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Queen's Speech analysis: the Sun is setting on the Coalition

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Queen's Speech analysis: the Sun is setting on the Coalition

Post  Panda on Wed 8 May - 17:05

Queen's Speech analysis: the sun is setting on the Coalition

A limited package of new laws reflects the approaching general election, and
points the way to Conservatives and Lib Dems living separate lives, says James

The Coalition's best moments are
behind it

11:45AM BST 08 May 2013


The Queen's Speech: full coverage

If politics is the art of the possible, then the Queen’s Speech makes clear
just how little is possible for a coalition government entering its fourth year.

Yes, there are a whole 20 Bills set out today, ranging across departments and
policies. Some, like the changes on pensions and social care, will even have a
direct impact on voters’ everyday lives.

And others, like the Immigration Bill, may just have a bearing on current
political debates and public opinion.

But there are no surprises, no eye-catching new plans. This is familiar fare,
almost all of it agreed some time ago and announced at least once before.

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The limited nature of the Queen’s Speech package reflects the simple fact
that we are now less than two years from the next general election. More than
anything else, that timetable defines and dictates the Government’s agenda.

Most of the Coalition’s big decisions were made long ago, and the biggest, on
economic policy, was never a matter of legislation. Whatever legislation was
needed for major domestic reforms – welfare, schools, the NHS reorganisation –
has already been passed.

All that remains is delivery, actually trying to make those changes work, and
make them work in a manner that voters see and appreciate.

The spirit of inter-party co-operation that began the Coalition and gave
birth to many of those big reforms has now largely departed.

Relations between senior Conservatives and Lib Dems remain cordial enough,
but neither side is any longer prepared to compromise and grant the other’s
wishes. Thus the painful absence of legislation on an European Union referendum,
so fondly desired by Conservative MPs worried about Ukip.

Likewise the so-called Snooper's Charter, the plan to give the police and
intelligence services new access to communications data. Lib Dem objections mean
that instead of legislation, the Speech announces yet another hotch-potch
compromise, "proposals" instead of laws.

Indeed, some MPs see this Queen’s Speech as a sign of things to come. By next
year, the Coalition will be starting its last 12 months in office. What
legislation will it have to offer then? Precious little, ministers admit in

The 2014 Speech will be even sparser then today’s, and could effectively
begin an informal, undeclared process of pre-election separation between the two

For legislation is what binds the Coalition together. Each bill the
Government introduces is agreed by both parties: there are no Conservative bills
or Lib Dem bills, just Government bills.

And each bill has to be approved in the Commons, each party mobilising its
MPs to vote together in a common cause, generally in the face of Labour

So the less legislating the Coalition parties do, the less need they have to
agree and compromise.

Without bills to push through Parliament, it will be easier for the two
parties to live separate lives, to criticise each other, and to make differing
promises to the electorate about what they would do after 2015.

This low-key, limited Queen’s Speech is a taste of things to come. The
Coalition’s high noon moment has passed: the sun is now setting on this
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