Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pageantry and Rhetoric

The Queen's Speech is one of those archaic events that owes far more to history and tradition than to real politics. The notion is that the Queen as Head of State notionally endorses the programme of her government for the coming year, but doing so from the House of Lords to denote her position as a non-commoner or law-maker. Anti-Terror legislation, as is the modern idiom (how can you be anti-terror? terrorism yes, but terror? lets ban horror films, or is that anti-horror? sorry went off on one then), gained the top billing, but as usual there was the long list of bills that demonstrate doing the job of managing the nation.

Will this event have any resonance with the voting public, probably not. It happens, it happens every year, it is a little bit of a spectacle, it is popular with royal-watchers, but fundamentally the meaning is symbolic. And in terms of symbolism it performs its task well, the soundbite that all the media seem to have extracted from the speech to report is that: "My government will take forward policies to respond to the rising aspirations of the people of the United Kingdom; to ensure security for all; and to entrust more power to Parliament and the people."

In that phrase it offers the perception of the new style of politics that Brown has been keen to enforce since day one of his premiership. His government is in touch with the people, keen to meet their wants and needs (the language of a political market-orientation); it promotes security at a time of risk, meeting the media agenda of terrorism and street crime; and it talks of giving power to the people and their representatives, Brown is not a Blair-esque one man show. That statement is really what the speech is about, in my opinion anyway, the rest is for the media to dissect and drip feed to the nation as the bills are introduced.

The reason, until these items go on the statute book, or their real significance emerges, few are interested in their meaning or ramifications. The public, the mass public that is, do not wish to pick over the bones of future legislation; they want to be given an impression, a perception, of what the government intends to do (a lot), why (in their interests), and perhaps in what style (consultative, meeting aspirations). Or am I wrong?

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