Turning the Tide: Queen’s Speech 2022 Verdict

Updated: 5 days ago

By Louis O'Halloran

With a start of a new Parliament, Boris Johnson’s Government is hoping to turn the tide on a deficit in the polls and the loss of around 400 seats in the recent local elections – including the symbolic former strongholds of Westminster and Wandsworth. While he is facing a Covid investigation of his own, the Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer jibed in his Queen’s Speech response: “I congratulate the Prime Minister, who has achieved a new first: the first [Conservative] resident of Downing Street to be a constituent of a Labour council. I am sure that it will serve him well.”

This Queen’s Speech was geared towards putting the Conservatives on a General Election footing, as well as shoring up the Prime Minister’s position, by putting front and centre popular policy and at the same time appeasing discontent on the right of the Party. David Canzini, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, reportedly purged ‘boring’ proposals, such as corporate and auditing governance, from the programme.

Certainly, there is controversial policy which will appeal to traditional Tory voters and sections of Tory MPs. The long-proposed ‘British Bill of Rights’ will replace the Human Rights Act, which is rooted in EU law; a new ‘Public Order Bill’ will aim to ban protest tactics such as gluing and locking-on, which were amended out of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by the House of Lords; and planning reforms will give residents more say on decisions within their street, a dramatic U-turn on the proposals for zoning and automatic approval in last year’s Speech.

The big announcement – particularly for the ‘Devolutionistas’ at DevoConnect – was the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. In what will be – we hope – the first full year of Government without Covid dominating the agenda, the Government has no excuse for not making progress on its three-year-old levelling up promises. And progress it does promise: the 12 levelling up goals, announced last year, will be enshrined in law and there will be an annual progress report.

A new devolution framework will also be put into law. Areas that want a devo-deal by 2030 will have one, the Government says, however deals have been slower to roll out than hoped due to hesitancy from some to adopt a mayoral model – an issue the Government hopes to solve by allowing areas to choose titles such as ‘Governor’. The devil will be in the detail as to whether devolution will both be deepened and widened as we are still none the wiser on what ‘trailblazer deals’ for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, announced in the Levelling Up White Paper, will entail.

Finally, the Energy Bill will put into place announcements from the Energy Security Strategy to decarbonise the Grid by scaling up the financing of technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (Find out more from the Net Zero APPG’s recent session with Energy Minister Greg Hands).

Despite the unusual circumstances – this was after all a Queen’s Speech without the Queen – there was little to surprise in this programme. It laid the ground for the next General Election while making the effort to win over fledgling support from voters and discontented MPs with a mix of ‘culture war’ policy and ambitious promises, which will need to be backed up by the Treasury.

However, the Speech did not announce any new initiatives to solve the short-term cost-of-living crisis nor anything to react to the Ukraine War. The Government will hope that yet another year’s programme is not derailed and that current inflation is tamed by the time the Conservatives go to the polls.

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