Donald MacLeod: It wasn’t just the Queen that was missing from the Queen's Speech

·3-min read
The Queen at the State opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London in 2013
The Queen at the State opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London in 2013

THIS year’s official State Opening of Parliament, the annual archaic pomp and ceremony, which takes place in the Lords Chamber to mark the start of the parliamentary year, will no doubt be remembered by many historians and royal commentators alike for the non-appearance of the Queen, who due to mobility problems had to reluctantly pull out of this historic ritual.

It's the first time she has missed this parliamentary formality since 1963, and the first time her solemn-looking son Charles, the Prince of Wales, had been given permission to conduct the Queen's Speech ceremony on her behalf.

The Queen may have been missing from the Queen's Speech, but the speech will also be remembered as one where the UK Government was posted missing on a raft of serious issues, not least the escalating cost-of-living crisis, for which they have abdicated all responsibility.

To the government's shame, this historic declamation totally lacked in empathy or, more importantly, an emergency course of measures which could ease the financial burden of the estimated three million desperate families, who are currently being crunched by rampant inflation and rising costs, with many plunged into a despairing sea of irrecoverable debt and poverty.

Labour's embattled “beergate" leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "The Tories' programme did nothing for hard-hit households”. He added: “We are staring down the barrel of something we haven’t seen in decades – a stagflation crisis”.

The SNP Commons leader, Ian Blackford, also waded in, telling a less than packed house, which mysteriously empties every time he stands up to speak, “the most glaring omission in this Queen's Speech is the complete lack of immediate action to help people with the biggest inflationary crisis in 50 years.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that he and the Chancellor, a less than perky Rishi Sunak, would say more on the matter “in the days to come”, a comment which Downing Street later denied, saying they were not planning to introduce any emergency package of measures.

Of course, that wasn’t the only opportunity or indeed commitment the government missed. They again failed to deliver on their 2019 promise of an Employment Rights Bill, which would have offered greater protections for workers, including the rights to ask for more contract redundancy protections, extended to prevent pregnancy discrimination, one week's leave for unpaid carers and that tips left for workers, particularly in the hospitality sector, are paid in full.

They did, however, on the back of P&O Ferries' disgraceful decision to sack 800 workers, deliver on the Harbours (Seafarers Renumeration) Bill – legislation which will give our ports powers to close loopholes and stop ferry companies from docking unless they pay their staff the minimum wage.

More worryingly, though, they skirted around the edges on the growing crisis over the Northern Ireland protocol and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement. They stopped short of any legislative commitment on the protocol, and only vaguely promised to protect the internal economic bonds of the United Kingdom. In other words, they know not what to do, and it seems that doing nothing is again their dangerous default position.

We should not forget, regardless of your views on the actual ceremony, that The Queen's Speech is in place to provide the government with an opportunity to highlight its priorities for the months ahead. And it’s quite clear, after this week’s speech, where the governments priorities actually lie and it's definitely not with the millions of people now unable to heat their homes, feed their families and pay their rent.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May this week urged Mr Johnson to ensure the Government "works for everyone". Sadly, it was yet another nugget of sound advice he totally missed.

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