The Twittersphere has been abuzz with comparisons of the Queen’s blue and yellow attire to the EU flag, some asking if this is a subtle act of defiance. The Queen herself commented on the sombre national mood on her birthday and the lack of pomp and circumstance has caused some to call this a dressed down visit to Parliament. But be it her age, Prince Philip being taken ill, the horrific events of the last few weeks or the chaos in politics not to mention the heatwave, it’s difficult to know where her sartorial motivation may lie.
So, despite the PM still not managing to reach an agreement with the DUP, the speech went ahead. Brexit was clearly going to feature prominently, one of the few certainties we could expect in the current climate. A rough calculation suggests there are around 27 bills included, eight of which are predominantly concerned with Brexit. The repeal bill paves the way for any kind of Brexit by giving the UK Parliament (and where appropriate, the devolved legislatures) the freedom to make any future changes to its laws.
Plenty of domestic issues were flagged-up including priorities around mental health, technical education and related items to social reform such as a draft domestic violence and abuse bill, to establish a commissioner in the area, and a civil liability bill to crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims and reduce motor insurance premiums. Meanwhile, many key manifesto pledges were dropped such as controversial plans for grammar schools, the ‘dementia tax’ and the energy price cap and there was no mention of ending the pensions ‘triple lock’.
The issues around countering extremism and terrorism may, if drafted well, allow May to get back on the front foot given Corbyn's and his hard-left colleagues’ weakness in this area but the possibility of immediate legislation has been replaced by a further counter terrorism review. Thus halting May’s threat to urgently compromise existing human rights legislation.
There’s clear signalling that extra funding is available for the NHS and education (although free-school meals remain) with some regurgitating around industrial strategy, infrastructure and housing. Here, it has widely been noted that there is a lack of concrete commitment to housing reforms but some measures announced in the white paper have been reiterated proposing to promote fairness and transparency in the housing market. In addition, a draft tenants’ fees bill will aim to ban landlords and letting agents from charging highly inflated fees.
In the light of the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, Theresa May has outlined the payments the families of Grenfell will receive, the public inquiry and how people will be rehoused. Some 68 families could be housed in a luxury Kensington row complex, it was announced this afternoon.
A new civil disaster response task force could be set up to help local authorities, like Kensington and Chelsea, that struggled to cope with the disaster, as this afternoon in Parliament she admitted that the immediate response was "a failure of the state, local and national" for which she apologised.
The reality is that Parliament could be predominantly preoccupied with Brexit for the next two years and there may be little or no room for other legislation. Andrea Leadsom has called the bill ‘ambitious’ while Caroline Lucas has described it as quite the opposite and Emily Thornbury described the agenda as ‘threadbare.’ Len McCluskey calls it a ‘lifeline’ where the toxic elements of the manifesto have been watered down.
What becomes of Mrs. May’s minority government remains to be seen but two things seem certain, Brexit really does mean Brexit and the Queen shall go to Ascot (wearing yellow).
This article was written by Jess Pickett, Marketing Assistant at MPC.