The Queen’s Speech
I don’t know about you, but I feel totally underwhelmed by the Queen’s Speech. Not because most of the measures had already been announced by Gordon Brown months ago. I think it’s simply that I’m totally fed up with the cynicism and dishonesty of politics. I am not blaming only the Labour Party here, but of course, being the party in Government, their acts are more to the fore. In particular, I am thinking of promises that are made with no intention of being kept - you know the type, those that are forgotten as soon as they leave the lips of the speaker.
Vaz: Brown's "employment apartheid"
David Cameron waved a copy of the BNP's May 2006 newsletter at Gordon Brown during their Commons exchanges earlier. The document's headline is "Keep British jobs for British workers". It was shock tactics, but the Tories had a purpose: to make Labour MPs squirm at the Prime Minister's use of a provocative phrase to explain how his economic and immigration policies come together.
Walking into the press gallery, I saw something I haven't seen for ages. Labour MPs animated, laughing, roaring, unfrozen. David Cameron was making the light-hearted speech which follows opening of parliament, and making everyone laugh. "We welcome the climate change bill, and when it comes around next year we will welcome it again". Labour MPs were allowing themselves to be entertained; Showing that it can be done. Sadly for them, Gordon Brown can't seem to do it.
Does Gordon need a Big Vision?
I’ve already given my initial reaction to yesterday’s Queen’s Speech on my own blog, pointing out that while there are some very good things in the package from a progressive or liberal-left point of view, politically the whole thing suffers from the lack of a single “Big Idea” or connecting narrative which would enable Gordon Brown to regain the initiative he lost by not calling an election.
Gordon Brown: ‘Without a vision…
…the people perish’ (Prov 29:18). And so the people waited with baited breath for the Prime Minister to give them an image of the future – the single reason he gave for cancelling an election – and this blessed vision would be the newest of New Labour: distinctive, inspirational, innovative, compelling and convincing.
On hearing Cameron and Brown, I actually believed Brown more!
I watched the Queen's speech debate (or most of it) down the gym after work today and heard some on the radio, and For me, I felt Brown was more believable. It does seem funny that for all Cameron's accusations about brown having no substance, that Brown was then able to give example after example of the Tories and the Tory leader contradicting themselves (sometimes within days of each other) and very much telling one thing to one audience and another to a different audience.
Queen's speech: Brown's launchpad for a 4th term?
Not too many surprises but plenty to debate, dissect and fall out over. However I also think there is plenty here that will resonate with voters. In summary - not flash, just Gordon. In true Ofsted fashion I have graded the main bills as follows:
Ditch the pantomime
The Queen's speech: Gordon Brown should indeed strengthen parliament: by dispensing with today's anachronistic hoopla.
Walls to have ears
We are already a over-surveilled society: new measures to add microphones to CCTV cameras are a quantum step in the wrong direction.
Brown is transforming the meaning of citizenship
Guy Herbert (London, NO2ID): Gordon Brown says he is interested in constitutional change - something that constitutional reformers in OurKingdom and beyond have welcomed. But be careful what you wish for. Under the table, Brown has carried on with a real constitutional revolution, of which ID cards are only a token. What it means to be a citizen is being transformed (it is even called “Transformational Government”). This is happening now. The pace has not slackened under a new PM; while (very probably) you weren’t paying attention, implementation plans (opens pdf) were published on October 10th with the Chancellor’s autumn statement.
A lot of right-wingers are very curious about Liberal Conspiracy. All our favourite lefties and many of our favourite ideological curiosities are there. I think the contradiction that will make it difficult to maintain is that some (I'm thinking Chris Dillow and Gracchi in particular) think "left-liberal" means a libertarian who isn't particularly content with some of the right-libertarian movement's underlying philosophy. Others clearly mean it to be more like an American liberaltarian: Basically a classic statist left-winger with a particular concern for civil liberties.
Bullying isn’t hate crime
I never got around to bemoaning the government’s plans to make homophobic attacks a new “hate crime”. Ever since the idea of religious hatred was outlawed I’ve become increasingly sceptical of this new type of legislation; in most cases it does little more than add a little more public “tut-tutting” to something that is already a crime. In some cases (though in practice not often) it can interfere with freedom of speech and the right to criticise. In many more cases it creates a culture whereby people self-censor rather than risk opprobrium and possible legal action.
The second-class assault victim
Do you remember when the Tories first started talking about the West Lothian question and 'English votes for English matters'? Long before we had Harriet Harman on the airwaves saying it was the death knell tolling on the Union their line was that it would create two classes of MP. Or what about when there were proposals from the Tories for 'Patient Passports'? That would, they said, create a two-tier health service defined by class. Even with all the talk of modernisation, the instinctive criticisms they continue to make still comes down to a matter of class in one way or another. Two-tier systems and multi-class citizens are bad, equitable outcomes are good.
A brewing crisis for the Lisbon Treaty
Belgium has now broken its record for going unadministered and, with the exception of the fonctionnaires and the Royal Family, no one seems to care. Supporters of the Belgian state have been urged to fly its black-gold-red flag from their windows but, other than in the civil service districts of Brussels, you barely see a tricolour. Ordinary Belgians are getting the hang of being without a government. Good for them.