The speech was delivered against the political backdrop of a poor showing for the Coalition partners in last week’s local elections and a surge in support for UKIP who won a record 147 seats. As a result, there had been speculation that last minute changes would be made to the Speech to try and win back support from right leaning voters.
It was interesting to note that on the day Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United, Prince Charles and Camilla were present at the Queen’s Speech for the first time ever. Is this a sign of a forthcoming Dutch style handover?
In a speech lasting just ten minutes, the Queen introduced 20 new Bills, including major reforms to the state pension, long-term care, and the immigration system. There were also Bills aimed at boosting the economy, with National Insurance exemptions for small businesses designed to increase employment. Meanwhile, the Government is pressing ahead with plans to deliver High Speed Rail 2, with the granting of a second round of funding and permission for the Government to make compulsory purchases of the land on the designated route.
What do all these changes mean? Our expert Team, who have cross party experience, have analysed the Speech from the perspective of the three main parties, as well as the Health & Social Care, Education, Planning and Legal sectors. An overview of all of the Bills introduced can be found online here.
JAMES FORD: THE COALITION AT HALF-TIME: NO CHANGE IN TEAM STRATEGY
James Ford is a Senior Adviser at PLMR, as well as an Adviser to the Digital Chamber of Commerce at the London Chamber of Commerce. James was formerly an aide to Mayor of London Boris Johnson (2010-12), specialising in transport, environment and digital policy. Prior to joining City Hall he worked in the Square Mile as Public Affairs Manager for the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2004-10).
In a move that will probably be interpreted as an effort to clip UKIP’s wings, immigration took centre stage in the Queen’s Speech today. Although the speech was written in advance of last week’s local elections, Conservative strategists had been anticipating the UKIP surge for several months (and certainly since the Eastleigh by-election). Coupled with measures on welfare reform, the Conservative’s objective is clearly to court popularity with blue-collar voters whilst simultaneously forcing Labour to make difficult, uncomfortable decisions.
With just 20 Bills named in the Queen’s Speech, and no real surprises amongst them, it is clear that the Government’s message is ‘steady as she goes’ on the economy rather than any suggestion of a change of direction or ‘re-launch’ for the Coalition. With the far-reaching proposals on social care, pensions and childcare costs, the devil is likely to be in the detail and these Bills are likely to be major battle grounds between the Government and Opposition over the coming months. However, if the Government can cut childcare costs, prevent people having to sell their homes to pay for care, and make progress on reforming pensions then they will have addressed popular concerns over the cost of living and have a compelling story to tell voters at the next election.
As is always the case with the Queen’s Speech, what is not announced is often as telling as the list of planned Bills that the Queen reads out. Over the remaining lifetime of this Government the Conservative leadership is likely to face sustained pressure from its own backbenchers to accelerate progress on the promised EU referendum in order to counter the growing threat UKIP poses. However, with the Lib Dems likely to veto any effort to legislate on the timing of a referendum it is hard to see how Number 10 can answer these calls. Dropping plans to legislate on both minimum alcohol pricing and plain packaging for cigarettes – however controversial – seem easy way to attempt to placate backbench disquiet. How effective this strategy will be remains to be seen.
ROS TRINICK: THE “SAME OLD TORIES” CAVE IN TO THREAT FROM THE RIGHT
Ros Trinick is an Account Director at PLMR and leads one of PLMR’s Teams working on some of our most important health and social care, professional services, planning and ICT accounts. In her private life she is a Member of the Labour Party most recently campaigning in Sheffield in the 2010 General Election. She has also presented on community radio, appeared on Al Jazeera television commenting on PR, and spent time volunteering in Africa.
As they begin their reply from the Dispatch Box, we will no doubt hear claims from Ed Miliband and his Front-Bench Team that today’s Queen’s Speech represents “the same old Tories”.
Despite some bold statements from the Coalition on issues such as immigration and housing, the Queen’s Speech failed to address reform of the living wage, youth unemployment and how to kick-start the economy – all easy attack points for Miliband to exploit this afternoon.
There’s no doubt that having taken the current political temperature, the senior coalition partner was acutely aware of the threat from UKIP and their recent successes in the local elections. Certain issues included in the Queen’s Speech, such as the Immigration Bill, proposed restrictions to accessing care from the NHS and welfare for EU migrants are a clear indication of the Coalition’s fear of losing a proportion of their vote to Nigel Farage’s ascendant Euro-sceptic party.
When thousands of young people in the country are long-term unemployed or ‘under-employed’, Labour has already stated that with another two years in office, the Coalition has already run out of ideas for how to help those most affected by austerity. Although the measures outlined in this Queen’s Speech are unlikely to win or lose the General Election for any of the major parties party, the failure to address key issues will surely hurt the Coalition partners.
Furthermore, the omission of reforms regarding the improvement of the living wage will undermine Government rhetoric that it is ‘on the side of the hard-worker’ with many people failing to enjoy a standard of living that should result from their being employed.
This Queen’s Speech proves that the Conservatives have been forced to appeal to unruly backbenchers and supporters of UKIP, yet fails to address the real issues that will affect both voter intention and livelihoods come 2015. David Cameron has made much of the ‘global race’ Britain is in, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Labour contending that the Coalition are clueless as to how to win said race.
STEVEN GAUGE: IT’S WHAT’S LEFT OUT THAT MATTERS MOST TO LIB DEMS
Steven Gauge is a Senior Consultant at PLMR and spent the last two general elections on the road managing media events in battleground seats for Nick Clegg and Charles Kennedy. He has served eight years as a local councillor, award winning election agent, parliamentary candidate and was also Chief Executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
<style=”font-family: arial,=”” helvetica,=”” sans-serif;=”” font-size:=”” 12px;=”” “=””>Lib Dem spin doctors will be pleased to have shoe-horned their spring conference slogan into the opening few lines of her Majesty’s gracious address this morning (stronger economy fairer society) but will be less pleased to see the word “Immigration” in a rather larger font in the newspaper headlines tomorrow morning. In fact they are probably hoping that Alex Ferguson’s resignation pushes the whole sorry business off the front pages all together.
It’s hard to get credit for keeping things out of the Queen’s speech, but that so far has been the Liberal Democrat main strategy. Nick Clegg was keen to be personally associated with blocking the “Snoopers’ Charter” from this session’s legislative programme. The Deputy Prime Minister took a real battering from his party over his stance on Secret Courts. He will hope to have restored his reputation for protecting civil liberties with the liberal wing of his party with this minor victory in the coalition horse-trading.
However, the price for frustrating the Conservatives on one issue is a long series of difficult conversations with his troops over coming months as they attempt to reign in the excesses of the Conservative focus on immigration. Liberals tend to be rather in favour of free movement and cultural diversity and will not enjoy any moment of the anti-immigration onslaught that has been lined up by her Majesty following UKIP’s success in the local elections.
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary candidates know only too well that the next election is two years minus one day away. Some will be clutching at straws like the Intellectual Property Bill aimed at protecting innovative small businesses or the prospect of new legislation to recognise carers better and cap the costs of long term social care for the elderly. However on the day when one of the leading football managers of a generation retires, it feels like we might be settling in for a frustrating, low-scoring second half of this coalition government. The Liberal Democrats will be playing a very defensive game trying to block the Conservatives from scoring a crowd-pleasing goal on the immigration issue and waiting anxiously for the final whistle.