As I write, I have just come back from a very unusual occasion – the State Opening of Parliament. It wasn’t just unusual for the normal reasons of people dressed in robes holding golden sticks and the presence of such individuals as the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, the Maltravers Herald Extraordinary and the Keeper of Her Majesty’s Privy Purse (all real jobs). This pomp and circumstance is a feature for every Queen’s Speech and often takes place every year.
What made this particular State Opening unusual was that it was happening at all. At each State Opening, the Queen reads out a speech written by the Government, which sets out the policies that they want to bring forward in the next parliamentary session (which usually lasts one year).
You might be thinking, what’s so wrong with that? Well, Boris Johnson currently has a majority of -45 and has lost every single vote in Parliament since he became Prime Minister. He is also seeking a general election, which would end the session that the Queen just opened, making the whole of the ceremony today completely pointless.
Why then did Boris Johnson drag the Queen to Parliament this week? I think the answer is obvious – he wanted her to deliver a pre-election party political broadcast for the Conservative Party. He forced the Queen to set out a set of policies that he knows he can’t get through Parliament.
And let’s be clear, nothing that the Tories put into the Queen’s Speech actually undo the heavy cuts that have damaged communities and public services in Tameside.
For instance, while the Conservatives have been keen to portray this Queen’s Speech as a “law and order Queen’s Speech”, the reality is that they’ve cut over 20,000 police officers since coming to power. Even under their plans to train new officers, there would still be almost 1,000 fewer officers in Greater Manchester.
Similarly, on schools Johnson claims he’s going to “level up” school funding but recent analysis shows that even with the extra funding promised, many schools will still have to make cuts and that these cuts will be deepest in the least affluent areas. For instance, schools in Tameside will have lost out on £39.2 million between 2015 and 2020 – a loss of £247 per pupil.
The more you look into Boris Johnson’s promises and pledges, the more they unravel. Luckily, I think that people here in Tameside will be able to see this Queen’s Speech for what it is – a cynical stunt by a desperate Government.