Already you will have read from the right wing press that the first solely Tory Queen’s Speech in nineteen years was a triumph or a tour de force or something else equally spectacular. The left wing press have meanwhile described it as the end of modern Britain. So I shall endeavour to clear the smoke.
I’ll start with the stuff we knew was coming. The EU referendum will happen before the end of 2017. On an interesting note, Philip Hammond popped up this morning saying that Britain will vote to leave the EU if there’s no treaty change. Given that Cameron is aiming for a no treaty change package in order to have the referendum early, this comment would have to count as rather unhelpful to his party leader. Either Hammond’s going off piste or he’s doing the worst ever version of bad cop to Cameron’s good. Given that Cameron tends to rewards bad behaviour with promotions, Hammond doesn’t really need to sweat it either way.
The big surprise was the trade union “opt in” doozy. You have to hand it to Cameron on this one: he’s really not messing about. As someone who feels that the trade unions have far too much power over the Labour Party, I’m all for it. Perhaps it will actually be beneficial to Labour in the long run, or at least beneficial to whatever the alternative to the Tories is in ten years time. The unions were right in there with their usual “the Tories are taking Britain back to the (insert random year here) with this” trope. Guys, no one’s listening, particularly given you explicitly want to take Britain back to the 1970s yourselves. A Labour source to the Telegraph described the whole thing as a “stitch up of the funding process”. If you don’t like it, why not advocate a state funding system then and be done with it?
We were expecting big public service cuts, particularly in welfare. However, the benefits ceiling has been lowered from £26k to £23k. That’s pretty much it on welfare reduction for now. It’s not exactly Rand Paul like in its state slashing, is it? Couple this with raising the free childcare amount for three and four year olds to thirty hours and it’s all starting to feel positively Scandinavian. How the hell Osborne is going to cut the deficit while pursuing this policy agenda having promised no income tax, VAT and NI increases for the next five years, will be interesting to watch.
There was some flat out Tory silliness, obviously. The ban on legal highs (so they’re not really legal anymore are they?), the whole snoopers malarkey being more North Korean that we even thought, a complete fudge on the constitutional stuff. But at least what would have been the crown jewel in this folly, the repeal of the Human Rights Act, has been shelved. Cameron knew it was both logistically as well as politically impossible. Hopefully this has been put on hold for good, but we’ll see.