New British Prime Minister sets out a libertarian/conservative agenda
Far from perfect but an impressive start. Britain is once again in the hands of people who love their country and respect the individual
Opening ceremonies above. The Brits still do pomp best of all
BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron tilted the coalition away from the Liberal Democrats with a Queen's Speech that defined tax, immigration and police reform on Tory terms. The Prime Minister promised a "new start for Britain" with smaller, better government as he unveiled 23 Bills to transfer powers to voters and transform politics.
The fine print of the 18-month legislative programme revealed that he had won a series of behind the scenes victories over his coalition partners. They included:
A commitment to lower taxation, the first time since the coalition was formed that such a pledge has been made. Nick Clegg told The Times last week that the Government's priority was to rebalance the tax burden, not to reduce it. Last week's coalition programme promised "more competitive, simpler, greener and fairer" tax, but no mention of lower taxation;
Scope for George Osborne [Chancellor of the Exchequer] to keep rises in capital gains tax to a minimum. The Lib Dem policy - to increase CGT from 18per cent to 40per cent for top earners, in line with income tax rates - was trimmed in coalition talks. Last week the Government said rates would be "similar or close to" income tax rates. The Queen's Speech documents water that down, saying that CGT will be taxed at rates "closer" to income tax;
A reinstatement of the Tory election pledge to cut non-EU immigration to tens of thousands a year. The aim disappeared from the coalition programme as the Lib Dems accepted an undefined annual limit. The level is now back;
Tory aides also made clear that a referendum on the alternative-voting system - the big Lib Dem win from the coalition negotiations - would not take place for up to three years and possibly longer. Although a Bill enabling a referendum to take place was included in the Queen's Speech, there was no commitment to a date. Tory aides said such a vote should coincide with a boundary review, intended to cut the number of MPs. This is likely to take at least two years, and possibly longer. Lib Dems would like a vote as quickly as possible - at least before public enthusiasm for "new politics" has ebbed.
After the monarch delivered her 56th Queen's Speech - the first on behalf of a coalition - Mr Cameron ignored the niceties of the State Opening, and tore into Labour.
The choreography of the occasion requires the Leader of the Opposition to open hostilities. Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader, delivered a measured speech that promised her party would not pull its punches.
Mr Cameron, however, started throwing his even before reciting the names of British troops who had died in Afghanistan since the Commons last met - a roll call with which, by recent custom, party leaders open.
He said Ms Harman's speech was missing something: "Not one word of apology for the appalling mess that has been left in this country." Mr Cameron, who has come under pressure from Tories to put his - and their party's - stamp on the coalition, used the occasion as an extension of the election campaign in terms of his rhetoric.
He said of Labour: "They gave us big spending. We will bring good housekeeping. They trusted in bureaucracy. We will trust in community. They governed in the party interest. We will govern in the national interest."
He said the Queen's Speech signalled the end of "years of recklessness and big government and the beginning of the years of responsibility and good government". He seized on the letter left by Liam Byrne for his successor as Treasury Chief Secretary, David Laws, that there was "no money" left. "They lectured us about their golden rules, but in the end the only golden rule was never trust Labour with the economy of this country."
The programme of Bills includes plans to set up the office for budget responsibility - a panel of independent economic experts to prevent forecasts from becoming politicised. Other measures are intended to give parents and other providers more scope to set up "free schools" within the state sector; repeal ID cards and a host of other Labour measures that allowed the state to hold personal details; point the way to an elected House of Lords, establish a new voting system for the Commons, and new powers for voters to recall their MPs.
Yesterday marked the first business day for Tories and Lib Dems to share the government benches - last week's get-together was for the ceremony of electing the Speaker - and it did not take long for potential faultlines to show. Simon Hughes, the former Lib Dem frontbencher who was not given a job in Government, rose to challenge Mr Cameron, asking for a commitment from "his Government" towards council housing....
Mr Cameron also said it was time to "ratchet up" pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and that the Government would pursue stronger UN and EU sanctions against Tehran.
On the issue of elected police commissioners, the Queen's Speech documents refer only to elected individuals. Asked to clarify the position, MrCameron told MPs that the plan "to elect individuals as commissioners" would go ahead. His spokesman said the coalition had "refined" its position on police commissioners to increase their accountability.
Police chiefs have opposed the plan. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Scotland Yard commissioner, warned last night (Tuesday) that the operational independence of police chiefs must be the Government's starting point.
Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here