The Queen’s Speech in two weeks’ time will be notable for the absence of new legislation and lack of controversy.
With 11 months to the General Election, the political focus has resoundingly shifted from Westminster to Corby, Thurrock, Weaver Vale and the other swing seats that will define the 2015 story. While this was inevitable, speculation about next month’s Queen’s speech has still been notable by its absence.
The Bills that we expect to feature will be uncontroversial and likely to be passed without issue. The focus will be on social issues rather than the economy and the cost of living.
Measures to address child neglect (the ‘Cinderella Law’) and modern slavery are unlikely to meet serious opposition given the sensitive nature of the issues and wide public support for tackling them. Long-awaited legislation allowing the public recall of MPs may still make an appearance. It remains to be seen whether the proposals will go far enough to satisfy vocal supporters of the recall such as Zac Goldsmith and Douglas Carswell, but should make the statute book regardless.
The sparseness of the 2014 Queen’s Speech is due to two reasons. First, the Coalition has already passed core business of the 2010 Coalition Agreement. In short, the two Coalition partners have run out of things they can publicly agree on. Now is not the time for either coalition party to make legislative concessions. Their focus is now on ‘differentiation’ and appeasing their own core support.
Second, the now fixed five-year term has changed the flow of UK politics. Arguments were raised during the passage of the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill that the last year could lead to a ‘zombie Parliament’ – particularly with Coalition Government – and so it will come to pass. Unless the Scots vote Yes of course – which could make for a rather more interesting last few months than expected.
The lighter legislative agenda means the Labour Party and backbenchers of all hues may make mischief. The challenge for the Government will be to contain controversial issues, spot problems coming down the road, and keep restless backbenchers busy. Or failing that, keep your eyes peeled for a few extra weeks of recess.