In a joint statement ahead of this year’s Queen’s Speech, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister announced that “this Queen’s Speech is unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration.” They should have also added that this Speech was designed to be pro-Coalition.
Following the local and European elections, it was important for both Coalition partners to show that they are parties which can still create and introduce effective policies. The Queen’s Speech also presented an opportunity to quash rumours that this is an increasingly divided Government which won’t last the course (one bookie recently reduced their odds of a 2014 General Election to 6/1).
Both Coalition partners have an interest in ensuring this Government sees out its legislated five year term, as they hope their respective polling figures will rise with the nation’s economic performance. A split would also allow Labour and UKIP to raise questions about either party’s ability to effectively lead the country.
Therefore, Grant Shapps MP, Conservative Party Chairman, claimed the only reason that the Speech was shorter than usual is because the upcoming term is shorter than usual, adding that the Coalition is still buzzing with ideas. His messaging is part of a co-ordinated effort across the Coalition to project an image of co-operation and cordiality.
Following the announcement, the Conservative messaging is that voters should look at the UK’s economic direction of travel. The Tories are believe that voters will be encouraged that this Government is now able to look to cut tax, support married couples with tax breaks, and give savers a greater say in how their savings are used.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are keen to stress their own role in the pension reforms. Steve Webb, their Pensions Minister, is one of the unsung heroes of the Coalition and has been key in developing one of the coalitions most radical polices. Sadly for the party’s election strategists, this is not an easy issue to capture voters’ imagination with.
Across the announcement, the fingerprints of both Conservative and Liberal Democrat policymakers seizing this last opportunity to gather ammunition for the campaign trail are clearly visible. A transferrable tax allowance for married couples is a win for the Tories, whilst Nick Clegg will take credit for the school lunches and allowance to enable zero carbon homes.
The Opposition has voiced frustration about the lack of announcements in this Queen’s Speech and are now calling this Coalition a “zombie government”. It’s a free hit for Labour as Ed Miliband rightly noted that this is a policy-light announcement. He will now continue to stress that a Labour Government would have listened to voters and taken real action to address the cost of living crisis, with measures to further reform banks and freeze energy prices.
However, all three parties are aware of the realpolitik of this announcement’s timing. Over the next year, MPs will be despatched to defend the UK in the Scottish Referendum, before fighting for their own seats in what stands to be the most closely fought election in decades. Reviewing the remaining objectives set out by this Coalition, it’s clear that this is a Government with one eye on the clock.