This government has run out of good ideas; that was what the Queen’s speech told us this week. When the coalition was formed, it united behind a genuinely bold agenda: school reform, welfare reform, health reform and deficit elimination. Where has the boldness gone? The coalition’s courage has vanished, as has its sense of purpose and the ability of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to agree on anything sensible. So for the next year, our MPs will be kept busy, not pushing on with important changes, but debating intractable problems like House of Lords reform and long-term care for the elderly.
If there’s not much to be said for what was in the speech, we can at least be grateful for what has been left out — in particular, the High Speed Rail Bill. Even if legislation is introduced next year, it’s unlikely that this complex hybrid bill will be passed in time for the election. Buckinghamshire may yet escape unscathed. The absence of gay marriage legislation also suggests that the government will desist, at least for a year, from its petty attempt to introduce an American-style culture war into a country that has always regarded such conflicts as unnecessary.
The most worrying element of the Queen’s speech is the absence of anything that addresses our biggest problem: economic growth. It’s madness, in a recession, to consider a law which takes hundreds of pounds from each taxpayer’s pocket and gives it to an overseas charity of a minister’s choice. The aim is noble, yes, but the British public has a long history of doing this without the taxman’s intervention: private donations are the highest in Europe. The Queen was made to say that the increase in tax money sent overseas will be ‘the first time that the United Kingdom has met’ the target of giving 0.7