Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lib Dem thread running through the Queen's Speech

I know this sounds po-faced, but somehow all the pomp and majesty of today's State Opening of Parliament doesn't quite seem to fit in with the dawning of the Age of Austerity. Is the ceremony we've just witnessed like a sort of political Shrove Tuesday where we feast on plenty before the lean years start?

I just wonder how much it all cost and although I kind of like some of the quaint traditions, is it really necesary to have lots of Yeomen, for example, searching the Palace of Westminster vaults for Guy Fawkes when kids may not have enough jotters in schools soon. Wouldn't one or two be enough?

Today is unique as well as I don't think we've ever seen a Queen's Speech coincide with Towel Day before.

I was a bit annoyed to see that long-term peace protester Brian Haw had been arrested this morning. I suspect it's more to do with Boris than the Westminster Government, but he's not doing anyone any harm and in the interests of free speech, I don't see why can't just be left alone.

Deputy Prime Miniser Nick Clegg could, in his role as Lord President of the Council, have chosen to get dressed up in robes and funny costume and participate in the ceremonial but I wasn't surprised to see him stay whee his heart is, in the Commons. I also tweeted that I was pleased to see Nick and David Cameron walking the short distance from Downing Street to the Commons rather than being driven. This was picked up by the BBC's live event coverage and can be seen at 11.13 am.

He's not a great one for pomp - I remember hearing him speak at a dinner years ago when he mercilessly took the mickey out of the ceremonial associated with some crisis in the EU. I also remember the horror I felt watching the ceremony associated with the ridiculous impeachment of President Clinton when various Congressional lackeys were shuffling backwards three steps here and bowing there as they took impeachment documents from House to Senate. The saving grace about here is that we don't take all the ceremony quite as seriously and we can laugh at it.

The speech itself had, for the first time, a thread of gold running through it. The BBC has the whole list of bills here. There's something quite satisfying about having watched policy debates at Liberal Democrat conference on things like ID cards, getting rid of the DNA database, the pupil premium, flexible working, power of recall for MPs, fixed term parliaments and House of Lords reform, restoring the earnings link for pensions, justice for Equitable Life policyholders, and then seeing Her Majesty sitting on her throne in front of the entire nation reading out these same policies.

It's also good to see the Calman Commission recommendations are going to come into law. I know that we would have liked Calman to go further but this is what we've got and it looked a few months ago like the Tories were trying to wriggle out of it. I like the idea that we're going to have more dialogue with the Scottish Government before finally drafting the legislation.

The phrase "make the tax and benefits system simpler and fairer" was music to my ears as not only does it encompass making life a lot less complicated and confusing for people who need it to be clear and easily understood, but it also involves our steps to raising the tax threshold to £10,000.

There were a couple of "boo" moments - the announcement of the Tory immigration cap for one. I'm sure that many Liberal Democrats won't shed too many tears if the Government is made to look stupid when it is discovered that the idea is basically unworkable.

The words "welfare reform" have always made me shudder because it always seems to encompass paying less to people in need, whether it's been introduced by Tory or Labour governments. The current Tory plans make me feel uneasy in ways that I'll go into in more detail in future posts, but I hope that Liberal Democrat influence can make them fairer.

The new Parliament will have a busy time getting through these 22 bills in 18 months - and I hope, even though Conservative minister Jeremy Hunt says there will be no repeal of the reviled Digital Economy Act and there was nothing in today's speech about it, that those MPs on all sides, including people like our own Julian Huppert and Labour's Eric Joyce, will be able to get the worst bits neutralised.


Noetic said...

Brian Haw was arrested for resisting search of his tent for things like bombs and guns and suchlike. Y'know, same as they search the cellars for gunpowder and so on.

Caron said...

Guns and suchlike? In a peace protest that's been going on for 9 years? Unlikely.

He's been there through many other occasions and there's a lot of security between him the people who were being protected. Unnecessarily heavy handed, I think.


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