This sensible if unsensational Queen’s Speech is unlikely to shift the terms of debate ahead of the 2015 election

The outlook for the next 11 months remains dominated by the economy

Share

There is, indeed, nothing that we British do better than the pageantry and ritual of big state occasions. The Queen’s Speech ceremony was thoroughly modernised in the Tony Blair years, when the Lord Chancellor was allowed to walk down steps forwards rather than backwards, and Silver Stick-in-Waiting was decreed surplus to requirements, leaving only Gold Stick – Lord Guthrie – and a few score flunkeys and fainting pages.

It was in the New Labour era, too, that the ancient tradition began of putting political slogans in the Monarch’s mouth and of marvelling at the dissonant results. Yesterday, Her Majesty was required to announce that her Government would continue to deliver its “long-term plan”, and to say: “A key priority for my ministers will be to continue to build an economy that rewards those who work hard.”

The ceremonial flummery aside, however, the Queen’s Speech is a chance to reflect on the Government’s prospectus for the future: in this case for the 11 months before the general election. That is why the governing and opposition parties put so much effort into trying to impose a simple, unifying message on what is necessarily a disjointed list of proposed Bills.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg issued a joint statement yesterday in which they asserted that their legislative programme was “unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration”. That hardly covers a 5p plastic-bag charge, for example, but they claimed that the “centrepiece” of the Speech was “ground-breaking pensions reform”. That was a reasonable attempt to pluck a small but significant liberalisation from the bran tub and to use it for symbolic purposes. But it does not really work, because the change is supported by the Labour Party.

Most of the Bills announced yesterday are sensible but not sensational. Many of them are carried over from the previous session. Others are minor tidying-up measures. Some are the minor products of trade-offs between the coalition parties: the Conservatives get a trivial “recognition” of marriage in the tax system; the Liberal Democrats claim credit for increasing childcare support. And one was designed purely to embarrass the Labour Party: the Bill to impose higher penalties on employers who fail to pay their staff the minimum wage.

Overall, the Queen’s Speech hardly shifted the terms of the debate for the long campaign for the general election. The Government is making progress in closing the deficit, and hopes that it will be given credit for having cut it by a third, when it was elected on a promise to have eliminated it altogether by next year.

Ed Miliband’s response to the Speech was a considered one. He adopted a chastened tone, saying that the established parties needed to respond to the views of the people as expressed in last month’s European and council elections. This allowed him to shrug off Tory attacks, chiding hecklers for engaging in the sort of politics that people dislike. Nevertheless, the Labour leader’s tendency to speak in grand terms about “deep problems” of the British economy that go back several decades too often leads him to windy and unconvincing generalisations.

The outlook for the next 11 months remains dominated by the economy and whether the voters judge that the Government has been competent enough to be entrusted with finishing the job.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?