British people in hot weather

The Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament is not really my cup of tea. I think all the pomp and pageantry is a bit silly. Yes, the tourists love it, but that just means they get in my way as I walk into work along Whitehall. 

It’s no secret I’m not a monarchist. (I may even be a member of Republic? Not sure…) Anyway, for me it’s an uncomfortable moment when Black Rod comes to the Commons to tell us Her Majesty ‘commands’ us to attend the Lords. You also have all the references in the Queen’s Speech to ‘my Government’, and the fact that the proposer of the Loyal Address begins his speech thus:

“Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I beg to move, 

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: 

Most Gracious Sovereign, 

We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.” 

Much as I hate to admit it, Peter Lilley’s speech was very good, although it doesn’t read as well as it came across in the Chamber. All in the delivery I suppose. He got a lot of laughs, not least because it was fairly obvious that he’s not wildly enthusiastic about what he described as ‘an arranged marriage that has become a romance’. 

Biggest laugh  was when he said it was usual for the Loyal Address to be proposed by an old codger and seconded by an oily young man, but “instead of an oily young man we have a Lib Dem!” 

The Lib Dem in question was Don Foster, who I am pretty sure is no fan of the coalition either (well, he’s said as much on Radio Bristol) and may not yet have been forgiven by the Tories for ousting their Party chairman, Chris Patten, in Bath in 1992. And now he’s sitting on the same benches as them.

We also had the first reading of the Outlawries Bill, which is “A Bill for the more effectual preventing of Clandestine Outlawries.” Apparently we have to pass this every year after the Queen’s Speech. I am not quite sure what would happen if we didn’t. There’d be clandestine outlawries popping up all over the place I suppose.

I thought Harriet did a good job in her response, striking the right balance between being in opposition, but not being oppositionalist. Some good one-liners in there, for example re the Lib Dems’ shameless attempt to claim Short money, which funds Opposition researchers to do what civil servants and spads do for the governing party: “they’re the only party to try to cling to the trappings of Opposition when in government!”

Cameron, by contrast, got off to a bad start, launching straight into an attack on Labour’s legacy and only remembering to honour soldiers killed in Afghanistan several minutes later. Harriet had begun her response, which came before Cameron, by reading out the names of the deceased to a silent Commons chamber, which is how it should be done. Apart from that, I thought the first half of Cameron’s speech – in style obviously, not in content – wasn’t bad. Being Prime Minister suits him better than being in Opposition, I thought. Fish in water, “born to rule”, and all that. But then people started intervening on him, and he got a bit rattled.

Will analyse what was actually in the Queen’s Speech as and when the Government fleshes out the details (we’ll be debating it until June 8th) but for the time being, here’s what Harriet had to say in her response to the Queen’s Speech on the proposal to give anonymity to defendants in rape trials: 

“We ask the Government to reconsider their plans to change the rules for prosecuting rape and their proposal for anonymity for rape defendants. It is often only after many rapes that a defendant is finally brought before the court, and it is often only when previous victims see the name and details of the defendant that they find the courage to come forward. Police and prosecutors say that that is essential in helping get a conviction. To make only rape defendants anonymous sends a message to the jury that, uniquely, a rape victim is not to be believed, and it sends a message to the woman who has been raped that, “We don’t believe you.” We have made progress on bringing rapists to justice; I urge the Government not to turn the clock back.”

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  • DavidAbstract  On May 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    What was Dennis Skinner’s latest republican witticism? Those are always my fav bits of Queen’s Speeches.

    On anonymity for rape suspects, I do see the point: it’s not so much that “women make it up” but that the police get the wrong bloke who then ends up with the taint of association hanging over him, because, ironically enough, everyone knows that the conviction rates for sex offences are so low that there must be plenty of guilty men going free and the hypothetical wrongly charged bloke is thought of as one of them. Therefore the way for “not guilty” verdicts in rape cases to really discharge people without a stain on their character is for the police to improve the conviction rate, and for the simple reason Harriet outlined anonymity wont help that.

  • Nathan  On May 26, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Peter Lilley’s speech is on the BBC site here:

  • kerrymccarthy  On May 26, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Dennis Skinner said to Black Rod “No more Royal Commissions”, which I think might have been a reference to axing quangos?

    I’m not sure police often get the wrong guy. How many rape cases result in acquittals because of mistaken identity, particularly in these days of DNA evidence? Isn’t it more often the case that the defendant was known to the victim, and it’s an argument about whether it was consensual sex or rape?

    • DavidAbstract  On May 26, 2010 at 12:55 am

      mistaken identity – not sure, interesting & must browse for the figures, but my point is that whatever the reality, that’s the kind of hypothetical case the anonymity rule is designed to benefit.

      I admit I’m part of the problem, and even when people are found “not guilty” on rape charges I do tend to think “yeah, yeah, slippery bastard off on a technicality, must have done something…” it’s one of my prejudices, I do acknowledge that.

      Isn’t it more often the case that the defendant was known to the victim, and it’s an argument about whether it was consensual sex or rape?

      Probably – but browsing for figures ect…

      The underlying problem is of course that we have a Police and Justice system designed to protect public order and private property, and cases of domestic and sexual violence are not easily dealt with by the system due to the lack of independent witnesses that are traditional means of prosecution – we need to be thinking of how to fix this :-s

  • JaneDerbyshire  On May 26, 2010 at 12:46 am

    DavidAbstract’s view is presumably the one which the Coalition has taken – i.e. that false rape claims are frequent and we need to protect innocent men from them. Which is exactly the wrong message to give out if you want to improve our appalling rape clear-up rate. Get your priorities sorted! Which is more important!?

  • JaneDerbyshire  On May 26, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Sorry, just re-read DavidAbstract’s comment and he didn’t say that.
    But I still don’t agree.
    It’s a question of looking at what is the greater harm – conviction rates are diabolical, and maybe a very few defendants will have their reputation besmirched undeservedly, but nothing like the number of women whose lives are wrecked, completely undeservedly, by men who are never convicted. Society surely has to be concerned about such huge numbers of perpetrators going unchallenged?

    • DavidAbstract  On May 26, 2010 at 1:26 am

      I certainly DONT think that false or malicious charges of rape are common and I certainly DO think that it’s vitally important to improve the conviction rate, and as I said, a better conviction rate & more public confidence in the system would go a long way to reducing the taint for people who are accused and then found not guilty.

      and maybe a very few defendants will have their reputation besmirched undeservedly

      I don’t agree with the coalitions’ position on this, but it is exactly this sentiment that they would hate!
      “The rights of the individual against the system!” they would say “the innocent are the innocent defendant or prosecution and deserve equal protection!”
      It’s this kind of romantic individualism that would distract a ConDem govt from dealing with the real problems.

      More or Less did an item on rape stats last year, and have links to further reading – may be of interest:


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