Ben Stetson reflects on the Queen’s Speech and the long road ahead for Boris Johnson
Many people hoped the electioneering would wind down after last week, but the Queen’s Speech propelled it into a whole new atmosphere.
Blue collar conservatism. The party of workers. The people’s Parliament. Returning Prime Minister Boris Johnson has five years to consolidate the coalition of voters that handed him back the keys to Downing Street and it appears he is not wasting a minute. Boris is desperate to show those voters that ‘lent’ him his support that they made the correct decision.
A performance in the Commons that was intended to evoke memories of Churchill, Thatcher and Blair all in one sitting, the list of Bill’s his Government presented to the Queen was intended to be a plan for the decade not just five more years. He has certainly marched his army of supporters up to the top of the hill.
The content of the speech was not unfamiliar. Many of the Bills were a manifestation of the vague principles laid out in Conservative Party Manifesto. The Government has opted to enshrine its spending promises on the NHS in law alongside a loose commitment to examine the structural challenges in the health service.
Housing remains top of the agenda as the long-standing key to unlock political capital. Boris has followed suit with a very Theresa May-esque approach to the private rented sector coming down on the side of consumers. All the while, Boris has promised a discount for ‘local people and key workers buying a first home’. Details to follow. Eventually.
Familiar ambitions were also accompanied by crowd pleasers like the Pensions Bill which seeks to build the mother of dashboards. Campaigners were delighted yesterday to see the Her Majesty announcing the return of the Domestic Reform Bill. The Queen’s Speech also played to another caucus of the campaigners on the right of his party: commitments to repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act were received well on the Conservative benches.
Opposite him was a worn leader on his way to the exit door. Credit to him, Mr Corbyn stuck to his key messages threatening the sale of the NHS and watering down of consumer protections. Although, no matter what he attempted, it felt there was only one real Opposition party in the House yesterday.
The Scottish National Party’s burgeoning bloc holds a strong hand – and they are playing heads up. Nicola Sturgeon and its Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, have no qualms about signalling to everyone in London what they believe the right course of action is in Scotland. Sturgeon wasted no time in publishing a new paper about Scotland’s right to choose to galvanise those potentially latent supporters north of the Border.
Boris Johnson can tout his mandate in Westminster as much as he pleases but he will need an answer, or an olive branch, soon to placate the SNP.
Twenty-four hours on and Boris is out campaigning again the Commons to Get Brexit Done. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will pass its Second Reading and he can start wrapping his Christmas presents. The General Election might be over, but today’s legislative process marks the beginning of a very new campaign.