If a week is a long time in politics, a year is an eternity. The mood music around this year’s Queen’s Speech couldn’t be more different to that just twelve months ago. This time last year a buoyant David Cameron, re-energised by a surprise majority victory, set out an ambitious legislative programme in the first fully Conservative Queen’s Speech for almost twenty years.
One year and ten U-turns later, the weight of one of those early decisions hangs heavy around the Prime Minister’s neck. The Queen’s announcement of an in-out EU referendum last year was greeted with almost hysterical fanfare as Ministers hailed victory for democracy. It’s fair to say it hasn’t inspired much positivity since.
We were warned to expect an altogether lower-key affair today, as David Cameron seeks to push the narrative away from the internal warfare consuming his party towards what he wants to be his legacy: compassionate Conservatism and greater social cohesion.
As expected, a legislative programme aimed at improving life chances for all has been set out. It is hard to criticise measures to speed up adoption, improve schools and reform prisons – especially when placed alongside innovative plans to modernise infrastructure and safeguard against extremism.
The PM was warned not to attempt anything that could prompt another uncomfortable volte-face. Consequently there were few surprises, though plans to reform higher education may cause controversy – and proposals for a Bill of Rights will be furiously contested.
Of course, it would take a strong Labour Party to capitalise on any inconsistencies – and the jury is still out on whether Jeremy Corbyn can mount a strong opposition to his first Queen’s Speech as Leader (there has been no official response at the time of writing). Labour MPs will be watching carefully, though their hands are tied by the views of their local members.
A lot can happen in twelve months and how this year’s legislative programme will fare is hard to call – especially considering that the nation Her Majesty addresses in 2017 may be led by a different Prime Minister, and may – politically at least – be cut off from the Continent.
Edelman has produced a briefing note to guide you through key takeaways from the Queen’s Speech. To read our full analysis click here.