Today’s Queen’s Speech is notable not for what’s in it, but for what’s been left out. With no Tory majority and no agreement with the DUP, Theresa May has had to gut her 2017 Conservative Manifesto. The fact that the legislation ‘trailed’ on the eve of the speech included plans to tackle nuisance whiplash compensation claims and a ban on letting fees that was first announced last year, just demonstrates how sparse it is on new legislation.
In terms of what has been put in the dustbin, the list is lengthy. The plan to cut free school lunches has been scrapped, along with May’s plans for more grammar schools. There is no mention of winter fuel allowance being means tested or the energy price cap proposal. Social care is mentioned but there is no mention of the so-called ‘dementia tax’. Instead, it’s just acknowledged that social care is a growing problem that the government will consult on.
On domestic policies then, this Queen’s Speech – the first from a government with no majority since 1978 – proves May’s growing impotence. But on the issue of Brexit, the government is holding firm. The Prime Minister has attempted to pour scorn on suggestions the result means a ‘softer’ Brexit. She points to the fact that over 80 per cent of the electorate backed the two major parties who accepted the referendum result:
‘Much has been said in recent days about what the General Election signified about Britain’s decision to leave the EU. The fact is that over 80 per cent of the electorate backed the two major parties, both of whom campaigned on manifestos that said we should honour the democratic decision of the British people. While this will be a Government that consults and listens, we are clear that we are going to see Brexit through, working with Parliament, business, the devolved administrations and others to ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal.’
May’s government – presuming it passes this threadbare Queen’s Speech – will achieve little domestically. Brexit, on the otherhand, is the one issue the government thinks it has a big mandate for – and the issue they must deliver on in order to last.