Editorial: Watch for Ukip in the Queen’s Speech

Now that the Queen's Speech is given in spring, the shadow of other elections – for local councils, for the European Parliament – hangs more heavily

Share

For centuries the State Opening of Parliament was associated with the gunpowder, treason and plot of early November. So it will take more than a couple of years to get used to the Queen’s Speech coming around at a time when the days are lengthening, rather than shortening, and the long summer recess seems just around the corner. Already, though, it is possible to glimpse a drawback to the change. The shadow of other elections – for local councils, for the European Parliament – hangs more heavily than it would at another time of year. The risk is that short-term political calculations start to exert undue influence on the Government’s programme. 

This year, regrettably, could be a case in point. With the success of the UK Independence Party in last week’s county council elections, the signs are that the Conservatives are feeling the pressure and being tempted to rearrange some of the Coalition’s priorities accordingly.

One central feature of tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech was expected to be reform and simplification of the state pensions system – a move which is as welcome as it has been slow in coming. But the way in which the Pensions minister reminded voters about this Bill yesterday was by disclosing that those living abroad would no longer qualify for a spouse’s pension. Nor, it transpired, will spouses resident in the UK; men and women, married or single, will qualify for individual pensions. But was the decision to release this partial angle designed to appeal to those drawn to Ukip by its xenophobia? The minister, Steve Webb, said not.

But this change, which will save a tiny fraction of the pensions budget, is not the only aspect of the Queen’s Speech, as it has been “spun” in advance, to address the state’s supposed generosity to non-citizens. There are expected also to be measures, set out in an Immigration Bill, to restrict foreigners’ rights in regard to deportation, as well as curbs on certain  benefits. If this is designed to bring the UK into line with general European practice and prevent abuses, that is one thing. If it is a presentational tactic intended to dilute the appeal of Ukip, then ministers’ bluff needs to be called.

An innovation will be new rights for carers – but only to ask local authorities for help, not to receive it. There will also, it seems, be key omissions. While the Government has already backtracked on minimum alcohol pricing and plain packaging for tobacco, it may also duck out of legislation to fix foreign aid at 0.7 per cent of GDP. This does not mean that the Government will abandon this target in practice – merely that it will not be statutory. Not legislating, though, would look very like a late sop to the Tory right and to Ukip.  

One question worth asking tomorrow is: what would this Queen’s Speech have looked like without Ukip’s recent rise? In other words, how far has Ukip, a party with no MPs, 12 MEPs and even now only 150 local councillors (out of several thousand), been allowed to dictate policy to a scared Prime Minister? People vote differently in local and general elections. They vote differently in mid-term from full-term. The last election produced a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The Government should not, and does not need to, behave as if it were in a three-party arrangement with Ukip.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone