Queen’s speech – A fragile government demonstrates its divisions

Certainty, consensus and complimentary. The beginning of the Queen’s Speech attempted to demonstrate how May will govern. Yet only one of those words will possibly apply, consensus, but as the DUP have made clear over the past few days May’s ability to build a consensus looks weak at best. Her ability to establish a consensus within the Conservative Party at least, will be vital to her holding onto No. 10.

As expected the Queen’s speech was watered down, essentially it equated to situation whereby if a policy could annoy anyone at all it would be left out. Hence, we have seen triple lock reform omitted, the fox hunting free vote omitted and grammar schools omitted, I could go on. This represents our new situation in politics, the Conservative Party now know they must change course to stay electable with Labour no longer being the party of the working classes, but more importantly with the slimmest of majorities (even with DUP support) passing controversial reform would be unthinkable. Members like Heidi Allen MP, Anna Soubry MP and others now hold as much power as the Brexiteers as their rebellions also can defeat government.

On Brexit the speech demonstrated the clear divisions within the Conservative Party, the cabinet and government departments as Leavers and Remainers are forced to work together. British fisheries, controls on immigration and an independent trade policy were all mentioned to keep the Brexiteers happy, but Hammond got his way as well. There was clear commitment that jobs and the economy as a whole would be protected in the negotiations, a clearly successful demand from Hammond shows now how ministers will demand they be allowed to do it their way instead of May instructing them how they should handle policy.

Away from Brexit, unfortunately key areas in our society that need reform were barely mentioned in the Queen’s speech. Social care reform is one, it has been whittled down to a consultation, but right now social care reform and funding increases are desperately needed across society and not just for the elderly. However, social care is now the poisoned chalice for the Conservative Party. The manifesto pledge has created floodlights for any further proposals and they know the fight back against anything other than correct and sustainable funding will be visceral. Yet reform is still unlikely despite the strength of the argument for it, the government’s focus is now on two things. Firstly, it will be on staying alive, every crisis and every vote will be a threat to the government and even their team is falling apart, both the deputy policy chief and policy chief have left No 10 this week. Secondly, Brexit, it is the defining negotiation for this country’s future, it rightly is the most important issue but it shouldn’t have become the only issue. May’s ever dwindling political capital is now not only changing how Brexit will be negotiated but creating a hemmed in Prime Minister unable to take anything on. For context, there are 27 bills proposed for the next two years, many of which cover Brexit, in 2015 Cameron proposed 51.

Meanwhile, there were some notably positive legislative commitments, at least something survived the manifesto. International development aid will stay at 0.7% of national income and armed forces spending will stay at 2% of GDP. Further to this was a welcome pledge for a domestic violence commissioner and a commitment for a public advocate for the victims of the Grenfell fire and any other future tragedies. Oh, and thankfully Trump isn’t coming over any time soon. But this will be overshadowed, whilst worthwhile, these merits will not dominate the headlines and will not stem the flow of criticism for May.

Ultimately the most important debates and speeches will come in both chambers in the next few days. The answers from ministers will gave greater clarity than already provided but the narrowness of the Queens speech has already set out the stall for the next few months at least. May will always be in a state of simply hanging on. The Queen’s speech was the best representation of not the emboldened government May so desperately sought but the weakened shell it has become.


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