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Wednesday, May 18, 2016 

The cupboard is bare on purpose.

We are but a year into a whole 5 of Tory majority rule, and yet to judge by the thinness of the Queen's speech, it would seem the government is already running out of things to do.  This is admittedly somewhat down to how the Tories have succeeding in piloting some of the worst of their policies through the Commons already, with the Psychoactive Substances Act shortly to come into effect for just one.  Conversely, the list of bills is also slighter as a result of opposition from the backbenches: suitably watered down is the schools bill, from forcing all schools to become academies to merely pushing them in the general direction.

The real reasons for why the cupboard is bare are obvious.  First though, this wouldn't be a Queen's speech post on this blog if I didn't have a moan about the increasingly deranged nature of the spectacle itself.  The Queen is now 90 years old, and regardless of your views on the monarchy, the requirement that she carry on getting dolled up to read out the inane bumpf of her latest government surely can't be allowed to go on much longer.  Should the Tories ever get round to sorting out their bill of rights, making the head of state read out nonsense about improving the life chances of all will have to be designated cruel and unusual punishment.  Dennis Skinner's yearly jokes have already regressed to the point where they are statements rather than attempts at humour; why not square the circle and get the Beast of Bolsover to read the damn thing out?

No, the real reason the speech has so relatively little to raise ire is that parliamentary politics is effectively suspended until June the 24th, by which point it'll almost be time for the summer recess in any case.  Anything that might further incense either the Tory backbenchers or for that matter the opposition, never mind the public, has been postponed until after the referendum.  Sure, a few on the right will hardly be pleased by the proposed prison reforms, especially the idea of some only being locked up at weekends, but they're overwhelmingly likely to be for Leave anyway.

Far more instructive than the contents of the speech itself is the way its been spun.  The BBC News at 10 has led each night this week on prisons, part of an obvious softening up process for what was coming today.  Peter Clarke, former head of anti-terrorism at the Met, author of the main report into the hoax Trojan Horse takeover of schools in Birmingham, apparent friend of the Tories and new independent inspector of prisons was given the kind of platform never previously afforded to Nick Hardwick, in the main to comment on "legal highs" finding their way inside.  High profile reporting into the chaos prisons have been descending into is of course welcome, but is hardly telling the full story unless it makes clear the problems have been exacerbated massively by overcrowding and cuts in funding.  The bill outlined today, aimed at putting into law the proposals previously announced by Michael Gove and David Cameron won't make things worse, but nor will they begin to solve them when Cameron continues to argue against the "idea that reform always needs extra spending".

Whereas just plain laughable is the idea today's attempts at improving "life chances" could ever add up to a legacy for David Cameron.  Quite simply, there's nothing there: no one could disagree with the changes to adoption or the "help to save" plans, they're just overwhelmed by the Tories' on-going contradictions.  The party can hardly be the great friend of diversity David Cameron claims he wants it to be, forcing universities to be open about their admissions while at the same time encouraging landlords and hospitals to be suspicious of anyone with the wrong skin colour or a foreign sounding name.  The party that depicts Sadiq Khan as an extremist, refusing to say London can be safe in his hands cannot be taken seriously on either discrimination or "life chances".

But then Cameron has no intention of his legacy being such things.  The other reason why the Queen's speech has so little for the Tories to shout about is he still doesn't know if he's going to be around beyond June 24th.  If he isn't, he will go down in history for austerity and being the prime minister who through the most abject weakness took Britain out of Europe.  If he is, then he most probably has another year in which to further shape how he will be remembered.  Chancing leaving Osborne, or worse yet, Boris with his legacy legislation was never an option.  Still, should the Leave campaign manage to turn around a seemingly unassailable lead for Remain, then Boris will forever be known as the man who made all porn sites verify their users are 18.

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