HM The Queen has today delivered her speech setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the 64th time, rounding off a fortnight of political uncertainty and setting the tone for potential further instability yet to come.
Today’s Queen’s Speech was the first by a minority government for 40 years following the recent General Election, which saw the Conservatives’ majority slashed from 12 to a deficit of 8. This has left the Party struggling to secure a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party in order to pass the Bills announced this morning and to avoid a vote of no confidence in the Government should it fail to do so.
This was pre-briefed as a ‘stripped back’ Queen’s Speech, with the vast majority of new Bills designed to implement Brexit (a total of 8 Bills have been dedicated to this). Meanwhile the more controversial elements of the Conservative Manifesto have been removed in favour of legislation covering motor insurance claims, financial guidance and tenants’ letting fees. This reflects the Prime Minister’s statement that she would work with “humility and resolve”, in recognition of the broader social context of today’s speech, which comes after the uproar caused by the ‘Dementia Tax’, the Grenfell Tower disaster and numerous terrorist atrocities across the UK.
The task ahead for the Government now – and what this Queen’s Speech is intended to provide – is to prove to voters that it is capable of listening to, and acting on, their concerns. The fact that this will be the last Queen’s Speech until the conclusion of Brexit negotiations in 2019 – notwithstanding another general election in the meantime – makes the Government’s ability to achieve this more important.
A major barrier to the Government’s ability to meet these various challenges now exists in a form that has barely been present for two years – a confident and (mostly) united Opposition party which is keen to present itself as a government-in-waiting. Labour’s relative success at the election has demonstrated the wider-than-expected appeal of populist policies; they are unlikely to shy away from capitalising on this sentiment throughout the debates on the Queen’s Speech.
A strong and stable government would usually be able to stand up effectively to such a challenge. However, today’s Queen’s Speech comes after a significant hollowing out of the No 10 policy team and increased confidence amongst members of the Cabinet to speak up for themselves when they disagree with the PM. All of this, coupled with the lack of a final agreement with the DUP (now expected to be announced tomorrow), means this will be a particularly tricky legislative agenda for the Government to see through.