Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Queen's Speech Promises Even Less Freedom And A Little More Interfering

What a fascinating Queen's speech. The number of plots and sub-plots playing out were extraordinary. Firstly there was the terrific symmetry of this being Tony's last State Opening of Parliament as leader and it being David Cameron's first. Then there was the fact that Gordon Brown's shadow hung over the affair like Charles Clarke's stomach over a belt. And if that wasn't enough we also had Gordon Brown walking along side Menzies Campbell, his potential partner in a hung parliament. Phew... and that all took place before the Queen even started speaking.

A lame duck Prime Minister is a wonder to behold. The very nature of political power in the UK is such that governing is through the will of your party. John Major learned this to his cost as he saw his majority slowly whittled away and his supporters defect. For Tony Blair, the loss of power has been his own doing. He is definitely now "in office but not in power" and Gordon Brown's fingerprints were all over the speech without being entirely visible.

In terms of content, the speech set out a very busy legislative agenda. The main focus: security, law and order. In other words, how many more ways can we restrict the rights of decent law abiding British citizens without doing a single thing to combat the real causes of terrorism or societal breakdown. Other key areas were the tightening of regulations on estate agents (?), scrapping the Child Support Agency (a good idea) and the extension of road pricing schemes (a bad idea).

Two other areas are of real interest. The first is the extension of powers for the Mayor of London. I simply cannot believe that we need to put more power in the hands of Ken Livingstone. If ever there was a poster child for greater government centralisation it was him. Giving him greater power will just continue London's land grab for more and more tax payer money. If anybody thinks that the congestion charge is about the environment then they need their head examined. The second is the creation of an independent board to monitor government statistics. I have written about the issue of poor government statistics here before. I think that this independent board is a good first step, but why not put it in the hands of the Opposition. At least then it will have political teeth.

So, all in all a pretty interesting day in UK politics, but more for what was going on in the background and behind closed doors than for what was happening in the full glare of the Royal set piece. What is clear, though, is that this Labour government still hasn't learned that less is more as far as legislation is concerned - 29 bills!!!

No comments: