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The Pomp and Ceremony of the Queen's Speech Reflects and Reinforces Business-as-Usual Politics

05/06/2014 14:50 BST | Updated 04/08/2014 10:59 BST

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Never has the phrase "business-as-usual" been more appropriately used than on the day of the Queen's Speech. In an age-old ceremony of pomp the Queen reads out the words that her government has written for her, endowing them with a perverse sense of authority. The policies announced have already been in train for the preceding months, if not years, and the process by which they are announced is as old as the hills.

It's little wonder that people feel so isolated from the political process when it reaches such bizarre and otherworldly heights - resembling a dinner at Hogwarts rather than a modern democratic political process. What does the name "Black Rod" really mean to a family struggling to put food on the table or a graduate desperately trying to navigate the competitive world of the jobs market? How are they supposed to feel that politicians know what they are going through or that we are "all in it together" when Westminster seems to place so much credibility on these blingtastic spectacles? Even the carriage that the Queen arrived in is reported to have cost nearly £3 million. That's pretty galling for those struggling to afford the bus fare they need to take them to the jobcentre.

But why worry about reaching out and trying to understand the worries of the 99% when you can huddle together with the 1% and have a front row seat at the Royal's annual political shindig? The constant repetition of these performances only seems to reinforce their significance and gives no incentive for the parties involved to reform the process. Instead they become institutionalised by it, closeted in this political process that was concocted in the 17th century.

Against such a background it is hardly surprising that the policies put forward yesterday seemed so defunct of any forward-thinking vision. Economic growth, business, competitiveness, and fracking - repetition of the buzzwords of the 20th century No matter that outside parliament economists are questioning whether growth for growth's sake can ever be sustainable or that the current economic model seems only to be delivering more zero-hour contracts, poverty and increased inequality. Politicians seem all too happy to ignore the research which shows that fracking could bring with it huge environmental costs and will fail to stabilise our energy supplies in the future - not to mention that the policy of allowing companies to drill underneath peoples' homes is, understandably, hugely unpopular with the public.

As the nudge theorists have taught us: our surroundings are always nudging us towards one choice over another - they can almost never be neutral. I wonder what Thaler and Sunstein would make of the environment in which our political decision making takes place. Could it be that these traditional ceremonial pageants - whether it be the Queen's Speech, the Lord Mayor's Benefit Banquet, or the banality of the Budget Speech - not only remain off-putting and largely off-limits to anyone who isn't familiar with such pomp (which is still regularly found in the likes of Eton and Oxbridge), but are actually nudging our policy makers towards retaining the status quo?

Whilst we still have the same old procession, all we'll get year on year is the same-old faces rehearsing the same-old processes with the same-old policies. I'm looking forward to a year when the most progressive thing about the #QueensSpeech isn't just that it is has its own hashtag.