Leading article: An unwanted legacy, and a promise unfulfilled

Share

This year's Queen's Speech had a strangely perfunctory quality, which seemed to match the fractious mood of MPs. Part of the difficulty was that whenever the Queen spoke the words "my government" - as she frequently must in a speech introducing the legislative programme - this reminded everyone that today's Prime Minister will no longer be Prime Minister when the parliamentary session is out. And this left a question: was this untidy set of Bills, with its emphasis on national security and criminal justice, really something that Tony Blair saw as adding distinction to his political legacy? If so, it was a big disappointment.

Mr Blair came to office as a moderniser with an ambitious programme of reform. But he leaves with an alternately lacklustre and repressive programme that will not even be complete by the time of his expected departure. As leaders of both major Opposition parties noted, many people find this rather unsatisfactory. "Power without responsibility", the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, called it.

For the Conservatives, David Cameron neatly contrasted the hopes that a forward-looking Mr Blair generated 12 years ago when - as he refrained from saying - he held a position equivalent to the one Mr Cameron occupies today. Sir Menzies, in excellent form, spelt out the unacceptability of any attempt to extend the period of detention without charge. Mr Blair had asked for cross-party understanding on this, suggesting that 90-day detention was again in his sights. Sir Menzies declared that his party would again oppose this.

This was a Queen's Speech overloaded with trophies for the Home Office. If the planned legislation goes through, we will see the eighth Terrorism Bill of this government's tenure and the 24th Criminal Justice Bill. For Mr Blair to argue, as he has done before, that tougher anti-terrorism legislation is necessary because the police and security services judge it to be so was disingenuous. The duty of the Government is to weigh what is in the country's interests; this may or may not coincide with measures the law-enforcers would like to see.

We have misgivings about anything that curbs civil liberties or threatens the judicial rights of ordinary people; there were plenty of such measures on display yesterday. Abolishing juries in serious fraud trials could set a dangerous precedent. The march of ID cards goes on, and new powers are envisaged on violent crime and anti-social behaviour. The sickly Child Support Agency is finally to be put out of its misery: but why was it allowed to become such an expensive failure?

The Climate Change Bill was a disappointment of a different kind. For a Government that boasts of its green credentials and sets so much store by targets, its failure to set annual targets for cutting carbon emissions is regrettable. The 60 per cent reduction stipulated for 2050 may look ambitious, but it is, for the Government, conveniently far away. Mr Blair's subsequent strictures about the need to set environmental considerations against energy security made the Government sound at best half-hearted about climate change.

If climate change received short shrift, the Iraq war was dealt with in a fraction of a sentence, which promised to "support the new Iraqi government in its efforts to build an enduring constitutional settlement". Yet it was Iraq, and tributes to the latest British casualties, that set the subdued tone for yesterday's debate. Iraq is descending into anarchy, as the mass kidnapping in Baghdad so graphically showed. Iraq and the terrorist threat it has fuelled are also part of the reason for the Government's preoccupation with security. Iraq cast a pall over this State Opening of Parliament; it, too, is the enduring part of Mr Blair's legacy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique pers...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rachel Reeves is the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary  

What are we voting for? No one knows

Stefano Hatfield
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor