The Queen’s Speech; What was said and what wasn’t?

Image: UK Parliament

Image: UK Parliament

The Queens speech on 27th of May presented the perfect opportunity for a newly elected Conservative government to express a clear and cohesive plan for Britain for the next five years. This address established a range of different challenges, objectives and aspirations for a second term of Cameron government. In his interview prior to the event, Mr. Cameron noted that it would provide “a clear vision for what our country can be; “a country of security and opportunity for everyone, at every stage of life.” Yet, in reality, one of the central issues that went through numerous proposals, was an interesting lack of clarity and details on number of important proposals.
For instance, one of the interesting surprises was the absence of the full information on the so-called “British Bill of Rights”, which despite being mentioned was not yet fully explained in terms of its possible advantages and actual content, which suggests that it actual realisation is likely to be delayed.

Another vivid example was the overall focus of the speech on the rights of the working people, which reflected the recent electoral shift in the Conservative party strategy. Whilst the speech was clear on the need to continue the current economic plan, it was less clear on the overall objectives and the cohesive step-by-step outline of the strategy. Indeed, one of the clearest references in speech to the overall economic strategy, was that the economic plan should “bring about a balanced economic recovery”. This omission suggests that whilst the Conservative party decided to concentrate its electoral appeal on the previously weak constituency for the party, it still remains in the early process of redrafting its long-term electoral strategy; since many of the details and elements are still under internal consideration. This was also confirmed by the fact that whilst the Queen’s speech was quite honest on the need to take deeper cuts in British economy in order to enable successful economic recovery, it was less clear on the important details of the cuts, particularly, over the issue of which departments will be most affected by cuts.
The final interesting aspect of the Queens speech, relatively unnoticed by many outside observers, was the Conservative stance on the future of the British foreign policy. Whilst the speech presented Britain as a state with an active foreign policy approach, it was less clear on the issue of definition of such activism and the necessary power mechanism to sustain the activism in practice. Indeed, the central focus was given to the British involvement either in traditional institutions like NATO or the need to develop positive relations with new rising powers, like India and China.

Yet, such strategies are potentially problematic. In terms of the British involvement in traditional institutions, NATO with all its positive potential impact, remains a largely outdated institution, which has yet to find a new role and a new approach for resolving the challenges of the 21st century. Whilst the organization can claim success in resolving some of the serious clashes between its members and Russia (the direct impact of NATO in those issues can be debated), it is less successful in resolving the most recent problems, like environmental degradation, mass refugee flows, the lack of democratization in Europe, etc. At the same time, the question of the British involvement with rising powers, whilst there is considerable room for potential in bilateral relationships, the rising powers prefer to build relations in multilateral forums and organisations; which give them equal access and powers alongside other participants. In this context, as the legitimacy and the representativeness of the current institutions, most notably, the current Bretton Woods institutions, is rapidly declining, Britain needs to find new channels of powers in order to attract the rising powers, which require considerable time and efforts.

As the result, the Queens speech was important for the observes, as it showed us the path selected for Britain, yet it was less clear on the obstacles, roadblocks and signposts, which Britain just might find on its way.

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