Tuesday, 25 May 2010

'I hope you don't think I wrote this rubbish'

Some years ago Private Eye published a brilliant front cover in which the Queen was reading the speech from the throne and the speech bubble contained those words. Of course, the Queen has to read the speech with an air of studied neutrality.

The Duke of Edinburgh seemed to be very interested in how Our Ken, dresssed up in his mediaeval clobber, would walk backwards down the steps from the throne, but in fact he executed it in an exemplary fashion, surely qualifying him from a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks (oops, it became a quango under New Labour as the Pedestrian Locomotion Organisation or PLO and has become a victim of the first round of cuts).

I actually became aware that the speech was about to take place when I was having a coffee with a colleague (to discuss business) and a number of Chinese students started pointing excitedly at the television scheme. I therefore missed the appearance of the cap of maintenance which the political journalist Alan Watkins always used to talk up. One wonders how compatible the role of the cap in relation to the Established Church is with the Queen's reference to the welcome she would extend to Pope Benedict later in the year.

The speech was a relatively long one and contained a number of measures, although some of these were bills (the referendum on AV) and others were proposals, i.e., white or green papers (Lords reform). Overall, there were no big surprises, particularly given that the speech and its theme had been leaked (will this be the first 'leak enquiry' of the new Government)?

The Queen's list of forthcoming visits came after the domestic legislation proposals and it is interesting that the one reference to climate change came after this at the start of the 'international' section.

The one proposal that gives me most concern is the bill to make police authorities more accountable. This seems fine in principle, but mayoral elections have thrown up some unusual individuals, most notably in the case of Doncaster which has an English Democrat mayor. If was a professional police officer, I would have concerns about being accountable to an individual with no prior experience of public life or policing practice. It could well happen in a low turnout election.

Finally, I understand that 16 MPs have not yet sworn in (or affirmed). Five of these are Sinn Fein, but among them is Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire. More about Ms Swinson later.


cje said...


Richard Gadsden said...

There were 15 MPs taking the Oath or Affirmation yesterday, so presumably you missed four.