Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Queen's Speech - Initial Thoughts

For the last time in this the 15th Parliament of her reign the Queen has delivered the words that her Government's wishes. Well after all the pomp and circumstance has led to the Queen taking her seat on the throne in the House of Lords. When Black Rod entered the Commons though it was surprisingly sparsely populated on the Labour benches.

Frank (Oops*) Dennis Skinner shouted out "Royal Expenses are on the way!" in his traditional role as mischief maker in chief. Then all the Members, including the Lib Dems showing they still respect the authority of the crown just not the the content of this speech, followed the Speaker to the other place. But what did the speech contain once they all stood at the back of the Upper Chamber?

Well the main thrust was the economy but how was that to be done? Fostering growth through education and training. International collaboration for Economic Growth and Climate Change (strangely of course the rejection of bring 10:10 to the House recently grates against that, can't get their own House in order). Though they have mentioned their new buzz cleaner fuel Carbon Capture and Storage, but no mention about utilising other renewables and to there was an announcement to help the poorest households with their energy bills. There is also going to be the legislation laid to bring about a high speed rail link between London and Scotland.

Regulation of the financial service industry to be brought in over the governance and benefits that the banking sector currently enjoys. So Gordon Brown is going to sort out the mess of the regulation of the financial sector that he brought in as Chancellor. There was also the vague promise to bring lgislation forward to half the deficit. Wow! That will be a lot to achieve in 70 days, and it is also very wishy washy, it is hardly a line that can be thrown away, yet the speech component of this would be able to fit into a Tweet.

Free personal care, but only to those in highest need. Parents to take responsibility of children's anti-social behaviour, so an even greater tightening of civil liberty you may not be judged by the sins of your fathers but those of your children. This from the Government that wants everybody to work full time, encouraging people off benefits with a stick, so parental supervision is going to be harder to achieve in some cases. 'Continue' to narrow the gap between rich and poor, equality of pay between men and women. Neither of these two have been effective attacked in 12 years of a Labour government surprisingly and now in their dying breathe they want to resolve the issues they have ignored or on occasions made worse over the last 3 parliaments. But there is to be movement on temporary agency workers, something that I've seen first hand for the last 8 years or so and needs greater protection, long overdue.

Constitutional reform, will continue to be brought forward, a democratic mandate for the Lords. Sadly there appeared to be very little in this section of reforming Parliament, not enough to please the people. Though Parliament will work with the Northern Irish to continue the devolution of Police and Law and Order, the one outstanding devolution from the Agreement from the start of Blair's years. There is also a promise of more powers to Wales and a continuation of working with Scotland, I didn't hear anything to implement any of the Calman proposals so Labour are dropping the ball on Scotland, and the Tories are unlikely to pick it up if they take power.

However, how this Government can work towards a world without nuclear weapons while being committed to replacing Trident is something we all want to know. But they are to bring an end to cluster munitions, after 12 years they have finally got around to tyring to deal with one Princess Diana's legacies and do away with landmines.

There is a lot of noble talk but there are some things that are too big to have been left to the end, the Equality Bill for example surely should have been a first term commitment rather than a rump achievement. They are taking steps towards the Lib Dem policy of free personal care. There was some mention of education as well, so the mantra from the pre-1997 election of "Education, Education, Education" is still looking for a resolution over 12 years later, surely some sort of failure of their Prime objective. Lord's Reform is still a draft bill, nothing about fair votes, getting big money out of politics, stuff that could have given a clean bill to the next parliament but no steps in that direction.

These are purely my initial thoughts of what struck me from what was said, as it was being said. I may look at the full text later and pick up some other things.

*May have something to do with the watching the repeat of BBC Children in Need's Frank Skinner narrated Round the World in 80 Days just before sleep last night.


Liberal Neil said...

Frank Skinner was there? Did he sit near Dennis? Are they related?

Matthew Huntbach said...

I have increasingly come to like the pomp and circumstances of things like the State Opening of Parliament, because it is a way of humiliating politicians, showing that they are just playing a role as part of a bigger thing. Having a ceremonial head who is not a politician and is in theory above the PM is, to me, a good thing, it pulls the PM down and shows he is there as a servant of the people, represented by these historical trappings.

Those Liberal Democrats who think politic will be opened up and become more in touch with the people if all this is abolished are just so wrong. Are the meetings of the big corporations where they decide their policy more in touch with ordinary people, less likely to be about diddling them of their wealth and rights because they are done in a utilitarian way with out ceremony?


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