This is a Queens Speech from a government looking for survival, rather than for authority.
Between the lines, we can read an acceptance that power has shifted from the executive to the legislature. The effect of the voters’ choice is to weaken ministers and empower Parliament.
The decision to set a two year programme, and to cancel next year’s speech, is a bid to buy time, but it also imposes an ultimate expiry date on Mrs May’s premiership.
The government’s weakness is reflected in what is missing from the speech. Absentees include reform of the state pension (triple lock expiry and winter payment reform), caps to executive pay and worker representation on boards, provisions to boost fracking, a specific energy price cap, the ending of universal school meals, specifics on social care reform, and provisions to implement new Parliamentary boundaries.
The election result has put a red line through all these items which had featured in that fateful manifesto.
Controversial proposals have either been ditched, or watered down to consultations.
The majority of the remaining measures are not going to provoke great Parliamentary tensions; they are broadly anodyne measures with cross party support.
That is essential, given the government’s minority status. But it has unavoidable consequences. It means that almost all the political battles will be focussed on the Brexit measures. The likely consequence is that Parliament will be far more assertive than the government would have wished. It also means that a Parliamentary majority will develop behind a broad Brexit stance which will be ‘softer’ than the government’s default position. Control of the direction of policy on Brexit will move into Parliament. The government’s difficulties will be further compounded by a resurgent House of Lords. The Brexit Bills contained in this speech were not the subject of specific manifesto pledges. Hence the Lords will claim two powerful reasons for muscling in on Brexit legislation: the government has neither a manifesto pledge nor a majority.
With little else of controversy to distract MPs or peers, the reassertion of Parliamentary power will come on Brexit. And Parliament has plenty of strong cards in its deck.
The ceremonial today was pared right back to the minimum. Exactly in line with what has happened to the government’s authority.