What can we expect from the Tories' Queen's Speech?

The Queen is not a woman that politicians should ever inconvenience lightly.

Next year's Queen's Speech will be ditched. Picture: Getty
Next year's Queen's Speech will be ditched. Picture: Getty

But Her Majesty’s usual week at Royal Ascot has been rudely interrupted by having to deliver the Government’s legislative programme to parliament.

It is the first time since 1974 that a Government without a working majority has set out its legislative agenda.

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And Theresa May bis the first leader in almost a century to postpone the set piece event.

The Prime Minister’s seeming inability to nail down a deal with the DUP has left a cloud of uncertainty over what exactly the Queen will say on Wednesday.

While some were left stunned by the stalling negotiations, more seasoned watchers of Ulster politics aren’t remotely shocked by the DUP’s intransigence.

The party is created in the image of their founder, the late Rev Ian Paisley, and has yet to reach agreement over the reforming of a devolved administration in Belfast.

So can we expect a much trimmed down version of the traditional speech?

Manifesto commitments

Most observers believe that it was the Conservatives’ manifesto that sparked a string of bad decisions leading to the loss of their parliamentary majority.

The so-called ‘dementia tax’, a way to pay for the spiralling cost of care for older people, went down like a lead balloon among the Tories’ core supporters.

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A subsequent u-turn, and Mrs May’s angry denial that she had performed a u-turn, only served to compound things further.

It is not expected that the social care plans will remain in the legislative agenda that the Government sets out tomorrow.

Given that Mrs May’s party has already cancelled next year’s Queen’s Speech, and Philip Hammond has ruled out a previously mooted ‘Summer budget’, the series of bills might be relatively flimsy.

At the very least, we can expect that austerity in some form or another will continue, with a squeeze on public spending unlikely to be halted.

One already pre-leaked set of bills commits the Government to expanding HS2 further north, and embracing the potential of the UK to host ‘Spaceports’.

DUP Demands

The aforementioned DUP, led by Arlene Foster, have already became a stick for the opposition to beat Theresa May’s Government over.

Their hardline social conservatism is well known, and while Mrs May has given some assurance that LGBT policy, for example, won’t be affected, there is some scepticism over how that works in practice.

As revealed by an FOI request today, Ms Foster lobbied the Scottish Government over equal marriage after it was legalised by Holyrood.

If she seeks influence over another (and nationalist) devolved administration on the issue, it is reasonable to assume she will seek influence in a Government her party is effectively propping up.

It might not be explicitly laid out in the bills presented by the Queen, but it is safe to assume, should the deal be finalised, that Northern Ireland will be getting some capital investment from central Government.

There could also be a pledge to ensure that more is down to break the impasse that is currently holding up the power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

While political clout in Westminster is all well and good, Northern Ireland’s devolved Government is currently being run by civil servants, something the DUP will wish to resolve, and quickly.

Scotland’s position

There are now 13 Scottish Tory MPs to bed in at Westminster – though none apparently good enough to serve as David Mundell’s deputy, as a failed candidate looks set to be appointed via a peerage.

They are aiming to show the SNP, and of course the electorate, that the country is much better served by working with the incumbent Government, not opposing them at every turn.

With that in mind, there could be bills that result in good news for Scotland that can be touted by the Scottish Tories, and especially their leader Ruth Davidson, as a win for inter-party decision making.

In constitutional terms, however, the main issue is still Brexit, and the Scottish Government looks set to be denied the ‘seat at the table’ that they crave.

Previous Queen’s Speeches may have taken into consideration Scotland’s constitutional future, and had measures designed to shore up support for the Union.

However, with Theresa May confident enough in public opinion to reject Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for another referendum, the Tories may feel the Union is secure enough to not require any further legislative bolstering.