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Wednesday, May 08, 2013 

The cavalcade of idiocy rolls on.

If there's one day a year when it's impossible not to be proud to be British, it has to be on the state opening of parliament.  No other democracy can lay claim to such an awe-inspiring spectacle: the grandeur, the opulence, the incomprehensible and the entirely risible.  We might be behind most other countries when it comes to small things like having a democratically elected second chamber, but who needs a senate when you have a ceremony which involves a gentleman with a black rod entertaining the head of state? And what could be more quintessentially British than asking a 87-year-old woman to put on her finest rags, plonk a regal hat on her head that weighs about the same as a small bag of potatoes and then read out the political equivalent of a ridiculously vague shopping list, only rather than being on paper the list is inscribed on goatskin vellum? The European parliament can't even begin to hold a candle to the mother of them all.

To drop the irritating sarcasm, there can't be a better example of what can only be described as the cretinous decision to carry on with the state opening in its current form regardless of Brenda's advancing age than how even Fergie is deciding to jack it in at the end of the season.  He's 71, for comparison's sake. If we can't just dispense with the entire stupidity, then surely Charles can take the place of his mother, as is happening at the next meeting of the Commonwealth.  He is after all ever so keen to prepare for his kingship; let him announce how his mummy's government "is committed to a fairer society where aspiration and responsibility are rewarded".

Chaz would doubtless approve of the tone of the speech, if not with some of the policies (it's doubtful he approves of HS2).  If you thought George Osborne had overdone it a bit in the budget with the nonsense about how it was all for those "who want to work hard and get on", then it's probably best to avoid a television tonight, as those responsible for writing Queenie's sermon went off the deep end.  Hard work this and hard work that; those who do will be properly rewarded, not with a living wage of course, or a cut in VAT, or anything that might actually help with the cost of living, but indirectly through the continuing crackdowns on those not doing "the right thing".  Never mind, sheer aspiration and responsibility will get you there in the end.  Look at the example set by Dave's inner circle, all there purely on merit, achievement and hard graft.  What more inspiration do you need?

As for the proposed bills themselves, they're a mixture of the piss weak and the stuff that's been talked about for months already.  There's very little to object to in either the care bill, which introduces the Dilnot proposals, albeit with the cap set higher than he advised, or the pensions reform act, although we can quibble about why those who've never had it so good will be getting a further increase when everyone of working age suffers.  More objectionable are the "offender rehabilitation" bill, which will see the probation service part-privatised and those sentenced to under 12 months coming under supervision for the first time, which isn't necessarily a good thing when it's the likes of G4S and A4E that'll be "helping" them not to reoffend, and the latest in a long line of crime/anti-social behaviour acts, which looks set to further infringe on the rights of teenagers to be seen in a public place, while also holding whole families responsible for the actions of one member.

Then we have the immigration bill.  It's come to something when someone so closely associated with Cameron as Ian Birrell is denouncing this latest piece of nonsense in the most virulent of terms, but such is the point we've reached thanks to the panic over UKIP.  How many times does it need to be said that immigrants pay far more in than they take out, or that you can't make things harsher for those who few who are claiming benefits without doing the same for those born here?  For a government supposedly dedicated to reducing the burden of red tape, it has no qualms about imposing more on private landlords, who will somehow be required to check whether those renting aren't here illegally, without explaining how this will work in practice.  Are landlords meant to be the newest arm of the Home Office? Doesn't making illegal immigrants homeless increase the potential problem rather than reduce it? We can't deport every single one, as the Liberal Democrats said at the last election.  Even more concerning is the potential limit of 6 months JSA for those resident elsewhere in the EU if they can't prove they have a chance of finding a job.  Something so obviously discriminatory can't possibly be legal, unless as mentioned above it was introduced across the board.

Whether it's a good thing or not that neither the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol or requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packets made it in is debatable.  I've long doubted something so easily dodged as making strong booze more expensive would work in practice, although evidence suggests it's had an impact in Canada.  Nor have I ever believed that the packs cigarettes come in somehow persuade people to start smoking, yet if the industry is so vehemently opposed to it then perhaps there's something there after all.  Much as I loathe the hypocrisy behind making smokers pariahs when the government benefits so massively through heavily taxing them, and the cigarette model is the obvious one when it comes to decriminalising drugs, it's exceptionally difficult to feel the pain of those who in the end profit from giving people cancer. Politically, dropping both probably makes sense for Cameron.

Does it though for Clegg? This is an overwhelmingly Tory set of bills, with very little indeed for Nick or the Lib Dems to boast about.  Clegg has also failed to fully kill off the "snooper's charter", which can still be resurrected and doubtless will be considering the lobbying of late from the security services.  As this is also likely to be the last Queen's speech before the election, it provides a dismal summary of just what they've achieved in the coalition.  As for the Tories, today just reinforced how they intend to fight the election: by blaming the continuing dire state of the economy on Labour.  Everything that's still deemed to be wrong or unreformed will be Labour's fault, and all they'll do if you let them back in will be to borrow more.  The party that demands everyone else take responsibility continues to accept none itself.

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Why won't there be a Queens Speech in 2014? Or do you think there'll be a no confidence vote before May 2015?

Well, we'll see. The way things are going there isn't going to be any legislation worth debating next year, and there are plenty of bills that have been held over this time. And considering how the Tory backbenchers are demanding an EU referendum right this instant, something the Lib Dems simply aren't going to countenance, it isn't out of the question that the coalition falls apart before this time next year.

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