustified curb on our civil liberties. The Bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred, by curtailing freedom of speech, suffers from this same defect.

One heartening aspect was the absence of any Bill to erode further the right to trial by jury. And the proposed counter-terrorism Bill - which would outlaw "acts preparatory to terrorism" - at least shows the Government has accepted it is morally indefensible to hold terror suspects indefinitely without trial. But it is disappointing Mr Blair continues to try to reform the criminal justice system to suit his flawed "war on terror".

Yet even this was overshadowed by the shameful decision to remove the right of asylum-seekers to permanent residency. Instead, their situation will be "reviewed" every few years. And the draconian mental health Bill - which proposes to lock up many more ill people without their consent - looks set to become law.

So this is the mixed bag of measures that Mr Blair hopes will set his legacy in stone. His best hope of creating a lasting monument remains the reform of the public services. It is perfectly understandable - and indeed right - that he is, finally, seeking to push through proper reforms in education and the NHS, particularly with regard to the private sector. The danger is that he has left it far too late to make the necessary fundamental changes in the way these service are delivered.

For all of Mr Blair's fine talk of radicalism and boldness, this remains a timid, focus group-led set of measures. And several major issues remain unresolved. It is arguable that any important decisions on energy policies had to be deferred until a wide consensus could be established over nuclear power, renewable energy and climate change; but it is disgraceful that Mr Blair begins his third term with no coherent plan to deal with the pension crisis. The same drift is evident in the absence of a commitment to complete the reform of the House of Lords; the half-hearted approach to the second chamber in many ways symbolises the hopes and failures of Mr Blair's time in Downing Street.

Too much of yesterday's speech was devoted to petty gesture politics; too little was concerned with real and lasting reform. It was an inauspicious beginning to Mr Blair's last years in power.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a languages...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past