The Queen’s Speech was a Tory manifesto launch, and it fell apart before it started

Tom Peck
Reuters

It is a fact never worth forgetting in this, the age of Hot Takes, that the sole reason the Queen is universally admired is that she has never given an opinion on anything.

Brexit, the death penalty, Marmite, Jameela Jamil: if you want to know what Her Majesty thinks about any of this stuff you just have to make it up yourself.

A terrible tragedy, really, there aren’t more of her. Enough, say, to fill an entire BBC Question Time panel and audience every week for the next 20 years.

So quite what she made of her starring role in Monday morning’s Tory Party election manifesto launch we are also unlikely ever to know.

People are, understandably, mocking the Conservative Party, for hauling the Queen over to the Houses of Parliament in her little golden carriage, to announce a range of new policies they know cannot possibly pass because they are currently trying to govern with a working majority of minus 45.

But in many ways, it was genius. Getting Her Majesty herself to read out all your policies for the general election you’re going to have just as soon as the opposition lets you is a PR triumph.

One imagines they’ll be feeling almost as smug as the Remain campaign, when they bagged the Beckham and Obama endorsements, which you’ll recall worked out very well for them.

And it’s not just that. It also makes life easier for the media. The time-honoured tradition now, with Tory election manifestos and indeed budgets, is they detonate shortly after they’ve been read out, like a briefing note sent to Inspector Gadget.

When Theresa May dragged all of Westminster to a mill in Halifax two years ago, it took journalists at least two hours to find the dementia tax explosives carefully packed within, and then light the fuse that would in effect, end the Theresa May show.

On this occasion, everybody knows nothing in it can possibly pass through the House of Commons without an election, meaning the speech arrived pre-collapsed.

The watching world was spared the trouble even of having to discover the self-evident absurdity within it. The absurdity was the thing itself.

Which is not to say it wasn’t worth emitting a half-strangled bark of laughter when Her Majesty read out the bit about new legislation “to minimise the impact of divorce, particularly on children”.

Several noble members actually did this, within audible range of the prime minister standing at the back, and his girlfriend sitting in the gallery above, for whom he is currently minimising on his life the impact of his current wife, and his children (number still unspecified).

There was also the bit about reforming social care “to ensure dignity in old age”.

Her Majesty, 93, said these words with the Imperial State crown sitting on a cushion in front of her because, we are invited to assume, it is too heavy to carry on her head while she is being forced to take part in a party political broadcast.

There was also the really frightening bit where, even for those of us in the room, she briefly became a Priti Patel deepfake video, telling criminals she is going to lock them up for longer to think about what they’ve done.

All of which leaves us precious little time to reflect upon the pantomime of the occasion. As always, there was the man standing behind the Queen in a 45 grand tabard, wearing women’s tights he buys himself from John Lewis.

Others were on hand, naturally, to fiddle with the train of the Robe of State as it made its way between the Cap of Maintenance and the Sword of State.

Someone whose actual job title, 365 days a year, is Black Rod, did her thing where she smote with her stick upon the door of the Commons and had it slammed in her face.

Then there's the crown with huge diamonds in, gathered in morally dubious circumstances from the far corners of what was once the empire.

If it’s your kind of thing, all this stuff is vaguely fun, when you’re an otherwise normal country.

A carefully honed pageant of a kind of glorious managed decline. A sovereign brought to heel, and reminded each year she is kept in place at only the people’s discretion (all this is embodied in the Black Rod door slam, by the way).

An empire allowed to win its liberty with only the bare minimum amount of torture visited upon it, now replaced with a commonwealth.

But this stuff does ring a touch off-key when you’re an international basket case.