Truly, we are spoiled. After the longest Parliamentary session since the civil war ended in October, today the Queen returned to Parliament for the second time this year to give us a speech. In a sign of the times – the inconvenience to Her Majesty, perhaps, and a desire not to hold up Christmas shoppers – the horse-drawn carriage was left out, and the crown and robe eschewed for a fetching blue dress and hat.
Whilst the October edition was to set the stage for the (unlawful) prorogation of Parliament and an election, today’s speech was significant because it gave us an insight into Boris Johnson’s priorities for the next Parliamentary session after his thumping majority. No prizes for guessing this would include a major focus on our EU exit, but there were further clues. The Prime Minister knows that traditional Labour voters loaned him their votes, and gains will quickly be losses if he doesn’t repay their trust soon.
As a result, it was no surprise to see bills to deliver on campaign promises, including increased school funding, enshrining the NHS’ funding settlement into law, and greater protection for renters.
The speech trumpeted the Government’s ‘One-Nation’ credentials, framing its programme as seeking to help all of society, with an emphasis on ‘levelling up’ for people and areas which feel left behind. This included a focus on infrastructure commitments, such as rail projects outside London, and investment in roads.
The Government is also hoping to gain plaudits for environmental sustainability, because it knows this is especially popular with Labour-leaning younger voters, and because change on this front can be demonstrated during the Brexit transition period. The constitution was also in focus, with a pledge to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.
So what next? Well, with the largest Conservative majority since 1987, barring major upset, these 30 bills will pass.
However, all eyes should be on the planned Budget in February, where the Chancellor will need to detail how today’s plans will be funded. The Conservatives have promised policies which will require significant extra cash, and questions will need to be answered about whether they could countenance tax rises or greater borrowing. If not, some of today’s announcements may remain as ambitions in the near term.
Be in no doubt, though, that Johnson will not squander this opportunity for momentum – today’s speech marks a sea change in Government direction and focus. Brexit will be delivered, and flagship domestic legislation will be pushed through impatiently.
If you’d like to discuss this issue further or to find out how we can help you please do get in touch for a chat with one of the team.
Nancy Martin, Public Affairs