5 Takeaways From The Queen's Speech

Charles steps up, Johnson causes confusion and a good joke.
Prince Charles seated next to the Queen's imperial state crown in the House of Lords.
Prince Charles seated next to the Queen's imperial state crown in the House of Lords.
WPA Pool via Getty Images

1. The beginning of the Charles regency?

Unquestionably, the most significant aspect of the Queen’s speech was the absence of the Queen herself.

Britain’s heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and Prince William, his successor, took centre stage amid the pomp and pageantry of the opening of parliament on Tuesday, replacing the 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth who missed out, for the first time in almost 60 years, with health issues.

The Queen’s absence was marked by the imperial state crown placed on a velvet cushion in front of the empty space where she would have sat on her throne.

Charles, the longest serving heir to the throne, made history as he read the 874 words of the Queen’s speech for the first time, discharging his most kingly duties to date.

It raises questions about whether this the start of the Charles regency, which would mean the Queen transferring her powers as monarch to her son and heir without having to abdicate under the Regency Act 1937.

2. Cost of living crisis? What cost of living crisis?

The Queen’s speech contained 38 bills – setting out plans for changes to create a “high-wage, high-skill” economy, and “build the foundations for decades of prosperity”. But there was a lack of flesh on the bones over the pledge to “ease the cost of living for families”.

Perhaps trying to head off criticism at the pass, Boris Johnson appeared to suggest an announcement was imminent – before Downing Street was forced to deny the government is planning an emergency package of help.

Sending chancellor Rishi Sunak something of a hospital pass, Johnson told the Commons: “My right honourable friend the Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.”

Sources close to Sunak appeared blindsided, and insisted no new measures were due before the autumn.

One ally of the chancellor told HuffPost UK: “Rishi has always been clear that we would set out plans for support on energy bills for autumn when we know what the [energy] price cap is going to be – but we’re not there yet.”

3. Beergate neuters Starmer

Whether or not “beergate” is a “non-story”, it’s having an impact in Westminster. A day after Keir Starmer committed to stepping down as Labour leader if he is fined by police over an allegation he broke coronavirus laws, his travails were seized on as good sport by Tories.

Opening proceedings in the Commons on the first day of the new parliamentary session, ex-Tory minister Graham Stuart spoke about the history of his Beverley and Holderness constituency’s electoral controversies.

He said: “Free beer and cash were the electoral controversies then, as opposed to say, beer and curry today. Never, Mr Speaker, never in the history of human conflict has so much karma come from a korma.”

Even Boris Johnson – remember, he’s the man who has already been fined over breaking the lockdown rules he came up with – felt he could mock Starmer by referring to him as the “Leader of the Opposition of the moment”.

While being ribbed by Tories is to be expected, perhaps more worrying for Starmer was the apparent lack of enthusiasm among Labour MPs.

4. It’s a very odd affair in 2022

The Queen’s speech in May last year, with the pandemic still looming large, was an austere and pared-down affair. But despite the cost of living crisis, the state opening of parliament has returned to its default setting of maximum pomp. It might seem jarring to those having to choose between heating and eating.

Here’s some of the things that happen: the imperial state crown and other regalia travel ahead of the monarch in a carriage of their own. The monarch’s elaborate gilded sovereign’s throne was removed from the House of Lords, leaving just the consort’s throne, almost identical but an inch shorter and some 30 years younger, for Charles. Charles delivered the speech to MPs and lords dressed in red ceremonial robes.

While the ceremony offered a glimpse into the future, to a time when Elizabeth II’s reign will inevitably come to an end and Charles will be monarch, it may also be one of the last of its kind in a country where history and traditions are facing greater scrutiny than ever.

5. Parliament is a joke

Another tradition of the day is for two government MPs to propose and second the loyal address to Her Majesty. It is in effect a comedy roast with parliamentarians the target.

As mentioned, Graham Stuart kicked off proceedings with a series of jabs at Keir Starmer, but on purely comedic terms he was bested by Fay Jones, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire.

Jones joked about former Conservative MP Neil Parish, who quit the Commons after watching porn in the Commons.

She said: “If I do anything in this place, it will be to bang on about the importance of farming to this country. Hence why I welcome the measures in the gracious address which will see British produce on tables around the world.

“And even the Online Safety Bill, which will protect the unsuspecting farmer from nefarious internet videos.”


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