Everything you need to know about the Queen's Speech 2013 in five minutes

Queen's Speech 2013: Right wing and controversial
Queen's Speech 2013: Right wing and controversial
Alex Stevenson By

Ah yes, another Queen's Speech. An opportunity for peers to put on their ermine and for the party leaders to make awkward small talk while walking through parliament. That's about all there is to it.

Well, not quite. This isn't just pomp and ceremony. The Queen will be outlining the coalition's legislative agenda for the next 12 months, too.

Sounds boring.

Well... actually, a lot of it could be quite dull. Local audit bill, I'm looking at you. Not to mention the finance (no 2) bill carried over from the last session, implementing the Budget.


Aren't you supposed to make this sound interesting?

You're not exactly helping. In fact this is going to be a thoroughly fascinating occasion, because of what's going on in British politics right now.

The four letters 'Ukip' seem to be of relevance here.

Exactly. Last week's elections have changed the way we think about British politics. The strong showing by Nigel Farage and his right-wing pals has shaken up Westminster and left us all wondering whether this might just be the start of four-party politics in Britain. Which is truly terrible news for David Cameron.

But he has the opportunity of the Queen's Speech to do something about it. Is he going to?

This is his big opportunity to answer his critics. And though his hands are tied by the coalition, there's an awful lot of right-wing bone to be thrown to enraged Tory backbenchers. Like the draft bill intended to stick two fingers up to the European Union on prisoner voting rights, for example.

That's something people care about. You should have mentioned that sooner.

Well, it's actually quite tangential, because it only really addresses the European issue side-on. Will there be the legislation guaranteeing the in-out EU referendum in the next parliament? That's what Tory backbenchers will be after. And the answer is probably not. We are likely to get a draft bill, but then Cameron might prefer to save this strategem until next year. It would be very divisive for the coalition, after all.

Doesn't sound like the Tories are going to be that happy, then.

Wait, there's more. The coalition is going to be coming up trumps on law and order issues. MPs and peers have already been poring over the draft anti-social behaviour bill, which creates a 'community trigger' forcing local authorities to deal with pesky kids. That's likely to be pushed through in this next session.  Then there are firm plans to legislate on police complaints. And there might even be public order legislation following the August 2011 riots strengthening police powers, for example allowing them to remove face coverings.

Good thing Ukip aren't a party of protest, then.

Not that kind. The biggest issue for the Kippers is immigration, and Tories are going to be very anxious something's done about that. So they can look forward to the immigration bill home secretary Theresa May will be spearheading, which is likely to restrict immigrants' access to the benefits system and make it easier to deport individuals abroad. The bill could also make it harder for illegal immigrants to get driving licences and make private landlords check the immigration status of their tenants.

That's the Tories sorted, then. Is there not another party in the coalition, though? I distinctly remember there being another party.

Perhaps you're thinking of the Liberal Democrats? It's true there's very little sign of anything that appeals particularly to Nick Clegg's party. There may be a big surprise popping up tomorrow, but probably the Lib Dem influence will make itself felt most strongly in what isn't in the speech. The 'snoopers charter' - the draft communications data bill -  won't feature after Clegg said it isn't going to happen.

So the deputy prime minister's chief function in government is to sit there blocking things?

At the moment, yes. But he has another feather in his cap: constitutional reform.

Sounds boring.

Well. Actually, it is quite dull. And after the failure of Lords reform, electoral reform and the boundary changes fiasco it's not something Clegg's keen on talking lots about. Still, there are a surprising bunch of constitutional reforms that could appear in the Speech. More devolution of powers to Wales, a bill bashing the civil service by giving ministers the power to pick and choose their permanent secretaries, and the long-expected bill to clarify the rules on parliamentary privilege are all likely.

Has Clegg given up on anything controversial altogether, then?

Almost. The draft bill outlining plans for the recall of MPs was hopelessly botched, but an uninspiring and insipid version could make its appearance. The toughest area to change would be party funding; there's half a chance the coalition could try to get the ball rolling again. Still, doing so is very difficult. And we all know how the Lords effort worked out.

Best to shy away from controversial issues altogether, then.

Yes, when it comes to coalition politics. But not when it comes to issues where the coalition can act united. Its parliamentary majority allows it to get away with a lot when it wants to.

Is there going to be much of that?

As it happens, yes. Getting HS2 up and running is going to be deeply pleasing to nimby backbenchers on both sides of the House, unless of course it is actually in their back yard. There's the Leveson press regulation law to be pushed through, antagonising the printed press no end. The energy bill, which isn't quite finished from the last session, is going to be wrapped up with more kicking and screaming from those who keep our lights on.

You should have mentioned that sooner. And you haven't even mentioned Labour yet.

A lot of the reforms are quite tricky to oppose, although Her Majesty's loyal opposition will continue to do its level best. Some of the most significant bills - reforms to pensions and the care system, the ones that will actually make the biggest difference to people's lives - aren't going to generate that much political heat but will make a big difference.

You definitely should have mentioned those sooner. I'd have mentioned the dropped public health changes we're not expecting any more, either, on alcohol minimum pricing and plain packaging of cigarettes.

Too late now. I need to buy and consume some ridiculously cheap booze and gaze at pretty cigarette packets.

I don't have any problem with that. And neither does the coalition.

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