Perhaps most notable about the Queen’s Speech earlier today was that which was omitted, rather than that which was included. No mention of the manifesto pledges on fox hunting, grammar schools, the triple lock on pensions, free school meals or the Winter Fuel allowance, only highlights the weakness of Theresa May’s government, not being too controversial to ensure that she can keep her job as Prime Minister.
Out of that which was included, most significant was that on Brexit and our future relations with the European Union.
My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union. My ministers are committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, business and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union.
Incredibly vague, this tells us very little about Mrs May’s, Mr Johnson’s and Mr Davis’ specific aims for the negotiations, such as that about the environment as Caroline Lucas pointed out. The ‘best possible deal’ is certainly not the hard Brexit, outside of the single market and customs union, that was advocated by the Conservatives in the lead up to the General Election. It is also not no deal, which would force the UK onto WTO rules, decimating the economy. Such an outcome would result in 30% tariffs on confectionary goods, 32% tariffs on wine, 9.8% tariffs on cars, 12.8% tariffs on wheat products and, consequently, an estimated annual cost of £9 billion to British consumers. Whilst Mrs May wants to ‘build the widest possible consensus’, she won’t allow there to be consensus on the acceptance or rejection of the Brexit deal through letting the people have the final say rather than the politicians.
We’re also told that May’s government would introduce measures against discrimination, in all of its forms.
My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
The coalition government between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives achieved the legalisation of gay marriage, a brilliant and progressive policy. This was, however, opposed by many of the leading members of May’s government: Michael Fallon (Defence Secretary), David Davis (Brexit Secretary), Liam Fox (International Trade Secretary), Priti Patel (International Development Secretary), Alun Cairns (Welsh Secretary) and David Lidington (Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary). Either Mrs May is not sincere about tackling discrimination or she does not have the power to choose the ministers that support her agenda. Considering that the Conservatives have cut benefits for the disabled, maybe they could begin by reversing their own legislation.
Also included was the issue of Northern Ireland, which attempted to address concerns about the ability of the government to be impartial considering that they are trying to do a deal with the DUP.
My government will work in cooperation with the devolved administrations, and it will work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland to support the return of devolved government.
Perhaps the greater time given to Northern Ireland in the speech is an indicator of its prioritisation for the next 2 years, as Mrs May’s premiership will be at the mercy of the 10 DUP MPs. Against the Good Friday Agreement, the potential confidence and supply arrangement threatens the peace in Northern Ireland. Whilst she may aim to ‘work with all of the parties’, it seems inevitable that the Conservative minority government will end up working with some more than others.
The final part of the speech that I will comment on is that on social care. However brief its mention in the Queen’s Speech, it was one of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto and was also one of the contributing factors to the Conservatives losing their majority.
My ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.
The comment (above) is notably very tentative, not directly addressing the ‘Dementia Tax’. What the ‘proposals’ are remains unknown. As I am watching the Queen’s Speech debate, Norman Lamb has just noted about the gap between the Conservative’s rhetoric and the reality. Whilst they state that they want to improve social and mental health care, the reality is that there are 15% fewer mental health nurses under the Tories, those who have Dementia were threatened by having to pay for their care under the Tory manifesto and the number of those receiving social care services – through local council funding – has fallen by 26%.
The full transcript of the Queen’s Speech can be found by clicking here and if you would like to talk about what would be in your own Queen’s Speech you should visit Liberal Democrat Voice, which is having a discussion about it. There is plenty more to say on the speech, such as about climate change and terrorism, however, I do not have the time nor space to cover everything.