If the opinion polls are right, next week’s Queen’s Speech looks set to be the final Labour legislative programme for some time.
Based on the familiar ‘New‘ Labour themes of fairness and opportunity for all, individual responsibility and a commitment to social justice, the Queen’s Speech is likely to contain little more than the already pre-announced Draft legislative Programme in June.
It will contain legislation on wide ranging topics such as improving schools and safeguarding children, child poverty and the digital economy. For those of us in the financial services industry, a Financial Services and Business Bill will make an appearance.
The Bill will overhaul the regulatory architecture to deal with systemic risk and interestingly the Bill will consider ways to improve the diversity of market participants. However, with just months to go before a General Election, more fundamental change is likely with the whole future of the FSA is up for grabs if the Conservatives win.
Consumers also get a look-in with the announcement of a Consumer White Paper, which is likely to strengthen consumer protection and accelerate the financial capability programme.
The Queens Speech contains plans to bring forward legislation to reform the House of Lords. The hereditary principle will removed from the upper chamber once and for all, and plans for a leaner democratically constituted House of Lords will be published in due course. It remains to be seen whether ‘democratically constituted’ translates into the fully elected chamber many have been calling for. The Bill will contain provisions for Peers to resign their seats – giving Lord Mandelson the opportunity to step down and become a commoner again and fight for a House of Commons seat in May. I for one, don’t think that is going to happen.
But with only eleven bills announced in the draft programme – some of which are re-announcements of existing plans such as the Equality Bill – many will argue that this year’s programme shows a lack of ambition and imagination. As a contrast last year’s programme contained around eighteen bills. Indeed when the Prime Minister launched the planned programme to the Commons in June it was partly a rehash of previously announced initiatives on topics such as health reform and unemployment. Indeed the Government then abandoned plans for a spending review, leading Cameron to attack it as a ‘re-launch without a price tag’.
Will the Queen’s Speech give the Prime Minister the opportunity to regain the policy initiative? I fear time is running out.
The Glascow North East by-election:
* Last night’s Glasgow North East by-election will have given Labour a real emotional fillup in one of its traditional heartlands after a personally difficult week for the Prime Minister. A week where the tabloid media acted in a savage and offensive way over – what I believe – were genuine emotions showed by the Prime Minister to a grieving family. There may be evidence that voters were disgusted by the tabloid tactics. I know I am. But I would be very wary of reading any more into the by-election result than Labour holding onto a rock solid seat.
On the lowest turnout in any Scottish by-election ever, the result tells us little about the General Election next year. While commentators focus on the ‘size’ of the UK national Tory lead fluctuating between 10 and 17 percent at the moment – it is better to focus on share of vote – which has showed the Conservatives on around 40 per cent Labour on around 26 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent for most of 2009. On that basis we are still looking at a Conservative victory on May 8, 2010.
Cicero Consulting director Iain Anderson