Blogs

Queen’s Speech – Sunny Uplands v 1970s

Amy Fisher

With Labour’s offering being very much from the Left – detractors might say reminiscent of the 1970s – and the Conservatives’, made up of that ‘red meat’ and sunny uplands of a ‘Global Britain’, it’s almost although collectively the body politic is heading towards a General Election about a bygone era.

Mister Pot was certainly reaching for his phone this morning to call Mister Kettle.

It might be seen as pretty rich, really, for Labour to call the Queen’s Speech ‘farcical … just an un-costed wish list’ on the day when it has been estimated that their own plans for wholesale nationalisation (Royal Mail, train operators, water and energy firms) come in at the region of £196 billion – by anyone’s count, something of a large sum.

Given that Mr Johnson’s majority is in the minus 40 region, and the uncertainty around Brexit, is, well, still as all-pervading, criticisms that this is really just an extended party political broadcast, when there is little chance of any of this actually making it into law (with the exception of the cross-party supported carry over Domestic Abuse Bill), might on some level be legitimate. Why not then ‘double down’, and announce a Budget for 6 November, to put some HMT welly behind your proposed domestic agenda?

As a statement of intent, the contents of the Speech are arguably quite an appealing mix. There’s ‘red meat’ for Conservative supporters (longer prison sentences, commitment to spending on the Armed Forces), some ‘people’s priorities’ (a slogan that emerged at Conference – overhauling the rail system, for example) and some areas where the Party is clearly trying to put some popular clear blue water – no pun intended – between themselves and the rest, for example on commitments to legally binding targets on reducing plastics.

There is a real and genuine frustration in all quarters that Brexit has been so all-consuming. Civil servants have found themselves pushed from pillar to post as they get sucked into Brexit planning and contingency planning, or even shuffled around between departments. Ministers have been prevented from delivering core priorities (Safeguarding Minister Victoria Aitkins’ desire for the return of said Domestic Abuse Bill was palpable on Radio Four this morning). And most of the Lobby will tell you in a heartbeat that they are sick to their eye teeth of having ‘nothing’ to write about apart from the ‘B’ word.

So, can this Queen’s Speech put some ‘oooph’ into the domestic agenda? The answer must be that really only in the context of a General Election – with the mood music this afternoon in Westminster being that this will be sooner rather than later.

With Labour’s offering being very much from the Left – detractors might say reminiscent of the 1970s – and the Conservatives’, made up of that ‘red meat’ and sunny uplands of a ‘Global Britain’, it’s almost although collectively the body politic is heading towards a General Election about a bygone era. As the author John Le Carre points out, a ‘politicisation of nostalgia’ about a world that never really existed.

Professor Sir John Curtice has pointed out in The Times today that the country seems to be teetering between a hung parliament and a slim Conservative majority. Whatever the outcome, today signals that the General Election campaigns to get there could be pretty brutal.

Amy Fisher is a Director in MHP’s Public Affairs team. Prior to joining MHP, Amy worked as a Special Adviser in three government departments and is a former Director of Communications for the Conservative Party.