The King’s Speech; either a glorious celebration of British parliamentary tradition or an outdated pantomime with silly costumes. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
In practice, it is supposed to set out the government’s legislative agenda for the next year or more. But the timing of this speech, so close to the next general election, means that it is even more political in nature than usual. Most of the Bills announced today will not complete before the next general election, reflecting that today was more about the government signposting its political direction rather than being a substantial legislative programme.
Some of the Bills are serious, reflect hard work from officials and ministers in laying the groundwork for achieving some serious legislation and to tackle real policy challenges (like the Automated Vehicles Bill or the Leasehold and Freehold Bill). Others reflect political passion projects of No.10 (like the Tobacco and Vapes Bill) or look like they could be passed relatively easily as ‘quick wins’ before next summer (Pedicabs Bill).
But other Bills are there to draw dividing lines with Labour and to try and set political traps for Starmer. As expected, there are several proposed criminal justice bills which cover issues such as tougher sentences for violent criminals and forcing defendants to appear in court. These are clearly designed to be campaigning issues for Tory MPs to demonstrate to the sizable number of undecided voters in their constituencies that the Conservative government is continuing to grapple with their top concerns. Labour will try to avoid these political traps by broadly supporting these measures, whilst arguing that they are pointless when the courts system is crumbling and that there aren’t enough police officers as it is.
Most of the political action over the next 12 months will be away from the legislative arena but there will still be some important political battles to be fought in Parliament. And if organisations can ensure that their core policy objectives and campaign issues are relevant to both the specific Bill in question and the politics of the Bill teams guiding the legislation through Parliament, then the next year provides some exciting opportunities to engage with key politicians.
The Whitehouse team are expert political consultants providing public relations and public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union and beyond. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.