With the EU referendum campaigns in full swing, it is easy to forget that government ministers are still responsible for governing the country. Indeed, the Conservative Government will be keen to use tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech to prove that the Government hasn’t forgotten its more prosaic duties of designing policies and passing legislation in amongst the more fashionable inter-departmental bickering over EU membership.
That’s not to say that David Cameron necessarily wants to continue his recent tradition of packing major set-piece policy announcements with controversial policies that prove difficult to deliver. The Conservatives are still fighting a number of high profile battles on the last budget’s announcements, including on implementation of a seven day NHS, pension reforms, and changes to disability benefits. Cameron is already in the unique position of U-turning on the Queen’s Speech announcement on forced academisation before it has even appeared in the Speech.
Therefore the Prime Minister would be well advised to concentrate on some less controversial, more deliverable policies that leave ample time to pontificate at length on the relative merits and demerits of European Union membership during Parliamentary time.
Some of the more heavily trailed Queen’s Speech announcements bear out this logic. Laws on driverless cars, drones, and a new spaceport are hardly likely to inspire the same mass outrage as junior doctor’s contract renegotiations, or forcing all schools to become academies. Some of the new policies, such as those on adoption and care may even be broadly welcomed.
However, true to form, the Prime Minister may include at least one highly controversial policy announcement. There have been strong suggestions that Cameron will finally formally announce the replacement of the European Convention on Human Rights with a British Bill of Rights. While a British Bill of Rights doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a scorched earth assault on basic rights as Cameron’s more evangelical critics might suggest, there will be fears that a British Bill of Rights will hand too much power to the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, who will no doubt already have a draft version of the Bill in his personal notebook, alongside his list of books that all school children should read by age 11 to adequately equip them for a life in 1940s Britain.
Tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech is unlikely to be as controversial as previous editions. The whole affair is likely to be quickly overshadowed by the upcoming EU referendum which, in the event of a Brexit, may render most of the speech irrelevant anyway as Government departments scramble to prepare for a life outside of the Union, leaving pretty much everything else by the wayside.