Beyond satire: the Tory right's "alternative Queen's Speech"

Bills to privatise the BBC, restore the death penalty, ban the burqa, leave the EU and introduce Margaret Thatcher Day are among the 40 proposed by Tory MPs.

Six weeks too late, the Tory right has launched an "alternative Queen's Speech" - but it was well worth the wait. The list of 40 proposed bills reads like something from a Chris Morris satire. You can view them all below, but here's my quick guide to the most egregious/bizarre.

- Ban the burqa (1)

- Bring back national service (2)

- Leave the EU (3)

- Make parents legally responsible for crimes committed by their children (4)

- Reintroduce the death penalty (10)

- Decriminalise the non-payment of the licence fee (16)

- Rename the August bank holiday as Margaret Thatcher Day (18)

- Hold a referendum on equal marriage (23)

- Privatise the BBC (27)

- Abolish the office of Deputy Prime Minister (also known as "kill Nick Clegg") (28)

- Leave the EU - again (they're not taking any chances) (30)

- Ban sexual harassment claims unless the alleged offence is illegal and has been reported to the police (34)

1) Face Coverings (Prohibition) – Bill to prohibit the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes.

2) National Service – Bill to provide a system of national service for young persons; and for connected purposes.

3) European Communities Act 1972 (Repeal) – Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and related legislation; and for connected purposes.

4) Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) – Bill to make provision for the parents of young offenders to be legally responsible for their actions.

5) Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) – Bill to make provision to exclude from the United Kingdom foreign nationals found guilty of a criminal offence committed in the United Kingdom.

6) Asylum Seekers (Return to Nearest Safe Country) – Bill to facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers to the safe country nearest their country of origin.

7) Prisoners (Completion of Custodial Sentences) – Bill to require prisoners to serve in prison the full custodial sentence handed down by the court.

8) Fishing Grounds and Territorial Waters (Repatriation) – Bill to make provision for the Government to designate certain fishing grounds and territorial waters as sovereign territory of the United Kingdom outside the control of the Common Fisheries Policy.

9) School Governing Bodies (Adverse Weather Conditions) – Bill to require school governing bodies and headteachers to make provision to keep schools open in adverse weather conditions.

10) Capital Punishment – Bill to allow for capital punishment for certain offences.

11) Government Departments (Amalgamation of Scotland Office, Wales Office and Northern Ireland Office) – Bill to make provision for the amalgamation of the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices.

12) Residential Roads (Adoption by Local Highways Authority) – Bill to require the handover of residential roads built by developers to local highways authorities within certain time periods; and for connected purposes.

13) Equality and Diversity (Reform) – Bill to prohibit the use of affirmative and positive action in recruitment and appointment processes; to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove the special provision for political parties in relation to the selection of candidates; and for connected purposes.

14) Sentencing Escalator – Bill to provide that a criminal reconvicted for an offence on a second or further occasion receives a longer sentence than for the first such offence.

15) Leasehold Reform (Amendment) – Bill to amend the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 in relation to the permitted signatories of notices; and for connected purposes.

16) BBC Licence Fee (Civil Debt) – Bill to make provision to decriminalise the non-payment of the BBC licence fee.

17) Smoking (Private Members’ Clubs) – Bill to make provision to allow smoking in a separate ventilated room in a private members’ club if a majority of the members of the club so decide.

18) Margaret Thatcher Day – Bill to make provision that the annual Bank Holiday Monday in late August be known as Margaret Thatcher Day.

19) Department of Energy and Climate Change (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and for its functions to be absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

20) Married Couples (Tax Allowance) – Bill to make provision for a tax allowance for married couples.

21) Foreign Aid Ring-Fencing (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for foreign aid and development not to be linked to a specific percentage of Gross National Income, but to be set yearly, by Parliament, in relation to need.

22) Charitable Status for Religious Institutions – Bill to make provision for a presumption that religious institutions meet the public benefit test for charitable status.

23) Same Sex Marriage (Referendum) – Bill to make provision for a referendum on whether same sex marriage should be allowed.

24) Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the cessation of subsidies for the development of wind farms.

25) Withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights and Removal of Alleged Terrorists – Bill to make provision for an application to the Council of Europe to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights and to deport alleged terrorists subject to approval by the British courts.

26) Romanian and Bulgarian Accession (Labour Restriction) – Bill to make provision for restrictions on the residence in the UK of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to continue.

27) BBC Privatisation – Bill to make provision for the privatisation of the British Broadcasting Corporation by providing shares in the Corporation to all licence fee payers.

28) Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Abolition) – Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and its responsibilities to be allocated to other Departments of State.

29) Prime Minister (Replacement) – Bill to make provision for the appointment of a Prime Minister in the event that a Prime Minister is temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

30) United Kingdom (Withdrawal from the European Union) – Bill to make provision for the Government to give notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and for connected purposes.

31) Asylum (Time Limit) – Bill to require that asylum claims in the United Kingdom be lodged within three months of the claimant’s arrival in the United Kingdom; and that persons who have already entered the United Kingdom and wish to make an asylum claim must do so within three months of the passing of this Act.

32) Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) – Bill to make provision to restrict the entitlement of non-UK Citizens from the European Union and the European Economic Area to taxpayer-funded benefits.

33) Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) – Bill to make provision for criminal sanctions against those who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority.

34) Sexual Impropriety in Employment – Bill to require that claims by employees alleging sexual impropriety be limited to cases where the alleged misconduct is contrary to the criminal law and has been reported to the police.

35) Collection of Nationality Data – Bill to require the collection and publication of information relating to the nationality of those in receipt of benefits and of those to whom national insurance numbers are issued.

36) Foreign Nationals (Access to Public Services) – Bill to restrict access by foreign nationals to United Kingdom public services for which no charge is made.

37) House of Lords (Maximum Membership) – Bill to provide for a maximum limit on the number of Peers entitled to vote in the House of Lords, and to provide for a moratorium on new appointments.

38) Control of Offshore Wind Turbines – Bill to restrict the height, number, location and subsidies of wind turbines situated offshore within 20 miles of the coast.

39) Employment Opportunities – Bill to introduce more freedom, flexibility and opportunity for those seeking employment in the public and private sectors; and for connected purposes.

40) EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) – Bill to require an independent audit of the benefits and costs of UK membership of the European Union.

A Conservative rosette worn by a supporter in Loughborough's Market Place. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.