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The biggest risk with Boris Johnson’s Queen’s Speech

14 October 2019

12:23 PM

14 October 2019

12:23 PM

This is more an election manifesto launch than a conventional Queen’s Speech, because Boris Johnson simply does not have the numbers in the Commons to legislate for all – or any – of the measures announced today.

At the risk of being sexist and aide-ist, the legislative programme shows the strong influence on the PM of the two people who seem most influential on him: his partner Carrie Symonds and his chief aide Dominic Cummings, with a package of environment and animal welfare measures (Symonds’ passion) and a bunch of stuff to reinforce the UK’s science and research (Cummings’s).

Otherwise it is the anticipated skeleton of a Johnsonian election manifesto: it is tough on crime (longer sentences for violent and sexual crimes, more information sharing between agencies and authorities to reduce knife attacks) soft on health and schools spending (mostly more money, with a nod at reforms, such as the creation of a new institution charged with investigating breaches of patient safety).

There is also the inevitable wodge of Brexit policy, to take back control of farming support, fishing and immigration.

In the round, it has two aims: to demonstrate to centrist Tories, who may be alienated by Johnson’s preference for a harder form of Brexit, that on other domestic policies he is in the centre ground; and to woo Brexit supporting Labour voters in England and Wales, with money for core public services.

The biggest risk is that he is putting in jeopardy his party’s reputation for fiscal prudence and thus making it harder for the Tories to attack Corbyn and McDonnell as grotesquely spendthrift (if Sajid Javid has the budget he wants on 6 November – if the election is not announced before then – he’ll presumably show off his blue magic money tree).

In the round, her majesty has unveiled nothing that was a great surprise, except perhaps that there are no big surprises.

And unless and until there is a general election, the Queen’s Speech is a wish list – what Boris Johnson wants for Christmas – not a programme for government.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared on his ITV news blog


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