Working out the plot
Arriving at the state opening of Parliament this morning I felt like I was walking onto the set of a movie. As I rushed through Black Rod's entrance (yes, he does have his own) I bumped into a group of beefeaters waiting for their walk on role. In a corridor I almost impaled myself on the sword of one of the horseguards. Ladies in evening wear jostled with judges in wigs and their lordships in ermine.
It was colourful, it was enjoyable, but I'm still struggling to work out the plot.
The plotline dreamt up by the the Downing Street spindoctors is "security in a changing world" - not just security from bad people whether noisy neighbours or troublesome terrorists but from climate change and pensioner poverty too. It's a neat enough formulation but like all Queen's Speeches I suspect it won't last terribly long. You see the wordsmiths at Number Ten don't actually control what goes into the Queen's Speech. The content, as always, actually stems from a curious mix of:
- • Mere chance - "Department A has finally got its plans ready for a new bill"
• Buggins turn - "We turned down Minister B last year and we can't do it again"
• Inter-departmental rivalry - "No-one will take us seriously if we don't have something in the Queen's Speech"
• Party Politics - "Let's make Cameron and Campbell look soft by by forcing another vote on ID cards"
Oh yes, and then there's what the Cabinet decides is in the country's interests. Oddly, after all the build up, this does not include - for now, at least, a terrorism bill. Not mentioned too are the two major issues that will shape the politics of the next year. You may have tired of hearing it but these are - who comes next as prime minister, and when and how we get out of Iraq.
Pause before writing to complain that I am ignoring things of real significance. I am not. The Pensions Bill - linking the state pension to earnings and setting up a form of compulsorily saving - will affect millions of us. The Climate Change Bill - the details of which still have to be hammered out within government let alone in Parliament - will matter hugely too. Significant too will be a bill that will only appear in draft but which may allow the widespread introduction of road pricing.
The next year in politics will - like today's pomp - be colourful and dramatic. Its storyline though has still to be written.