When it comes to newspaper headlines, the Queen’s Speech risks being as big a damp squib as the weather in London today. The Government can make a strong case that it contains important legislation to improve the lives of the most vulnerable – children in care and prisoner recidivism, to name but two important pieces of social legislation that could have transformative effects.
But it won’t do much for headline writers who crave more clashes and personality politics when writing about the antics of Westminster.
So why, one wonders, has the Prime Minister insisted on having a Queen’s Speech while ducking the obvious opportunity to garner positive media headlines?
Well it’s all about timing. He wanted a Queen’s Speech now – a month before the EU Referendum – to prove to middle of the road voters inclined to vote ‘In’ that his Government still had something important and relevant to say about running the country that didn’t include the Europe word. He needs the silent status quo brigade to be bothered to go out and vote if he is to win that referendum and secure his place as Prime Minister for the next few years.
But he wanted to keep in his back pocket some new policy initiatives that have the power to reunite the Conservatives after the vote. Hence veiled references in the Queen’s Speech, but no detail, on a ‘Bill of Rights’ which might well be the centrepiece of policy announcements after polling day on June 23 – all designed to demonstrate that his Government has not run out of steam after the exhaustive campaign.
As for Labour, there will be plenty to knock, the climb down on forcing all schools to become Academies, and that lack of clarity on measures the Government have long promised to bring forward.
But for all MPs at Westminster, today is a distraction from the big political story – that Referendum. Because until we know the outcome of that, David Cameron does not know whether he has a Government to lead and Labour and the SNP don’t know quite which set of Tories they need to attack.