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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 

The Queen's speech: the worst is here.

My yearly shtick when it comes to the Queen's speech is to bore on about how fantastically absurd the spectacle is.  People in full possession of their faculties walking backwards; the shutting of doors in faces in reference to something that happened during the reign of Ethelred the Unready; Lords and Ladies done up as though they're going to an especially classy fancy dress keys in the bowl party afterwards; the BBC in full obsequious mode, which still isn't good enough for the Mail and Telegraph; and its heralding, defining, dunderheaded centrepiece is Brenda, in full regalia complete with crown weighing the same as a new born infant, reading out an essay inscribed on goatskin vellum as written by a slightly dim 15-year-old GCSE politics student.  Liz, bless her, is 90 next year.  Surely the time has come for her to tell the idiots who keep insisting she involves herself in this pantomime to fawk off.

Only the point has finally been reached where it's not the pomp and circumstance itself which is most absurd, it's the speech itself.  Queenie has had to read out some nonsense in her time, and has managed somehow to keep her thoughts to herself on just what she thinks about having to say things like "Northern powerhouse".  Never before though has the speech reached such heights of fatuity, been so obviously and deliberately contradictory, to the point where it's obvious that the Tories are rubbing everyone's noses in it, and so aggravatingly obtuse.

It starts in the opening sentence.  "My Government (because it is Her government, just as we serfs are subjects, not citizens) will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country".  No, that's an impossibility; what the writer means is the government will legislate in what it believes to be everyone's best interests, which is a rather different thing altogether.  "It will adopt a one nation approach," which means whatever the government says is a one nation approach, "helping working people get on," meaning absolutely nothing, "supporting aspiration", which means precisely what it says, "giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged," by saying you're on your own pal, "and bringing different parts of our country together," presumably by uniting them in opposition to the Tories.

And so it goes on.  Apparently the long-term plan was, is to provide economic stability and security at every stage of life, which is a new one on me.  Legislation will be brought forward to help achieve full employment, as will legislation to provide raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and provide more people with the security of a job.  Not with job security, take note, but the security of a job.  Nor is the referendum on EU membership anything to do with David Cameron's pathetic kowtowing to his backbenchers during the coalition; no, the government will pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all Member States.  What a kind, loving, generous, selfless gesture on the part of the Tories, eh?

On reading the Tory manifesto, it seemed fairly apparent that so bonkers was much of its content it had been put together with the intention of bartering away the more reprehensible parts in the coalition negotiations.  They weren't really going to cut £12bn from welfare, not least as they couldn't begin to explain where they could make such massive savings, and they weren't going to really legislate to make it illegal to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, that's just unbelievably stupid.  They're not that stupid, are they?  No, David Cameron and George Osborne are sensible chaps underneath the laughable skin suits they wear, and the remaining Lib Dems will see they don't go through with this blazing idiocy.

If the Tories didn't expect to be implementing their manifesto as a whole, as we're told they didn't, then winning a majority put them in a happy conundrum.  Do they now row back from the lunatic bribes they came up with, like selling off houses they don't so much as own on the cheap, or abolishing inheritance tax, breaking promises they never believed in to begin with?  Or do they carry on regardless, as to not do so would be to aggravate the exact people, mainly the backbenchers, who did think the party meant it?

Well, now we have the answer.  The strange thing is all the comment on the decision to "delay" abolishing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a mythical "British" Bill of Rights, which while always a completely stupid idea and utterly pointless without leaving the European Convention is not even close to the barking mad imbecility of the manifesto promises that were in the speech.  That getting rid of the HRA is the one thing that seems to unite the disparate elements in the Commons, important as resisting such an act of vandalism is, says much of just what isn't going to face the same level of opposition.  It has at least shown precisely how the Sun and Mail intend to play matters from here on out: again, not for them concerns about putting moron restrictions on tax, but rage at how they still won't get their way, having been principally responsible for the demonisation of the HRA.  How dare the government they got elected snub them so?

As Rafael Behr wrote this morning, most Tories are taking their unexpected victory as proof both of just how brilliant they are and the uselessness of their opponents.  This is hardly surprising when the SNP, declaring itself the unofficial opposition, isn't content with its 56 seats in Scotland and would rather like to force Alistair Carmichael into resigning for daring to leak something that portrayed poor wee Nicola Sturgeon in a less flattering light.  In such circumstances are bad laws passed, not least when Labour as led by Harriet Harman is in such a supine, self-absorbed mood.  Deciding not to oppose the EU referendum which is now coming like it or not is one thing; to not continue to oppose the cut in the benefit cap to £23,000 is quite another.  Exceptional circumstances don't apparently mean anything to a party hierarchy convinced that it was not being quite harsh enough on those on benefits that did for them.

It's all the more dispiriting when there were quite so many breathtakingly awful laws proposed in the speech, including some that will directly target Labour.  Not given a direct mention was the reintroduction of the redrawing of the constituency boundaries, destined to make a Labour majority even harder, although you can bet it will return at some stage.  Instead the Tories made do with a surprise inserting into the proposed Trade Unions Bill of an opt-in system for the political fund element of union subscriptions, as clearly we can't have ordinary hard-working people funding parties, as opposed to the super-rich.  The obscene hypocrisy of a government legislating to require strike ballots are supported by 40% of those eligible when it won only 36.9% of the vote meanwhile is chutzpah defined.

Then there's the clusterfuck of Home Office bills, including not just the "extremism" bill, introduced by David Cameron saying that no longer would government leave alone those who obey the law and the return of a supercharged communications bill destined to give the intelligence agencies total legal cover to do whatever the hell they like with our data, but also an overarching criminalisation of (il)legal highs.  Only the government obviously can't call them that, and so has decided on "psychoactive substances" instead.  I joked not so long back it would be easier if the government started declaring what was legal as opposed to illegal, and yet this is exactly what they are proposing to do.  Yes, apparently under this new bill "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect" will be made illegal, except for those it defines are legal.  Older heads might be reminded of the difficulty government lawyers had in giving the police powers to shut down free parties, which led to the Criminal Justice Act of 94 defining in law the music being targeted as consisting of "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats".  It doesn't seem to have gotten through to our lawmakers the only reason the "legal high" market has flourished is precisely because of the illegality of and restrictions placed on the manufacture of MDMA and the rest, just as it didn't occur to them back in 94 that you'll never stop people from trying to enjoy themselves, but then what else is government for?  Someone, I forget who, once said the Daily Mail owed its existence to the outrage some feel that others are out there having fun, and so the same could be said of so many of our politicians.

There is perhaps one worthwhile bill in the whole lot, and that's the childcare act.  Except doubling the number of hours of free childcare available for three and four-year-olds looks certain to be giving with one hand and taking with the other, as tax credits will most likely be cut in the search for the £12bn from welfare.  Which just reminds us this is only the beginning of 2 years of unrelenting misery, with George Osborne due to deliver his second budget of the year on July the 8th, setting out precisely how hard and fast we're going to be screwed.  As someone I need to thank for yet again putting up with my shit recently said, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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I search in vain for any kind of meaningful response, either from the labour party or the unions, to the bills directly attacking the funding of the former and the ability to operate of the latter.

I think the main opposition, at least to begin with, is going to come in the Lords, and much also depends on just how rebellious the David Davis/libertarian wing of the Tories is going to decide to be on communications bill and so forth. But yes, Labour and the unions so far do seem to be happy to let the SNP pretend they're going to be the opposing force.

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