The Queen’s Speech will take place today (11 March), outlining the government’s legislative priorities for the coming year, including requirements for voter ID in general elections in England, Scotland and Wales (this is already a requirement in Northern Ireland) and possible plans to curtail the length of general election campaigns from seven weeks to four or five weeks (according to Nick Watt at Newsnight).
It all points to something that was already looking likely: the government hopes to hold a general election in 2023, and is acting now to secure some tweaks in its advantage.
A shorter general election run-up limits the chance of a repeat of 2017, when Theresa May’s huge polling lead was eroded over a long and disastrous campaign, while voter ID requirements are likely to dampen voter turnout among demographics who are more likely to vote Labour – especially, so long as Boris Johnson wasn’t misspeaking yesterday, if these requirements only apply to first-time voters.
This points to another stark reality for both parties. Not only does it not give the Labour Party much time to turn its electoral fortunes around, it also doesn’t give the government very much time to enact its manifesto promises.
As one of the Conservative manifesto’s co-authors, Rachel Wolf, has written, this is the government’s last window to implement policies if it wants to deliver them by 2024, let alone by an early general election in 2023.
There are some signs of progress in this Queen’s Speech – retraining opportunities, for example, and freeports. But there is silence on social care, two years after Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and said he had a “clear plan” to fix it. The government knows that the record it will be judged on in 2023 or 2024 is being decided now.