Brian Monteith: All talk and too little action, Your Majesty
THE Queen's Speech at Westminster is fast becoming all pomp and no circumstance. For the first five years the Tories complained they were never able to deliver the Queen's Speech they wanted because they had to do a deal with the Liberal Democrats, who like to claim they watered it down.
That claim is looking rather thin now. Wednesday saw the second Queen’s Speech of a Conservative majority government and it was pretty thin gruel. Two days later and I’m struggling to think of anything of note that it contained. It didn’t need Liberal Democrats in government to stop any outrageous or bloodcurdling proposals. There aren’t any.
One could be forgiven for asking will a real Conservative Government stand up, but then it is David Cameron and George Osborne we are talking about. What’s more important is their Blairite politics of working out where the middle ground on issues is and trying to be in that place at any given time. The problem with that approach is that the middle ground of British politics is like a sandbank, it moves with the tides of public opinion and is never in the same place twice.
That’s why Blair was good at starting so many reforms (devolution, House of Lords, education) but never finished any of his great projects. He either lost interest or lost his way. Cameron and Osborne are in the same mould. We are entering the second year of their Tory-only government and they are fiddling with minor reforms that will not scare the horses. Their big worry is not to be controversial before the EU referendum next month.
As usual there is a great deal of PR puff designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.
The commitment to maintain defence spending at two per cent of the UK’s GDP is one such example. What the fine words about protecting our nation from external threat does not say is that the figures are manipulated to achieve the target.
The two per cent is not the sum total of recruiting service men and women, buying tanks, ships and aircraft and all the technology that goes with modern armed forces. No, the target is achieved by adding into the total the pension liabilities of the service personnel past and present. Also added in is the intelligence services. These items were never in the original formula for measuring defence spending and shows just how shifty our politicians can be to make themselves look good when they are letting us down.
Sure, there is lots of worthy stuff about NHS tourism and regulations for drones, but that is the meat and drink of parliaments. The country desperately needs a wholesale reform of its taxation system that is far too complex and just keeps getting added to instead of simplified. Gordon Brown added hundreds of pages to the tax manual, but instead of filleting them Osborne and Cameron produce more. A reforming Prime Minister would tidy up the mess that Blair left the Lords in so that the country could see politicians being held to account by a rational political process the reflects the public’s views, rather than the establishment repeatedly rewarding its cronies for failure.
Cameron had talked of producing a “Sovereignty Bill” but that has been dropped, for the obvious reason that it would only serve to highlight that the UK is not sovereign at all – for the ultimate power over our legislation lies not in London but in Luxembourg where the EU’s European court of Justice resides.
It all keeps coming back to the EU in the end. How David Cameron must wish the referendum vote could be next week. It’s his to lose, and by trying to load the dice with extra government spending, leaflets to every household, avoiding anything controversial it’s hard to think he was only telling us two months ago he was willing to take us out of it. Believe Cameron about that and you will believe anything.
It’s not an Open and shut case
When is a club not a club? When the lawful decisions of its members can be overturned. If clubs cannot decide such matters as to whom their members are then they cease to be clubs. Should gentlemen golf clubs refusing to admit lady members be forced to accept them? Women can play at the Honourable Company of Golfers (Muirfield to you and I) as guests, they just can’t be members, and as clubs are free to decide who can be their members that’s their right.
Whatever one thinks of Muirfield there is a point being missed about the decision. When the members voted to stay male-only they must have known they would lose the right to host the R&A’s Open Championship. That they took their decision in the light of this threat deserves some respect.
PM is master of the low blows
Can the Prime Minister stoop any lower? Last week it was the canard that leaving the EU would bring war and genocide, when it is plain the EU’s behaviour provoked the civil war in the Ukraine and was responsible for allowing the genocide in Yugoslavia by failing to intervene diplomatically (because Germany would not have it).
This week’s award for scaremongering goes to David Cameron, who has now started saying that ISIS is on the side of Brexit – yet even the dog in the street knows that it is the porous borders of the EU that are aiding the activities of ISIS in entering European cities and for the UK to take back control of our borders will be harm their interests.
What will next week’s new low be?
It’s that time again. I look out my green scarf, put a bet on the opposition and put the fizz in the fridge. A week ago I was feeling confident. Now? A little less so. Like the lottery, there is no law of averages that says you must eventually win a cup final. Especially when the Hibees are involved! And I consider myself an optimist!