Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Unremarkable Queen's Speech

This Queen's Speech had all the stench of a government in decay and on the way out. Listening to the stream of ministers talking it up on Five Live, you would think the government was still hugely popular, the prime minister is at the peak of his powers and that the bills in the Queen's Speech were spectacular in their audacity. None of these three descriptions is remotely true. They know it, we know it, and - more to the point - so do the voters.

Two themes dominated this Queen's Speech. The first is "talking tough". John Reid and Gordon Brown have been trying to "out-tough" each other over recent days. Older readers will remember the nouveau riche Brummie personified by Harry Enfield as "considerably richer than YOW". His modern-day equivalent is an aspirant Labour leadership candidate whose constant refrain is: "I'm considerably tougher than YOW". The Home Office bills being put forward in this parliament certainly give John Reid an opportunity to perform and reinforce his authoritarian reputation. But, as we saw from the last session, he will not have an easy task in taking the House of Commons with him.

The Conservatives have proved to be unlikely allies for Shami Chakrabarti and Liberty, but they have successfully stolen Labour's civil liberties clothes. John Reid believes he is in tune with the mood of our times. He believes Labour's message of "Security in a Changing World" is one that resonates with voters, who will understand if sometimes their individual rights are infringed. But the Conservative retort may well prove to be an enduring one. They accuse Reid of talking tough but never following through on the headline-grabbing initiatives he announces on a seemingly daily basis.

The 11th criminal justice bill in nine years will give him further opportunities to "mug a hoodie". He will contrast his tough stance with the apparently soppy line put forward by David Cameron. As David Davis' ex-chief of staff, I think I am in a position to make clear that Davis won't let him get away with it. The immigration paper published by Davis and his immigration spokesman, Damian Green, last week was a masterful way of putting forward a policy based on softer rhetoric but tougher policy. Reid was caught unawares and rushed round the TV studios to denounce it, yet in the Queen's Speech he is putting forward measures which he denounced only a few days ago.

The climate change bill is perhaps the most interesting of the 29 contained in the speech. The Conservatives and Lib Dems have allied themselves with the green lobby and are calling for annual targets. David Miliband sticks to his 60% reduction by 2050. All parties conveniently ignore the fact that these targets are completely meaningless unless India and China address the issue of climate change. By 2050, their economies will be emitting more greenhouse gases than the US does now.

Bearing in mind that pensions is a subject which instantly sends most people to sleep, I wonder if this might be the area of most controversy over the coming year. I detect little sign of a cross-party consensus on the way ahead and the government's proposals are bound to provoke reactions, not just from the opposition, but from their own supporters. The pensions bill will also give John Hutton a chance to shine. If, as is rumoured, he is considering a tilt at Gordon Brown, here's the perfect platform from which to do it.

And that brings me on to the second theme which dominated the Queen's Speech - well perhaps not a theme, more of a cloud.This is a nothing Queen's Speech. It is a safety-first speech dominated by the desire of an outgoing prime minister to appear as if he's still in charge, and the intention of an incoming prime minister to ensure that people think he is.

And in that short sentence, one can see how the next year will pan out in politics. Everything will be seen through the prism of Tony Blair's departure and Gordon Brown's arrival. And for those of us who continue to be fascinated with the political process, it's going to be quite a year.

This article was written for CommentisFree yesterday.


Anonymous said...

If Bliar Gordon 'no mandate in England' Browns unnacountable tartan 'right hand' will be enough to defeat Cameron and win the Labour regime the next general election the he has another thing coming!, Brown may be Prime Minister, but not for long!.

It's always important to remember too that the Conservatives WON the general election in England LAST time around, but thanks to other countries with their own national governments we still have the labour regime (mis)ruling England - or as they now call it:

"The Regions of Britain".

Anonymous said...


If Bliar *thinks* Gordon 'No mandate in England' Brown...

Anonymous said...

sadly an equally dismal reply from Cameron.Both the main parties are more concerned with spin rather than substance.

I cant decide whether Brown or Cameron would be a "better" PM;perhaps least worst is what we should aim for.

It's like trying to settle the precedence between a louse & a flea.

Anonymous said...

To be fair Iain they have done their bit for recycling. Yet another organised crome bill.

I fisked it on my blog but forgot to mention borders controls which were in our manifesto last time around as well.

Anonymous said...

That wasn't the queen that I was expecting.

Anonymous said...

"at some point you'll come within the reach of a big clunking fist..."

This Bliar speech to me is a real positioning opportunity for Conservatives; an opportunity to differentiate themselves from this increasingly authoritarian Labour government - think "iron fist"...

Anonymous said...

Iain I agree one hundred percent with your description of the next year- it does look like a transitional year where everyone is just watching as to when Blair will go. The thing about the civil liberties angle is that with David Davis as home sec you could never accuse the Tories of not being tough- but talking about civil liberties enables them to appeal to people who never would have voted Tory before. I think they are putting the argument rather well.

On the environmental issue- don't you think there is another argument for diminishing reliance on fossil fuels and that's the geopolitical one- ie that if we don't we increasingly depend upon Russia nd the middle East for vital supplies, so the more we move away from that the better in terms of foreign policy we are able to articulate independent priorities and extricate ourselves from an extremely dodgy region and the clasps of some unpleasant governments.

Little Black Sambo said...

"Everything will be seen through the prism of Tony Blair's departure and Gordon Brown's arrival. And for those of us who continue to be fascinated with the political process, it's going to be quite a year."

And for those of us SICK TO DEATH of this gang of crooks, and DISAPPOINTED with chubbychops Cameron it will be an utter waste of time. Still, I'm glad you find it entertaining.

Anonymous said...

"Both the main parties are more concerned with spin rather than substance."

Agreed. And all three out-of-touch with the voters.

There is indeed a stench of something in decay and on the way out. But it's not 'a government', it's the very fabric of our democratic system.

neil craig said...

To repeat what I said on the climate change thread because I think it important - if the Tories combine with the LDs & Michael Meacher's pals to force a mandatory annual 3% CO2 cut through Parliament they will make economic growth impossible, indeed permanent recession probable. I don't think that wise.

Anon - the Conservatives did not win the election in England, they only got more votes. Because of the FTPT electoral stitch up, which the Conservatives support, Labour got a lot more seats so they won.

Anonymous said...

"will also give John Hutton a chance to shine"

Was that a joke? That bloke makes John Major seem exciting.

AnyonebutBlair said...

Very very dispiriting. Is this all we have after almost a decade of NuLab in power? Just more vacuous soundbites and criminal justice bills that achieve little other than red-top headlines. I'm amazed the Queen didn't blush to read out such utter and transparent tosh like "My Government will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system" or "My Government will take forward legislation to reform the welfare system and to reduce poverty." (er, how?) or best of all "Legislation will be introduced to create an independent board to enhance confidence in Government statistics" (i.e. nobody believes anything we publish anymore). Who writes this shit?

Anonymous said...

Sounds more like a public brainwashin than a Queen`s Speech. This year`s brainwash:
you will be drowned by melting icecaps unless we tax 4x4 gas guzzlers out of existence and you will be blown up by illegal immigrant terrorists unless everyone has a biometric ID card. Sadly, a lot of people seem to believe this twaddle.

Anonymous said...

"And for those of us who continue to be fascinated with the political process, it's going to be quite a year."

To quote THGTTG - "Expect the unexpected."
Or in the words of Supermac - "Events, dear boy, events."

Got a feeling that this next year is going to be fascinating, yes - but not in the way that the pundits expect. More like a slow-motion car crash, probably. There are too many loose ends flapping about for peace of mind, domestic and international, any one of which could upset any number of apple-carts.

Plus when (if) the moving van arrives at No.10 the new occupant will want to show that he's firm, decisive and totally in charge.
Oh dear. More cock-ups guaranteed there then.

Anonymous said...

Of course absolute power and so forth but what exactly else could explain the complete descent of TB as a human, politician and leader. It's clear it's not a party thing. I'd love to know when he took his first shilling or when it all started to go downhill.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to make remarks on the unremarkable ?

Anonymous said...

Apparently Labour has introduced 300 Acts of Parliament since 1997.

What has it all been for?

Anonymous said...

I thought the ad on TV last evening was more amazing, asking people for their ideas, they clearly have run out of their own !!

Anonymous said...

The 60% target is meaningless whether or not India or China reduce their CO2 emissions. Either way, in either state of the world, it will make a negligible contribution to curbing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The only rational thing for Britain to do is to be a free-rider on India, China and America's actions, whatever they are.

Anonymous said...

No need to wait for 2050 - the International Energy Agency warns 'China overtakes the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 before 2010'

See press release at:

Bob Piper said...

If the queen was blushing over this, she must have been squirming in her incontenance pants when she was asked to read out important Tory measures on the Cones Hotline. God how we laughed, but I bet the Tories on here used to phone up every day and report a new cone. The funny thing is, a Cones Hotline almost seems like it was invented for the boy Dave. What a pity he will never get the opportunity to introduce one.

Philipa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It does not matter whether David Cammeron the Greens Socialists The Lib/Dems and or Uncle Tom believes in man made and man cured globle climate change. Because on this matter what will be WILL BE.

Its the only new way this and the next government is going to fund the 45% of the nation that now directly or indirectly "works" for the government.

No one is going to get elected on the basis of getting shot of the jobs of countless floating voters in very important places.

They cant yet tax having sex with your own partner. It sadly would not yield too much cash if they could. So taxing the air that we breath is all that is left to any potential British prime minister.

I dont think that a spiv like Cameron believes in anything except getting and staying in power. If you are a Conservative like me this is just as well.

Dont Panic

He is not going to stay in power by REALLY destroying the British econemy by doing anything serious about CO2 immitions, and no other leader of any other industrialised nation is going to either.

But the extra cash will come in very handy.