A government back on track?

By Tom Haynes

As the dust settles following the Queen’s Speech today, political commentators are scrambling to see whether this is a pioneering speech from a government with a vision for a post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain, or simply a government all out of ideas. 

The backdrop for this Queen’s Speech was far from a position of strength. The Prime Minister has gone in to this new, and possibly final, Parliamentary session with his personal polling at rock bottom and a government reputation of sleaze and scandal, with two by-elections on the horizon, a damaging set of local elections in Tory heartland seats, a cost of living crisis, and a potential recession around the corner. 

The last election was won on the promise of delivering Brexit and levelling up the UK. It is clear that the Prime Minister is using this speech as an opportunity to reset his premiership, shore up the support in his red wall seats and get this narrative back on track. There is a great deal in this programme which will appeal to these voters and measures to provide the Police with the tools to make streets safer and combat the “guerrilla tactics” deployed by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, harks back to the so called “Operation red meat” that we saw at the start of year.

The question mark that stands out is that while this programme contains a number of attractive, snappy policies and legislative announcements, can it deliver a common theme or joined up narrative? The Government will look to present this as a package of measures to deal with the cost of living and deliver on their election promises from 2019. But the real test will come at the next election, when the Conservative Party will need to point to the measures announced in today’s Queen’s Speech as key things they have delivered and to ask the British public to put their faith in them to finish the job. 

Another key question is how measures in today’s Queen’s Speech will practically deliver for the people it needs to help in the short term. While the Government spelt out what it has done to date, as well as announcing legislation which will look to secure up energy in the future, there is, arguably, little further action to support families now. 

Similarly, election promises to level up in areas like education, transport and infrastructure are all included in the Queens Speech, with ambitious, long-term plans for reforms. These changes may be significant in the longer term, but the challenge for the Government will be to show that they are delivering for voters – both those in the red wall and those in the Conservative heartland seats in the South of England — by the next election.