Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will The Queen Be Left Speechless?

The Queen's Speech looks set to be written on the back of a fag packet as Downing Street continues to strip out unpopular vote-losing bills or anything that could cause a commons confrontation. Though a Greengate confrontation could be just what is on the cards, as MPs gather on Wednesday. 

Downing Street has described Wednesday's Queen's Speech as "work in progress", though "spin in progress" would be more appropriate in these heady days of Mandelson management. 

The forthcoming legislation is a pale shadow of measures Brown announced earlier this year in his Queen's Speech by proxy. 

That draft, unveiled in the spring, surprised many with a detailed list of at least 18 bills, covering everything from reforms to hospitals, schools, police and welfare.

Slowly it seems unpopular legislation has been shelved or watered down and amalgamated in other legislation.

One of the earlier casualties was the Big Brother surveillance in the Communications Data Bill, to hold details of all phone calls, emails and internet visits.

The latest casualty, on the orders of business secretary, Lord 'call him Moses' Mandleson, according to reports, is to drop plans for more draconian anti-smoking measures with more restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and packet advertising. 

Not content with closing down our cherished pubs with a smoking ban, the new tougher anti-smoking measures would have marked the end of the corner shop. Another example of using 'sin' as an excuse for political and social control. 

The Orange Party believes a stripped down Queen's Speech, which sets out the government’s proposed legislation up to a June 2010 general election date, is the latest sign an early election is on the cards, despite efforts of New Labour and its supporters to dampen down speculation. 

The new list of bills before Parliament is being spun as a way to put more emphasis on efforts to help the economy. In reality it cuts down commons time to allow ministers to hit the campaign trail and get across its political message. 

After the shambles of the pre-leaked pre-budget Budget, the government has been forced to rethink its strategy, though what will eventually be in the Queen's Speech may have to wait until details are leaked for political advantage.

As the outrage over Greengate shows no signs of abating, speaker, Michael Martin is expected to come under fire on Wednesday, with MPs demanding he explains his actions at the start of the Queen’s Speech debate.

The Tory leader has called on the prime minister to at least show some concern, let alone outrage or condemnation. Both the prime minister and home secretary are refusing to apologise.

The role of the speaker has been brought into focus, with the vexed question of who allowed the political police, as servants of the Crown, to enter and search the MP's office, in the sacrosanct precincts of the Palace of Westminster. 

With comparisons made today to US president Nixon's ruthless and illegal pursuit of political opponents, the issue now centres on the Watergate adage - what did ministers know and when did they know it?

Private Eye cover: October 1964, The Queen reads speech for Wilson's first Labour government.

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