There are three main aims for today’s Queen’s Speech in the mind’s eyes of the two Coalition parties. The first is not to rock the boat at all, introducing pro-nice and anti-bad policies on motherhood, apple pie, childcare, ‘heroism’ and growth. In their joint statement on the Speech, which you can read below, David Cameron and Nick Clegg describe it as ‘unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration’. Cabinet ministers with bills that are ready to go, quite important but likely to cause a fuss have been told to keep them in their drawers for the next year at least, while strategists cast around for other non-controversial ideas from MPs and aides.
The second is to counter claims that this is a ‘zombie parliament’ with enough servings of apple pie to distract Labour from arguing that the Coalition has run out of road. This is particularly important for the Liberal Democrats, as they do need to persuade voters that Coalition can work, and a dead year at the end of a fixed-term parliament is unhelpful in that respect. But the Labour government had similar quiet years in the run-up to elections: to a certain extent that’s the way things must be. It’s just that the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act makes it even quieter.
The third aim is for both parties to claim credit for the majority of the apple pie, and previous servings of it, too. I understand that some of the legislation announced today will provide an opportunity for both parties to talk about their differing priorities – perhaps it will give them a chance to bicker about something other than Michael Gove and knife crime, which will at east de-zombify one aspect of this coalition. The Lib Dems need to get back on the job of reminding voters that they’re responsible for the good economic news, too. The Conservatives won’t do that for them, naturally. The Conservatives are also targeting two groups of voters with bills to show they care: Labour-voting parents annoyed by high childcare costs, and older voters likely to vote Ukip.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s joint statement on the Queen’s Speech:
This Queen’s Speech marks the next big step in our long-term plan for Britain. Its aim: to secure the recovery for our country. We want a Britain that earns its keep and makes its way in the world, with a strong economy, a fair society and peace of mind for all that live here.
Its guiding principle: to back everyone who wants to get on in life. We may be two parties, with two different philosophies, but we understand one thing: countries rise when their people rise. So this Queen’s Speech is unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration.
Its centrepiece: ground-breaking pensions reform. The reforms we plan will be the biggest transformation in our pensions system since its inception, and will give people both freedom and security in retirement. By no longer forcing people to buy an annuity, we are giving them total control over the money they have put aside over their lifetime and greater financial security in their old age. It’s all part of our wider mission to put power back in the hands of the people who have worked hard – trusting them to run their own lives. At the same time we’re completing sweeping reforms to workplace pensions to give employees more certainty about their income in retirement. Taken together, this is a revolution that matches our previous reforms to education and welfare in giving people opportunities they were previously denied.
All of this builds on what we have achieved as a coalition. It is easy to forget when we first came together in the national interest just how sceptical people were about how long the Coalition could last and how much change we could effect. Four years on, our parties are still governing together and still taking bold steps. Four years on, no one can deny the progress we have made. The deficit down by a third; our economy one of the fastest-growing in the developed world; more than 1.5 million more people in work – and more people in work than ever before; a welfare system that ensures work pays; more than 1 million new apprentices; taxes cut; inequality declining and fewer children attending failing schools.
Of course, there is still a long way to go. But this Queen’s Speech marks a significant step. It builds on the foundations we have laid in the past four years, will help us make progress and continue to take Britain forward to a brighter future.