Wafer-Thin King's Speech Shows Rishi Sunak Is Out Of Ideas And Nearly Out Of Time

The prime minister's plans for the year ahead contained no answers to the cost of living or the state of the NHS.
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer on their way to listen to the King's Speech.
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer on their way to listen to the King's Speech.
HANNAH MCKAY via Getty Images

If the King’s Speech was meant to be the silver bullet that changes the Tories’ electoral fortunes, Rishi Sunak might as well hand Keir Starmer the keys to No.10 now.

King Charles announced a total of 21 bills to keep MPs and peers busy between now and the general election expected next autumn.

But there was nothing to suggest that the prime minister has a plan - long-term or otherwise - to claw back Labour’s 20-point poll lead over the next 12 months.

The main attention-grabbing policies - such as tougher sentences for the worst criminals, forcing defendants to appear in court for sentencing and a gradual ban on smoking - had all been heavily trailed in advance and failed to move the markets.

Sunak’s determination to burnish the Tories’ battered credentials as the party of law and order is understandable, but there was next to nothing to address voters’ main concerns - the cost of living crisis and the state of the NHS.

Instead, the government’s legislative agenda was padded out with bills on driverless cars, football governance and the apparent “scourge” of pedicars, an issue of precisely zero interest to anyone who lives outside London.

The wafer-thin nature of the King’s Speech was emphasised by the fact that you have to go all the way back to 2014, when David Cameron was still PM, to find a legislative list as short as this one.

Indeed, it was the decision to leave out a bill making good on the government’s promise to ban conversion therapy which was perhaps the most newsworthy element of the speech, not least because it sparked yet another round of Tory in-fighting.

The bare facts are that Sunak is running out of time to change the national mood and convince voters to hand his party an unprecedented fifth term in office.

The King’s Speech was his latest chance to begin that fightback. By any measure, he blew it.

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