Embattled Theresa May uses Queen Speech to dump pledges from doomed manifesto and focus on Brexit
- Credit: PA
Grammar schools? Gone. Fox hunting? Gone. Dementia tax? Gone.
But will this Queen's Speech, packed full of 'humility' yet threadbare on anything but Brexit, stop Theresa May going the same way as most of her manifesto proposals?
This is a humble legislative programme – especially spread over a two-year time frame – put forward by a humbled prime minister. She is now just a shadow of the confident, striding figurehead of 'Theresa May's Tory Party' and her abject failure at the ballot box has left a raft of plans in the bin.
And now with the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionist Party spluttering there is the possibility that when the motion to pass the Queen's Speech is put to the House Mrs May could be facing her biggest crisis yet.
But amid the chatter around Westminster about the puny set of proposals – 27 in total – it is worth remembering that Brexit was always going to form the backbone of the speech and that, at least, has not changed.
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In total eight of the bills put forward are related to Britain leaving the European Union. Quitting the bloc was never going to be a simple process but the complexity, time and effort ministers and officials will have to dedicate to delivering Brexit has now been laid bare. For the next two years Brexit will utterly dominate.
Firstly the House will have to back overturning the 1972 Act that took Britain into the European Economic Community. That will pave the way for the other bills which tackle issues as varied as commercial space travel and banning landlords charging letting fees.
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But it is the end to freedom of movement for EU citizens and immigration controls – while keeping the borders open to 'the brigthest and the best' – that will prove the most onerous. Expect this proposal to be met with fierce debate both in and outside the House.
Mrs May has made controlling immigration – and beating it down to the 'tens of thousands' – her absolute priority, but with her position weakened after a disastrous election advocates of a softer Brexit within her own Cabinet such as Chancellor Philip Hammond have shifted focus to the economy and jobs. And a 'jobs first' Brexit would gain support from a lot of her own backbenchers and from the benches opposite. This could be the fault line where the prime minister's authority in the House crumbles.
Put bluntly, Brexit could mean exit for Mrs May as soon as the more vexing bills make it in to the chamber.
Another sign of the weakness of the government is the decision not to rush forward new anti-terror legislation when in the wake of recent atrocities it would be popular among voters.
Instead the government will conduct a review of counter-terrorism power and consider targeting online 'safe spaces' and increasing prison sentences. As part of the review ministers pledged to examine whether police and security services require further measures to confront the threat. Many working in the frontline services have been telling Mrs May since she was Home Secretary what was needed – more cash and less cuts.
The government's plan to crackdown on domestic abusers is likely to gain support across the House – and deserves high praise. The new laws would herald a transformation in the way violence in the home is dealt with.
This was a Queen's Speech without the usual pomp and circumstance. The atmosphere felt flat and gloomy. Difficult times await while the Brexit negotiations are battered out and there will no doubt be uncertainty as the UK begins to find its new role in the world.
But for Mrs May the trickiest times are right now. She is in the midst of a storm which could yet engulf her but, for now, she has perhaps found some shelter by listening to her critics and dumping what will be remembered as the most disastrous manifesto in history.
At a Glance
• Great Repeal Bill: To ensure a smooth and orderly transition from the European Union
• Immigration Bill: To end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK but still allow the country to attract 'the brightest and the best'
• Agriculture Bill: To provide stability to farmers as the UK leaves the EU, protect the natural environment
• Space Industry Bill: To create new powers to license a wide range of new commercial space flights
• Draft Tenants' Fees Bill: To ban landlords and agents charging 'letting fees'
• Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill: To establish a dedicated commissioner and introduce new sentencing powers
• Civil Liability Bill: To reduce fraudulent whiplash claims and motor insurance premiums by about £35 a year
• Draft Patient Safety Bill: To improve patient safety in the NHS and instil greater public confidence in the provision of healthcare
• Counter-terror Review: To examine whether police and security services require further measures to confront the threat
• Resilience Strategy: To review how best to deal with the aftermath of major disasters like Grenfell Tower