Evening Call: The Queen Speaks

Without wanting to sound too much like a sensible columnist writing about the Labour manifesto – how exactly are you going to pay for all this, Prime Minister?

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I have an embarrassing confession to make. When I first started writing about politics, I hadn’t quite grasped that the Queen’s Speech (the speech the monarch gives at the State Opening of Parliament, outlining the government’s agenda for the next year) was not actually the same thing as the Queen’s speech (the one broadcast on the telly at 3pm on Christmas Day, which you sometimes watch when a bit pissed and which is known, officially, as “the Royal Christmas Message”).

Anyway – today was the former. From her throne in the House of Lords (never was one to stand on ceremony, our Liz), the Queen read out a list of nearly 30 bills that Boris Johnson’s government intends to use its new majority to bring into law over the months to come. They include, in no particular order:

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will officially take the UK out of the EU at the end of January;

The Agriculture Bill, which replaces the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy with a new system of subsidies;

A new NHS funding bill, intended to pump money into the system;

An Employment Bill, which it claims is intended to protect workers’ rights after Brexit (although given that this is the Tories we are talking about here, hmmm);

New legislation to create a new Australian-style points-based immigration system; and

An Environment Bill, with legally binding targets on things like air quality.

In addition, the government promised a National Infrastructure Strategy, more money for schools, and an extra £1bn for adult and social care each year. Oh, and the government is also moving to repeal the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, clamp down on judicial reviews, and set out measures requiring voters to have photo ID at polling stations. (More details on this, and so much more, over at Sky.) Boris Johnson, never a man cursed with undue modesty, said that it was “not vainglorious” to say that Britain is on the verge of a “new golden age”. Of course he did.

Perhaps it’s just that we’ve all grown used, over the last three and a half years, to the total paralysis of government meaning that very little legislation actually ever gets passed, but it does at first glance look like an ambitious programme. (Things, it’s worth noting, do not have to be good to be ambitious.) But I can’t help wondering how we’re going to pay for all this.

The government has pledged not to increase taxes. And it remains committed to rupturing Britain’s relationship with its largest market, with all sorts of economic consequences we can barely even guess at, just as soon as it can. So – without wanting to sound too much like a sensible columnist writing about the Labour manifesto – how exactly are you going to pay for all this, Prime Minister?

Good day for...

The number of people in the Labour party. Well, good week, at least: the FT’s Jim Pickard has revealed that the party’s membership has spiked by 24,000 since last week, and is up 50,000 since the start of the election campaign. This presumably shows the wide-spread enthusiasm for influencing the future direction of the party.

Cynics may note that the correlation between party size and ability to win elections is, let us say, unproven – but nonetheless.

Bad day for...

The union. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon began the day by unveiling a paper called Scotland’s Right To Choose, and has written to the Prime Minister to formally request the power to hold a new independence referendum. Boris Johnson is expected to reject it.

I’ve linked to this before, but there’s nothing but repeats on at Christmas these days, so if you want to understand the SNP’s strategy, you should read this excellent piece by Chris Deerin.

Quote of the day

“When Jesus was falsely accused of Treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers.”

Can you guess, which of the week’s news stories an actual elected politician is comparing to the crucifixion here? Who he might be comparing to the actual Jesus?

That’s right, it’s the almighty himself, Donald Trump, who last night was impeached for his – and not, crucially, our – sins. Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk (his actual name) went on to argue that, “Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process”. Other entirely sane and reasonable Republican lawmakers have compared the impeachment to the attack or Pearl Harbour or the Salem Witch Trials. Everything is fine.

Everybody’s talking about…

Christmas, because a) it’s coming, in less than a week now, and b) today was the NS Christmas lunch. Here’s something I wrote about an under-discussed aspect of the festive season in 2017: the existential Christmas playlist. Or – what are the best Christmas songs to listen to you when you’re depressed about the world?  

Everybody should be talking about…

The dozens of bushfires that have blanketed Sydney in smoke. The state of New South Wales has declared an emergency after Thursday was the second day running on which record high temperature records were recorded across Australia.

The NS published some terrifying photos of the fires here.

Housekeeping

Tomorrow’s will be the last Evening Call of 2019. Any requests, get them in now.

I’m aware that some of you have been having some formatting problems with this email – rest assured that fixing them is the first thing on my to do list for 2020.

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Jonn Elledge is a freelance journalist, formerly assistant editor of the New Statesman and editor of its sister site, CityMetric. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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