The Power Grab of the Queen’s Speech

At the State Opening of Parliament today the full-farce of Britain’s Ruritanian institutions were on display. The Queen’s Crown arrived in its own Rolls Royce. The state broadcaster dutifully covered the procession of the ‘Imperial State Crown’ being carried up a staircase:

The annual Queen’s Speech combines the pantomime of Britain’s Royalty with the Prime Minister’s programme for government. This year’s speech constituted a full-scale attack on democracy, making it possible for the Prime Minister to control when a general election takes place, voter suppression, making it harder to challenge government decisions, and making it harder for anyone to protest about any of this –  as well as putting in place an explicit power grab against Scotland’s devolution.

George Monbiot likened the trajectory the speech represented as taking us nearer Orbán’s Hungary. He outlined ten areas of concern:

1. The ruling class, wallowing in corruption, enjoys total impunity. Meanwhile, peaceful protest and other freedoms are criminalised.
2. No political scandal is a sacking offence.
3. A complicit media so distorts the reporting of government action that it becomes almost impossible to distinguish truth from lies.
4. Apparently endless rule is sustained by voter suppression and gerrymandering.
5. Politics proceeds by means of the grand gesture. Billions are spent on major infrastructure, while basic services are allowed to wither and die.
6. Public agencies are repurposed to direct money into the hands of chums.
7. People trying to defend minority rights and liberal values are bated and provoked, as the government seeks new enemies and revels in its illiberalism.
8. Policies that would once have made you gasp are normalised, as the frontier of acceptable outrage is constantly extended.
9. Immigrants are demonised and blamed for problems for which they bear no responsibility, even as their numbers fall.
10. The government inventively discovers endless scapegoats for its own failures.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a programme read out by an unelected head of state should be anti-democratic, but Johnson’s plans are naked and brutal. Jess Garland points out: “Proposals to introduce mandatory voter ID, as unveiled in today’s Queen’s speech, are a dangerous attack on our democratic rights that could lead to millions of legitimate voters being locked out of the polling station on election day. It is estimated that implementing the proposals could cost up to £20m per election, a hefty price tag for an unnecessary policy, and an expensive distraction from the real issues that affect our democracy and our country more widely.”

But also it is a phantom problem, she continues:

“Of the 595 alleged cases of electoral fraud investigated by the police in 2019 only 33 related to voter impersonation at a polling station – that is just 0.000057% of the over 58m votes cast in all the elections that took place that year.”

While specifically anti-democratic legislation were spelt out in some detail, other ideas like “leveling up” were characterised by being vague and meaningless. The attack on democracy was relentless, all paraphrased in carefully weighed words: “Restore the balance of power between the executive (government), legislature (Parliament), and the courts.”

The impression was very clear, this government shut down Parliament to get their own way, but got stopped by the courts. This was their moment of revenge.

The speech was littered with Tory attacks on democratic rights including: reducing the rights of asylum seekers; attacking people’s right to protest; attacking traveler communities; making it harder for people to vote and attacking the judiciary.

On the day when the reality of the Ballymurphy massacre was laid bare and the Greenshill scandal spilled out again into the public domain – the full set of Britain’s Dressing Up Box was on display, a potent combination of feudal cosplay and toxic Tory legislation to disempower people and undermine democracy.


Comments (17)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    Brilliant assessment.
    We gorra get awa’….

  2. Sean Clerkin says:

    Really good article all of it true.

  3. Gerard Carlin says:


    1. What do you mean Gerard?

      1. Gerard Carlin says:


  4. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Well said, Mike. I’ve been worried about voter suppression for a while, and photographic ID is by no means the only tool in the box. If we are to be honest, the Scottish political system, lacking the power to make ten out of ten here, nevertheless makes a good stab at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8.

  5. Chas Gallagher says:

    Nice one Mike. Do they really want the bombs and bullets to start flying about? NI will look like a Sunday School outing!!!

  6. SleepingDog says:

    The UK government also seems to be moving towards wholesale direct appointments to quangos (something of a Blairite passion too), harking back to ancient sinecures in some cases, in others manning fronts in culture wars, along with creepy ‘loyalty oaths’. It beggars belief, but the Governance Code for Public Appointments page (emblazoned with the category ‘Government efficiency, transparency and accountability’) links to the Order in Council, that is the Privy Council, or the Queen’s secret committee:
    Remember that the Queen has enormous powers of appointment (her family tend to be well up the ladder towards admirals or field marshalls by the time they snuff it), especially over the key imperial sectors that dominate British foreign policy, which area is kept firmly away from the meddling electorate.

  7. James Mills says:

    Feudal Britain , here we come ! Or did we ever leave it ?

  8. David Kirkman says:

    Challenging and thought provoking article.
    So what can be done to challenge this.
    Labour is pointless, Lib Dems are just Tories with a small t and SNP are ‘all bark and no bite’.
    What option does the ordinary citizen have?

    1. J Galt says:

      I don’t think Labour is “pointless” because they started it – this shower are the heirs of Blair, not Thatcher.

  9. Tom Ultuous says:

    Great article Mike. The thought of not gaining independence becomes more horrifying by the day.

  10. Robbie says:

    In the name of the French tool maker “Facom”

  11. Irene Crichton says:

    Why does the royal family agree with Westminster trying to stop Scotland being free are they against democracy and why?

  12. Richard Easson says:

    Can or should the Queen of Scots be promoting the intended laws of England via Evil, sorry E.V.E.L. in the so-called British parliament? Is that not the job of the English Parliament which does not exist, has not been set up and has not been voted for?

  13. Irene Crichton says:

    Can i ask here, how can an independent Scotland go about getting the 6,000 square metres of North Sea returned will they have to go through a Maritime court? It was stolen in bad faith the night before Holyrood opened by Tony Blair & Donald Dewar & kept secret for years?

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