Sides of the Story – The Queen’s Speech

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Facts of the matter

So it’s that time of year again when Busy Lizzie wanders into Parliament to inform us of her Government’s plans for the next year. This being Britain, there’s an appropriate amount of pomp and ceremony for the sake of tradition and tourism – think of it like Matriculation, but sunnier.

There’s crowns being carried round on cushions, a man called Black Rod (which is hilarious) having the doors to the Commons shut in his face, and Nick Clegg looking mournful at the destruction of his political credibility. All this is, of course, normal in Parliament.

The headline act was the economy: banking reform, a green investment bank, and cutting of regulations to aid competition. David Cameron called it “a speech to rebuild Britain”, Ed Milliband called it a “no hope” speech, and Nick Clegg didn’t say much that anyone noticed. Clegg’s last big policy – reform of the House of Lords – made it in as the 13th bill to be announced. Also sneaking in near the end were reforms of defamation law, pensions and the water industry, and a bill allowing the limited use of closed courts for trials with national security implications. Not included were discussions about gay marriage, private funding for universities, or regulation of lobbyists. Stirring stuff.

Laugh-a-minute

A fantastic week for columnists, with correspondingly numerous points of view presented. Upsettingly for those of us hunting the ridiculous, many were startlingly sensible. The ever-glorious Daily Mail, however, duly provided in an hour of need with Quentin Letts’ frankly bizarre piece. Headlined “Queen’s Speech: Philip maintained a terrific, garden tortoise grimace as he listened”, he starts by questioning who was more tired out of the Queen and her Consort (they are both well over 80, poor dears), and wanders rapidly off into incoherence from there. It reads much like the drunken essay you thought was daring and witty until, reading it the next morning, you realise is barely comprehensible.

Voice(s) of reason

With Lords’ reform, a listless Coalition and the non-appearance of gay marriage dominating the media – especially given the incumbents’ hammering in the polls last week – the BBC’s James Landale provides a neat bit of perspective. “Queen’s Speeches take time. They are the product of a lot of negotiation within Whitehall. And they get signed off many days in advance.” In no way is this speech a reaction to the recent election results. Similarly, this week is just the start. “The Queen’s Speech is a mere skirmish compared to the combat to come’.

Which is a prim BBC way of saying that this long, bizarre ceremony has next to no influence on whatever last-minute reforms the government will actually throw into Parliament. I’d always assumed the monarchy wanted to remain in government, but seeing the Queen get drawn into the drudgery of parliamentary politics, I wonder whether they even care.

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