Tag Archives: Labour

There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it

It would be great if this Brexit nonsense could be stopped, but I am not very hopeful. A lot of people seem to think that we will suddenly be in some sort of “little England”  eutopia.  I will be the first to congratulate them if it works out that way but I don’t think it will.

Why are we cutting ourselves off from the rest of Europe and its moderating effect?

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This article titled “There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it” was written by Tom Kibasi, for The Guardian on Monday 31st December 2018 15.47 UTC

If it was the season of peace and goodwill towards all, then politics failed to get the memo. Not only did hostilities continue through the Christmas period, some of the main protagonists announced in advance that they were incapable of taking a break. If anything, the holidays provided more opportunities for irate, booze-fuelled Twitter rants. One particular object of ire was Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas interview in the Guardian, where he appeared to dash the hopes of many on the left that Labour would immediately become the party of remain.

As the political class sobers up in January and returns to Westminster, it will become apparent that little has changed. The size of the majority against the prime minister’s deal will have diminished but – as No 10 briefed in the run-up to the internal confidence vote in her leadership – it only takes a majority of one. Bizarrely, Downing Street has chosen to amplify the threat of no deal by announcing more money and even the deployment of troops. But this strategy seems set to backfire: it will only give comfort to the European Research Group hardliners that there can be a soft landing to jumping off the cliff edge.

It makes sense that Labour should seek a general election because its critique of the government goes well beyond the handling of the Brexit negotiations. From an electoral perspective, there are more marginal constituencies that backed remain than marginals that supported leave. It is an open secret in Westminster that a new centrist party is readying to launch and, together with the Liberal Democrats, could form a repository for enough remain protest votes to deny Labour a majority if it were to go into a general election promising to deliver Brexit. It has never been apparent why Labour should fear losing leave voters to the Tories more than losing remain voters to other parties.

While it is true that many Labour constituencies voted to leave, for many of these voters Brexit is a far less important issue than stagnant wages, large class sizes and lengthening NHS waiting times. Moreover, many of these areas are strongly tribally Labour, and what has changed since 2016 is that Brexit is now “owned” by the Tory party. Crudely, many of these voters hate Tories more than they want Brexit. For all these reasons, it is inconceivable that Labour would go into a general election without a promise of a further referendum with a remain option.

Yet in all likelihood the government would win a confidence vote even if it had lost the vote on the deal. With May’s deal defeated, a general election ruled out, and no deal a calamity, there would be few options left. One option could be for a renegotiation of the political declaration (rather than the withdrawal agreement) but a closer economic partnership would probably see May lose as many Tory MPs as she might be able to persuade opposition MPs.

Even if the political declaration were to be tweaked, it would not be binding on May’s successor—making it politically dangerous for Labour to endorse.

So after the meaningful vote, Labour may be confronted with a choice between no deal and a second referendum. In all likelihood, pro-European MPs will put down an amendment to the finance bill requiring a referendum as a condition of the government collecting tax. Labour may have little option but to back a second referendum if it is to protect the country from no deal which it rightly believes would be a disaster. In this scenario, Labour will want to remind the public that they are being forced to the ballot box again as a result of May’s failure to negotiate a deal that parliament could support, not because of the choices made by the opposition.

That’s why there have been many credible reports of No 10 and Conservative central office ramping up preparations for a second referendum. Paradoxically, it may be that Downing Street is talking up no deal precisely in anticipation of a second referendum – so that it can claim that it was willing to go ahead with no deal but that Labour forced a second referendum. Whatever the manoeuvres, the public are likely to conclude that the government is responsible for the failure of the Brexit project.

With more than 80% of Labour members wanting to remain in the European Union, Labour would plainly back remain in a future referendum. While the remain and leave blocs have proved more resilient than many anticipated, there has been an important shift towards remain, and even more so when offered against the specifics of either May’s deal or no deal rather than the undefined leave option. Corbyn has been repeatedly criticised for his lack of enthusiasm for the EU; but this may prove to be a decisive advantage. It is mildly Eurosceptic voters who need to be persuaded, and Corbyn could speak authentically to this group about the balanced case for voting to stay in the EU.

Crucially, the most significant group of swing voters in a future referendum are working-class women – this group has been hit hard by austerity and Brexit is not their top issue. These are precisely the same voters that Labour needs to win a general election. If Labour’s second referendum message of “vote remain, let’s rebuild Britain instead” can convince them in 2019, it could build the momentum for a Labour victory in the next general election too. And it would smash the generational project of the right, leaving conservatism in disarray.

If there is a second referendum, only Labour can win it – and winning it might be Labour’s path to power. All of this will be determined in the coming weeks. It’s time to take a deep breath.

• Tom Kibasi is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He writes in a personal capacity

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Queen’s speech 2016: 21 bills including plan to ‘disrupt extremists’– live

Well this will be interesting I am sure. God knows what horrors are lurking among this.

The nation waits with baited breath, or maybe actually no one gives a shit, but actually you should.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Queen’s speech 2016: 21 bills including plan to ‘disrupt extremists’– live” was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th May 2016 16.26 UTC

5.26pm BST

Afternoon summary

  • Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has criticised the measures in the Queen’s speech, saying that building an equal society requires “an active government”. Speaking in the Queen’s speech debate, he said:

If anyone wants to deliver a more equal society, an economy that works for everyone and a society where there is opportunity for all, it takes an active government to do it, not the driverless car heading in the wrong direction that we have with this Government at the present time.

He criticised the government for promoting austerity as a “political choice”.

When you cut adult social care it has an impact on National Health Service accident and emergency departments. When you saddle young people with more debt you impede their ability to buy a home or start a family. When you fail to build housing and cap housing benefit then homelessness and the number of families in temporary accommodation increases. When you slash the budgets of local authorities then leisure centres close, libraries close, children’s centres close. When you close fire stations and cut firefighters’ jobs, then response times increase and more people are in danger of dying in fires. This austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity, and it’s a wrong choice for our country made by a Government with the wrong priorities – and it’s women that have been hit hardest by these cuts.

And he started his speech by stressing the important of avoiding war.

July will mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, an episode of frankly needless carnage and horror. This week marked the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement where Britain and France divided up the Ottoman empire into spheres of influence, arbitrarily establishing borders that have frankly been the cause of many conflicts ever since. These two events should remind us in this House of two things. Firstly, that decisions we take have consequences, and it is our armed forces that face the consequences of failed foreign and military policy.

  • David Cameron has claimed that the measures in the Queen’s speech show he is leading a “progressive, one nation government”. He told MPs the government was making “bold choices”.

For children, we make the choice to rebalance the system in favour of faster adoption so more children get a loving and stable home. For care leavers, we choose to put them first for training and jobs so the most disadvantaged get a better chance to make a good life for themselves. And for all our young people, we offer the chance to do National Citizen Service. For school leavers, we make the choice to extend educational opportunity and allow the creation of new universities. For low-income families, we choose to offer new support to build up their savings through the first ever Help to Save scheme. For those who want to get on the housing ladder, we’re choosing to build a million new homes. And we choose to deliver the biggest reform of our prison system for a century, knocking down the old, outdated prisons and radically reforming education and rehabilitation of offenders. This is a Queen’s Speech that combines economic security with extending life chances for all, it’s the Queen’s Speech of a progressive, one nation Conservative Government.

He also included a joke about his own EU referendum campaign scaremongering.

[Caroline Spelman] referred to her work as Church Estates Commissioner and everyone in this House knows she is a deeply committed Christian. This would have come in handy during her time in Defra when she had to deal with floods, droughts, food shortages and even disease. Indeed, everything short of a plague of locusts, which of course I will be predicting in my next speech on Europe.

  • Neil Hamilton, leader of the Ukip group in the Welsh assembly, has caused offence by calling two female assembly members (AMs) “concubines”. He was referring to the Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood. He said:

I’m afraid these two ladies have made themselves political concubines in Carwyn’s harem. What a gruesome concept that will be.

Williams expressed shock at “his blatant sexist language”.

That’s all from me for today.

Thanks for the comments.

4.58pm BST

Here is my colleague Denis Campbell’s story about the junior doctors’ pay deal.

4.55pm BST

The government and the BMA seem to have reached a deal on junior doctors’ pay, the BBC’s Chris Mason reports.

4.43pm BST

Cameron v Corbyn – Verdict

Cameron v Corbyn – Verdict: “I am not particularly good at or interested in this theatrical-riposte stuff,” Jeremy Corbyn told the New Yorker recently for a long and insightful profile that is well worth reading. Parliamentary debates almost always have a theatrical element, and that is particularly true of the Queen’s speech debate, where the opening contributions are expected to have the qualities of a classic best man’s speech – a kernel of supercharged sincerity, bundled up in a package of first-class jokes. Corbyn is right to acknowledge that this is not his natural environment, but actually the beginning of his speech was very good indeed. He started with a reference to this being the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and of the Sykes-Picot agreement, and he made a profound point about how the colonial carve-up of the Middle East illustrates how decisions taken by politicians have consequences that can last for years. It sounded as if he is already starting to prepare his speech for the Iraq report debate. His tributes to Caroline Spelman and Phillip Lee were also very funny. And then he made some strong points about the Queen’s speech, in particular when he accused the government of viewing poverty simply as a matter of personal behaviour.

But then it deteriorated quite badly. To a large extent it was just a matter of Corbyn going on too long. An MP can hold the attention of the House, even when a majority of those in the chamber are hostile, provided he or she is interesting or engaging, but Corbyn lost his audience, and his refusal to take interventions did not help. Also, he did not have one core message that stuck. Cameron’s claim to lead a progressive, one nation government may be on that does not survive scrutiny, but Cameron hammered it out at the start of his speech, at the end, and several times in between. That is how successful communication works.

Otherwise Cameron’s speech was standard fare from someone who may be losing his party, but who does have total command of the House. His Corbyn-bashing passage included some half-funny jokes, but there were probably too many of them, and it came over as gratuitous and borderline nasty. To his credit, though, he did include at least one joke against himself. He said that his next pro-EU speech would include a warning about a plague a locusts, in an admission that Boris Johnson was not entirely wrong to mock him for threatening bubonic plague in the event of Brexit.

I will post quotes from the speeches shortly.

Updated at 4.47pm BST

4.19pm BST

Cameron has now finished.

I’ll post a summary and verdict soon.

4.16pm BST

Cameron said that he’d got his staff to call Corbyn’s office and it was only open 2pm to 4pm, joking that he knew the Labour leader wanted a shorter working week but that was a bit much. That doesn’t appear to be true. Constituents of Jeremy Corbyn can ring his Islington North office 10am to 5.30pm Monday and Friday or 10am to 12.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. His parliamentary office does not appear to have a voicemail message at all.

4.14pm BST

Mike Gapes, the Labour MP, asks Cameron to apologise for the racist campaign the Tories ran against Sadiq Khan.

Cameron says that he looks forward to meeting Khan. He says Khan has a role to play helping the government tackle extremism.

4.13pm BST

Cameron turns to extremism. He says the UK is one of the most integrated countries on earth. He says he hopes there will be all-party support for tackling extremism.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee, asks if Cameron agrees that internet companies should do more to take down extremist content.

Cameron says he agrees. Originally internet companies said they could not do this. But they have changed their stance, and become more cooperative, he says.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, says David Anderson, the government’s reviewer of terrorist legislation, has warned that the extremism bill could be counter-productive.

Cameron says he will listen to all advisers. But he says the leader of the Liberal party should recognise the need to stand up for liberal values. It is not just violent extremism that should be condemned, he says.

4.08pm BST

Cameron says Labour had 13 years to tackle prisons. But it took a reforming Tory government to put it on the agenda, he says.

4.07pm BST

Cameron says believing in opportunity means never writing anyone off. And that is why prison reform is so important. For too long prisons have not tackled rehabilitation properly.

The Green MP Caroline Lucas says, if prison reform is important, why have budgets been cut by a third. And given so many people are in jail for drug offences, will the government consider drugs reform?

Cameron says it is important to get away from the idea that reform always needs extra spending. And it is important to get drugs out of jails, he says.

4.04pm BST

The SNP’s George Kerevan asks why the word productivity did not occur in the Queen’s speech.

Cameron says everything in the Queen’s speech, like improving access to superfast broadband, and improving schools and universities, is about increasing productivity.

4.03pm BST

Cameron says, after a strong family, the greatest driver of a strong family is a good school.

He says the Queen’s speech will improve schools. There will be a new national funding formula, and failing schools will be turned into academies without delay. This is the policy of a progressive, one nation government, he says.

He says bold university reforms, including fees, have created more opportunities for young people.

3.57pm BST

Cameron says when he became prime minister some social workers were refusing to place black and minority ethnic children with white families. He has addressed this, he says. He says adoptions are up 72%.

3.56pm BST

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams asks why the government is going back on its promise to produce a white paper on support for disabled people going back to work.

Cameron says the government is not going back on this.

3.55pm BST

Cameron says he was not sure whether Corbyn would turn up. He once described the Queen’s speech as a ridiculous 18th century performance. And he once said that, when the Queen dies, the monarchy should call it a day. Cameron says it is more likely that, when Corbyn quits, the Labour party will call it a day.

He says his office called Corbyn’s office, and got an answerphone message saying the phones were manned from 2pm to 4pm.

He says there were rumours about Corbyn being challenged for the leadership by Margaret Hodge. He says he was looking forward to being able to make jokes about Labour moving from Islington to Barking. But now it looks as if Labour is moving to Barking without a leadership contest, after this afternoon’s performance.

He says after the local elections Corbyn gave a speech saying Labour had “hung on”. This will go down as one of the great rallying cries, he says: “Go back to your constituencies and prepare to hang on.”

3.51pm BST

Cameron is now, as is customary, paying tribute to Caroline Spelman and Phillip Lee.

He says Spelman used to work for NFU. That meant when she went to the environment department, the civil servants had to deal with a minister who understood agriculture.

And he pays tribute to Lee. With reference to Lee’s comments about PR (see 2.54pm), he says maybe this makes him a suitable candidate for the whips’ office, where he could carry out sensitive operations.

3.45pm BST

Cameron is now summarising some of the measures in the Queen’s speech. It is the Queen’s speech of a progressive, one nation Conservative government.

3.44pm BST

David Cameron’s speech

David Cameron says Corbyn spoke for 41 minutes without taking an intervention.

He says he has never seen that before.

Was there no Labour MP or SNP MP with a question. He says he knows the SNP have other things on their mind …

3.42pm BST

Corbyn says people expect firms and people to pay their taxes in the UK. He says that aggressive tax avoidance undermines our public service.

He ends by saying the government is a driverless car heading in the wrong direction.

Tory MPs greet this by sarcastically shouting “more”.

3.41pm BST

This is from the Press Association’s Jack Maidment.

3.40pm BST

He says the recent Hillsborough inquest shows that the police must never be above scrutiny.

3.39pm BST

He says just a few weeks ago David Cameron was referring to refugees as “a bunch of migrants” and a “swarm”. He says those words were wrong, and Cameron should apologise. He says refugees are human beings just like you and me.

3.38pm BST

Corbyn says the government must put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy.

3.38pm BST

John Bercow, the Speaker, has just had to intervene to stop the heckling, which has been getting louder. Some MPs have been trying to intervene, but Corbyn is not taking interventions. Bercow says he is under no obligation to.

But Corbyn seems to be losing the attention of the House. This is from the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.

3.36pm BST

He says Labour is “very sceptical” about having more competition in the water industry.

3.34pm BST

Corbyn says Labour welcomes moves to devolve powers to deregulate bus services. Labour will try to expand these powers more widely, he says.

3.32pm BST

He says the government cannot stand the example of popular, successful public services, like the BBC.

3.31pm BST

Corbyn says the Land Registry is under threat of privatisation. He says in the last two parliaments this option was considered, and rejected. He says he hopes the same thing will happen again.

3.30pm BST

Corbyn says the tide of violent attacks in prisons is rising, and needs to be addressed.

3.30pm BST

Corbyn says Labour welcomes prison reform.

He has visited prisons in Denmark and Norway, he says. Their approach works. It requires more funding and more staff. But it makes a difference to reoffending rates, he says.

He says two prisoners every week are taking their lives in our prisons. That is a truly horrifying statistic, he says.

3.29pm BST

Corbyn says Labour is in favour of more apprenticeships, provided they are high quality.

But apprenticeships should not be used to enable employers to avoid having to pay full wages.

3.28pm BST

Corbyn says students are more in debt than ever. Labour will not give the government any support when it comes to raising tuition fees.

This is a tax on learning, as George Osborne himself said in 2003.

3.26pm BST

I’m back, taking over from Jamie. I’ve got an internet connection working again.

The Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg has just raised a point of order, saying Corybn should be taking interventions given that he has been speaking for more than 20 minutes.

John Bercow, the Speaker, says that although it is customary for speakers to take interventions when giving long speeches, they do not have to.

3.23pm BST

Corbyn is now turning to the Government’s controversial proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

The Human Rights Act has brought the European Court of Human Rights into British law, empowering British citizens.

We will defend our Human Rights Act as we defend the human rights of everyone in our country and all those who benefit from European Court of Human Rights.

I understand the Home Secretary is the driving force behind tearing up the Human Rights Act, which is strange as she has strong European credentials.

3.19pm BST

Corbyn says “most worrying proposal of all is decision to redefine poverty and deprivation”.

It’s all about instability, addiction and debt, all of which you can blame on individuals, Corbyn says.

You don’t tackle poverty by moving the goalposts.

3.17pm BST

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech

Hi, we’re experiencing a few technical problems in Westminster so I’m just going to pick up coverage of Corbyn’s response to the Queen’s speech temporarily.

After some traditional joviality, Corbyn is now attacking chunks of the Government’s forthcoming legislative agenda.

Corbyn says prime minister is failing to deliver key pledges on the so-called Northern Powerhouse, building homes and developing a digital infrastructure.

It takes commitment to fund them.

Updated at 3.44pm BST

3.16pm BST

Bill of rights

Alan Travis, our home affairs editor, and Owen Bowcott, our legal affairs correspondent, have been taking a closer look at the revised plans for a UK bill of rights. Here’s what they make of it:

There has been a significant shift in the wording on Downing Street lobby notes on the promise to introduce a British bill of rights. Hours are spent on the wording of these documents so a change can be crucial. In the 2015 Queen’s Speech promised to introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.

This has now changed. Instead a British Bill of Rights is still promised but its purpose will be “to reform and modernise the UK human rights framework”. All talk of replacing or scrapping the Human Rights Act has been dropped. For the first time there is also an explicit commitment that “these rights will be based on those set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, while also taking into account our common law tradition.”

The absence of further detail was no surprise. Launch of the draft consultation has, it is assumed, been postponed until after the referendum campaign. Having the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, a committed Brexiteer, present arcane arguments about weakening the UK’s relationship with European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in the middle of a campaign over the role of the European Union in Brussels is deemed too politically complicated.

The delay also avoids provoking fresh rows within the cabinet about how to redefine the relationship between the UK courts and European judges. There was no mention of the mooted Sovereignty Bill, an initiative supposedly developed to curb the powers of the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg and originally designed to keep Boris Johnson within the remain camp.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, believes the change in wording on a British Bill of Rights is significant. He said:

I hope that this is the start of a climb-down from the government on their previous plans to scrap the Human Rights Act. Liberal Democrats blocked Tory attempts to scrap the Act in Government and are leading the fight to save the Human Rights Act. I am clear this is one of the most important pieces of legislation to protect the interests of British citizens. Liberal Democrats will work with people in all parties to make sure that these rights are not undermined or diluted.

3.01pm BST

Lee says he is humbled by the thought of what the wartime generation did.

His grandfather was in the RAF, he says.

And he recalls a Polish patient who attended his surgery wearing his wartime medals. He told Lee how he had fought with the British during the way. Lee says he asked himself if his generation would show the same values.

The closest he has come to fighting is as a doctor battling ageing and obesity, he says.

He say MPs from the whole House will want to support the fight against extremism.

He says he mentioned the space industry in his maiden speech in 2010.

He turns to the EU. MPs like him have had to worry about two men, one with blond hair (Boris Johnson) and another with glasses (Michael Gove) asking when they are coming out.

He says his view is that we should not come out – at least until the semi finals.

Phillip Lee.
Phillip Lee. Photograph: BBC

2.54pm BST

Phillip Lee’s speech

Phillip Lee is speaking now.

He says it is not the first time he has followed Spelman. She leads the parliamentary skiing team.

He says he is not the son of a bus driver. But his father did once drive a milk float, he says.

You wait for years for the son of a bus driver to come along. Then two come along at once, he says. (That is one of Khan’s jokes, about him and Sajid Javid.)

He says he is a doctor. Speaking about the importance of PR, he says it is important to realise that, for a doctor, PR refers to something else: a medical examination carried out with rubber gloves on, involving gel and asking the man to cough.

He advises Cameron, if he is speaking to an audience of doctors, not to tell them that he used to do PR and enjoyed it.

2.47pm BST

She says she also welcomes the plan to speed up adoptions. She introduced a private members’ bill on this, she says.

And she says she thinks children who have been in care continue to need support after they reach the age of 18.

She wishes Sadiq Khan well in his new job.

And she says her advice to MPs who have suffered setbacks is always to not give up. This seems a veiled reference to the fact that she was sacked by David Cameron. This is from Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh.

And this is from my colleague Gaby Hinsliff.

Updated at 2.55pm BST

2.42pm BST

Spelman says when she first became an MP in 1997 only 18% of MPs were women.

She says she is glad the figure is higher now.

Having women contribute their perspective can make a real difference, she says. For example, when public transport is being discussed, men are most interested in cost and efficiency. But women think about safety, she says.

She particularly welcomes what the Queen’s speech says about life chances. She pays tribute to Iain Duncan Smith for first pushing this agenda. And she says his successor, Stephen Webb, has the life experience to take this forward.

Caroline Spelman.
Caroline Spelman. Photograph: BBC

2.37pm BST

Caroline Spelman’s speech

Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, is proposing the loyal address to the Queen.

The Queen’s speech debate always starts with speeches from two government backbenchers, a veteran and a relative newcomer, who propose and second the loyal address.

They are expected to be funny.

2.33pm BST

Bercow says in this session he is going to enforce more strictly the time limits that are supposed to apply to frontbench speakers during statements.

2.31pm BST

Queen’s speech debate

The Queen’s speech debate is about to start.

As is customary, John Bercow, the Speaker, starts by reading a statement about the obligations of MPs.

2.08pm BST

Lunchtime summary

  • Johnson has accused Lord Heseltine of “synthetic outrage” after Heseltine said yesterday that Johnson’s reference to the EU being like Nazi Germany was “obscene”. See (11am.)
  • An opinion poll has shown Remain with an 18-point lead over Leave. (See 12.33pm.)

1.55pm BST

Children’s charities condemn ‘life chances’ promised in Queen’s speech as ‘meaningless’

Children’s charities said the focus on “life chances” was meaningless without a concerted parallel attempt to tackle child poverty, which is expected to soar in the next four years as cuts to benefits hit home.

They voiced concern that the new life chances strategy would place much less emphasis on low family income as a measure of deprivation – looking instead at less easily defined factors including family background, addiction and debt.

The speech annouced that: “To tackle poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability, addiction and debt, my Government will introduce new indicators for measuring life chances.”

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The Government’s welcome interest in improving life chances will mean little without a concerted effort to tackle child poverty, which is projected to rise significantly in the coming years.

“Reducing the number of families struggling with debt and surviving on low incomes must be at the centre of any new strategy.”

A more powerful strategy to improve life chances of the most disadvantaged children would involve the scrapping of the four-year freeze on children’s benefits, and cuts to support for working families in Universal Credit, he said.

Chief Executive of 4Children, Imelda Redmond CBE, added: “It is vital that the impact of low income is not forgotten. While the commitment to a higher wage, lower welfare economy is the right goal – the facts remain that of the 2.3 million children living in poverty, almost two thirds are in working households.”

Updated at 2.10pm BST

1.49pm BST

And Channel 4 News’ Gary Gibbon’s take on the Queen’s speech is worth reading too. Here is an extract.

The plan had been to hold this Queen’s Speech after the referendum on the EU but the government felt there was a danger it would look like it had nothing to do. The compromise is to come up with what Iain Duncan Smith has called “not the most extensive” Queen’s Speech, with much “parked” or “jettisoned” so as not to upset the voters ahead of the EU vote. This, he says, is because it is designed to get the government to the end of June not far beyond.

I asked if he wasn’t, so to speak, passing water on the government’s parade. He said the ceremony would be nothing more than pageantry unless we get back sovereignty from Brussels. So talk of a one-day ceasefire was premature.

Gibbon also says the Queen doesn’t like the noise from the helicopters that film her carriage on its way to parliament for the live TV coverage.

1.46pm BST

Here is the Guardian panel verdict on the Queen’s speech, with contributions from Polly Toynbee, Rafael Behr, Deborah Orr and Matthew d’Ancona.

And here is an extract from Rafael’s contribution.

There is something cruel about forcing the elderly monarch to pronounce campaigning platitudes as if they were her own words. Convention has HRH delivering the government’s agenda, but there is no constitutional obligation to make her chew stale soundbites from last year’s Conservative manifesto. “My government will use the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people.” It sounded like the poshest hostage video ever. (Given the historical background of civil war and restoration, that’s pretty much what it is.) But this year there was an additional level of artifice.

When the Queen said “my government”, she was talking about a provisional administration – the one that assumes power on 24 June on condition that Britain has just voted to remain in the EU.

Updated at 1.46pm BST

1.37pm BST

Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, was on the World at One too. He was asked if the government really has dropped plans for a sovereignty bill, as Iain Duncan Smith claimed this morning. (See 9.59am.) Hancock sidestepped the question. “Let’s wait until the outcome of the referendum,” he said.

1.34pm BST

Higher education bill

While the u-turn on turning all schools in to academies by 2020 has dominated the attention of most in education circles, the Queen’s speech also confirmed plans for a higher education bill that would support the establishment of new universities. Sally Weale writes:

The bill comes hot on the heels of the government’s higher education white paper which was published on Monday. The government briefing notes published alongside the Queen’s speech says it will be “the biggest supply-side reforms to the higher education sector for a quarter of a century”.

The new legislation will open up the sector to new providers and make it easier for them to award degrees and achieve university status, allowing them to compete with existing universities. The government wants to boost competition within the sector, but critics have warned it could put at risk the reputation of UK universities.

Jonathan Clifton, associate director for public services at Institute for Public Policy Research, warned that the US higher education system showed how allowing profit-making companies to establish universities could “end in tears”.

“This policy will only be successful if it enables genuinely innovative types of higher education institution to be established – rather than helping private companies to make a quick buck,” he said.

Cameron’s broader goal – of widening access to universities for young people – has been a long-standing aim for the prime minister. Back in January he accused his old university, Oxford, of “not doing enough to attract talent from across our country” and noted that Oxford accepted just 27 black students in a single year. He promised then to create new legislation to shame elite universities into improving diversity – and here it is.

Under the new bill, all universities will have to publish detailed information about application, offer and progression rates, broken down by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background to “shine a spotlight” on how well universities are performing in terms of social mobility. There has been widespread support for this – and for the stronger focus on teaching quality in the new bill – but there’s still concern about other measures which many in the sector fear will impact on potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Updated at 2.10pm BST

1.31pm BST

On the World at One Joshua Rozenburg, the legal commentator, has just pointed out that last year’s Queen’s speech notes said the government would bring forward a British bill of rights to “replace” the Human Rights Act. A year later the bill still has not appeared, but today the Queen again promised “proposals” for a British bill of rights. But, Rozenburg points out, this time the notes talk about the bill “revising” the Human Rights Act, not replacing it, implying there has been some sort of climbdown.

1.21pm BST

Cameron says Queen’s speech comes from ‘progressive, one nation government’

You can read the Queen’s speech, and all the accompanying backgrounds notes issued by the government, here.

The key document is this one (pdf), the 86-page background briefing paper.

And here is an extract from David Cameron’s introduction to the Queen’s speech briefing pack. In it, Cameron repeatedly stresses his belief that he is running a one nation government.

In the past six years, whether in education or welfare, this government has consistently demonstrated that we will take on difficult arguments, make difficult choices and undertake big and bold reforms to spread opportunity. This Queen’s speech is no different. At its heart are major changes to adoption and social work, so children in care are not doomed to a life of poverty. There are reforms to schools, so excellence that comes with more teacher freedom is spread to every community. There is an expansion of higher education, so just as we uncapped the number of student places we now encourage the new universities that will help educate the next generation. And because this Government sees the potential in everyone, we will finally undertake the long-overdue change that our prisons need. No longer will they be warehouses for criminals; we want them to be incubators of changed and reformed lives.

We also know that we cannot deliver opportunity for all and extend life chances, unless we also tackle the menace of extremism. We should be proud of the fact that today Britain is already one of the most successful multi-racial, multi-faith democracies anywhere on earth. But we must also recognise that extremists – both violent and non-violent – are trying to drive our country apart. So this Queen’s speech stands up for our liberal values by taking on the extremists with new powers to disrupt their activities, while protecting young people in unregulated schools from those who preach a message of intolerance and separatism …

This is a Queen’s speech that uses the strong foundations of our economy to make a series of bold choices that will improve lives across the country. It is a one nation Queen’s speech from a progressive, one nation, Conservative government.

1.17pm BST

Counter-extremism bill

The counter-extremism bill, which was once cast in the leading role in David Cameron’s “legacy” legislative programme, is still far from ready to be introduced to Parliament.

If anything the Tory’s manifesto plans have actually gone backwards. At the time of the Conservative party conference in October 2015, the prime minister and home secretary unveiled what appeared to be firm plans to tackle the jihadist and extremist threat in Britain. Detailed measures were outlined to ban extremist groups, to issue orders disrupting individual extremists and powers to close down premises used to support extremism.

But now that is all back in the melting pot. Instead, the bill outlined in the Queen’s speech promises to “introduce a new civil order regime to restrict extremist activity, following consultation.”

Whitehall sources confirm that the crackdown has been delayed because government lawyers have struggled for more than eight months to find a “legally robust” definition of extremism, which would withstand the first legal challenge on freedom of speech grounds from those it seeks to ban.

Theresa May, who once wanted Ofcom to have the power to censor British programmes containing extremist material before they were broadcast, has also been forced to accept a further watered down power. A once trumpeted campaign for British values is also waiting on a report from Louise Casey on integration.

The bill will now simply proposes that Ofcom should “close loopholes” to protect consumers who watch internet-streamed television content from outside the EU on Freeview.

What remains is a drive to intervene in unregulated part-time schools or madrasas where “extremist adults” are active and using the Disclosure and Barring Service to prevent the “entryism” by extremists working in the public sector or with children.

1.14pm BST

BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson has tweeted some video of David Cameron trying unsuccessfully to make small talk with Jeremy Corbyn on their way to listen to the Queen.

1.11pm BST

Children and social work bill

And here is a summary of the children and social work bill from the Press Association.

A shake-up of adoption rules has been unveiled to try and move more children more quickly from the care system into family life.

The children and social work bill, unveiled in the Queen’s speech, is aimed at reducing delays in placing children with new adoptive parents.

The new law is also intended to improve social care standards across England.

Ministers insist the bill will “tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child. And drive improvements in the social work profession by introducing more demanding professional standards, and setting-up a specialist regulator for the profession.”

The legislation is intended to give people leaving the care system more help via a new covenant to ensure local authorities act as a better “corporate parent” to help them when they make the transition into adulthood and independent living.

Care leavers will get the right to a personal adviser up to the age of 25 to help them move into adulthood as part of the overhaul.

Court and local councils will have to “take better account” of a child’s need for stability when making adoption decisions as part of the changes.

A specialist regulator for social work will also be established to improve standards and training.

The government says reform is needed because one in four people in prison have been in care.

1.11pm BST

Children and social work bill

The Queen’s speech included pledges to ensure faster adoption for children in care, improving the standard of social work and creating better opportunities for children raised in the system. On the detail of the children and social work bill, Patrick Butler writes:

It’s not the first time the prime minister has promised to speed up the adoption process. Cameron’s been saying he would “tear down the barriers” since at least 2012, with mixed results. The Queen’s speech is an attempt to re-launch an adoption policy that after early success, has badly stalled.

Putting prime ministerial weight behind adoption – Cameron declared that there was “no more pressing issue” for government – initially produced spectacular results. Adoption rates rose to record levels of 5,000 a year. But by late 2014, the gains started to go into reverse. A landmark family judgement by the then president of the family division, Sir James Munby, was clear that ministerial wishes to speed up the process should not override the law – which stated that adoption should be a last resort, and that approval for taking a child from a parent required the highest level of evidence, properly considered.

Munby identified a “recurring inadequacy” in too many adoption applications made by local authorities. He also argued the new 26 week target ignored the fact that “the issues are too grave, the stakes for all are too high, for the outcome to be determined by rigorous adherence to an inflexible timetable.”

His ruling triggered a fall off in local authority adoption applications, and adoption placement orders granted by the courts. Pro-adoption commentators have argued that local authorities have overacted to the ruling. But that has not stemmed the retreat.

Critics point out that the focus on adoption should not obscure the bigger picture: that austerity and rising poverty, coupled with massive cuts to family intervention services, have accelerated the numbers of children being taken into care. Fixing flaws in the adoption process is fine; but investing to prevent youngsters coming into care and adoption proceedings in the first place, should be the priority.

1.04pm BST

Criminal finances bill

Here is a summary of the criminal finances bill from the Press Association.

New powers to clamp down on tax evasion and money laundering have been unveiled in the Queen’s speech.

The criminal finances bill will make it an offence for companies to fail to stop staff facilitating tax evasion.

The measures are also aimed at making it easier for the courts to recover criminal assets.

The system of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) is to be improved to better use public and private resources, ministers said.

More than 350,000 SARs were filed with the UK Finance Unit and National Crime Agency last year, with the government recovering £224m from money laundering and terrorist financing in 2015-16.

1.01pm BST

Neigbourhood planning and infrastructure bill

This is from the Press Association on the neighbourhood planning and infrastructure bill.

The process for the compulsory purchase of homes and land to make way for new developments will be made faster under sweeping changes to planning laws aimed at addressing the housing crisis and building vital infrastructure.

The changes set out in the Queen’s speech will “further empower local communities” and make the planning process “clearer, faster and fairer”, officials said.

The legislation will pave the way for the Land Registry to be sold off and put the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis.

Other measures contained in the Queen’s speech will give councils in England the power to retain business rates – and potentially cut them – while elected mayors will be given London-style powers to franchise local bus services.

The planning moves will ensure that pre-commencement conditions are only imposed by councils where they are “absolutely necessary” to prevent them slowing down or stopping the construction of new homes once planning permission has been granted.

The reforms to compulsory purchase are aimed at speeding up the process, which can result in drawn-out legal rows as people try to hang on to their homes or challenge the compensation offered to them to make way for major schemes.

The explanatory document setting out the measures announced by the Queen indicates they will reform the way compensation is decided, basing values on the market rate without the proposed development.

The neighbourhood planning and infrastructure bill will “make the compulsory purchase order process clearer, fairer and faster for all those involved” in England and Wales, officials said.

12.56pm BST

The Queen had to use a lift for the first time on her way to the House of Lords chamber, the Press Association reports.

For the first time, the monarch, who turned 90 last month, used a lift rather than stairs to enter Parliament for the State Opening.

Buckingham Palace said the “modest adjustment” to arrangements had been made for “the Queen’s comfort”.

By taking the lift, the Queen avoided the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign’s Entrance.

12.54pm BST

And Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, is saying exactly the same. He said:

Only one year in and this Conservative majority is running out of steam.

Thirty announcements, but 28 have been made before. Weekend prisoners, announced by a weakened government.

The Queen’s speech is a stop-gap to give the warring factions of the Tory Party a couple of days’ respite from the referendum. It does nothing to address the key issues at stake.

12.53pm BST

Labour says Queen’s speech shows government ‘running out of steam’

Labour says the Queen’s speech shows that the government is “running out of steam”. This is from Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio.

It’s clear from today’s Queen’s speech that this is a failing Tory government running out of steam. The flagship measure on prisons reform may seem familiar because it is.

The Tories have been promising a rehabilitation revolution for nearly a decade but the reality is on their watch prisons have become dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, with rising levels of violence and drug abuse.

The idea that David Cameron can seek to portray his programme for government as ‘one nation’ is nothing short of ludicrous. This is a Tory government that has cut taxes for millionaires while making everyone else pay more.

And what we’ve seen from the various U-turns and backtracking in recent weeks, this is a government that is weak, divided and unable to get its business through parliament.

12.49pm BST

Here are extracts from Sadiq Khan’s first Speak to Sadiq phone-in as London mayor.

Sadiq Khan makes his debut LBC appearance as mayor of London – video

12.45pm BST

Here is my colleague Heather Stewart’s story on the Queen’s speech.

12.44pm BST

Modern transport bill

With its glimmer of a future that contains roads filled with driverless cars, widespread drone use and a commercial spaceport in the UK, the Modern transport bill was perhaps the most eye-catching announcement in the Queen’s speech. On its significance, though, Gwyn Topham writes:

The Modern Transport Bill should allow Britain to continue to invest and exploit its unusual advantages as a testbed for driverless cars – partly as a country that failed to ratify an international convention that explicitly demands a driver in the front seat.

But grey areas remain, and promised moves such as allowing driverless cars to be insured under normal policies will give more clarity as the likes of Volvo roll out further trials on public roads. Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles believe the biggest delays to their introduction won’t be in technology, but in creating public acceptance and amending the rules of the road, which this bill should address.

Pilots have welcomed news of regulation on drones but may be jumping the gun: the government appears again stressing to be the opportunity for UK industry to ride the boom in manufacture and operation, rather than rein in their use. ATOL protection for holidays booked online will also be updated, in line with recent EU agreement.

The Buses Bill could extend franchising powers already promised to directly elected mayors to other local authorities on a case by case basis – potentially a triumph for regions which have tried to wrest back control from bitterly opposed transport firms such as Stagecoach – and demand operators release data on routes and fares for apps, improving the lot of passengers. But campaigners will want to see assurances about funding, with bus services outside urban areas badly hit since government grants were cut.

Updated at 12.46pm BST

12.33pm BST

Ipsos MORI poll gives Remain an 18-point leave over Leave

Ipsos MORI has released a poll today showing Remain 18 points ahead of Leave. As the Evening Standard reports, Remain is pulling ahead because of a shift from Tory voters.

Today’s survey reveals the Remain campaign has pulled ahead to its biggest lead in the past three months — with 55 per cent for staying in and 37 per cent for leaving the EU.

This is mainly due to a marked shift among Conservative supporters. The Tory swing suggests the Prime Minister’s intense campaigning is having a significant impact on his party’s followers.

This appears to confirm a trend shown in the Telegraph’s ORB poll yesterday.

The publication of the poll seems to have an impact on the value of the pound, which shot up as soon as the news come out. This is from Bloomberg’s Robert Hutton.

12.30pm BST

Education for all bill

The Queen didn’t actually say “academies” – perhaps not surprising after the government’s embarrassing U-turn on a commitment to force all schools to become academies by 2022. But in the detailed summary of the speech, it says there will be new legislation to “expand” the academies programme in the poorest performing local authority areas.

Its a significant climbdown for education secretary Nicky Morgan, though she has since insisted the original aim still stands, without the hard deadline. The government will focus on converting schools within under-performing councils – a definition of which will be subject to a consultation and a vote by MPs.

Meanwhile, many will welcome legislation to reform the national funding formula by which many schools, particularly those in rural areas, currently feel they lose out to urban schools which receive substantially greater funds. London schools however have a lot to lose in the reorganisation.

Some early reaction from Allan Foulds, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, suggests schools feel that for all the talk about academies, the immediately challenges facing them are still budget constraints and a shortage of teachers.

Foulds also expressed disappointment that there was no mention of the teaching recruitment crisis. “The government has not so far announced measures which go far enough or fast enough in addressing the teacher recruitment crisis, she said. “It must do more to promote and incentivise teaching as a great career.”

Updated at 2.11pm BST

12.20pm BST

Digital economy bill

“Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband,” the Queen said, trailing the government’s Digital economy bill. A good step forward and a big vote winner, Miles Brignall writes:

Compensation for a lost broadband connection would be hugely welcomed by households up and down the country – particularly anyone who’s been through it recently. A guaranteed minimum speed of 10Mbs would also see a big upgrade for millions of households in rural areas.

Over the last decade, UK households have become so reliant on broadband, that many would opt lose their water supply before their internet connection. Currently it can takes days and even months to get BT Openreach, Virgin, or the other telecoms companies to fix a problem – a nightmare for those who work at home or run a small business.

Currently, only the water and gas and electricity companies are required to compensate customers if the supply fails, and it is the company’s fault.

But how much would you get? Electricity firms currently pay £75 if the power was out for longer than 12 hours, and £35 for each following 12 hours – assuming that fewer than 5,000 homes were affected. Similar such penalties would likely force the much criticised Openreach, and others, to get their act together and get people back on line within the day. Could be a big vote winner – particularly among those with teenage kids.

12.19pm BST

Here are some pictures from the ceremony.

The Queen travels by carriage from Buckingham Palace to parliament
The Queen travels by carriage from Buckingham Palace to parliament. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP
Yeoman warders take part in a traditional “Ceremonial Search” in the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening of Parliament.
Yeoman warders take part in a traditional “Ceremonial Search” in the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Richard Pohle/AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers parade as the Queen travels in a carriage from Buckingham Palace towards the Houses of Parliament.
Soldiers parade as the Queen travels in a carriage from Buckingham Palace towards the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP
David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn walk towards the House of Lords for the Queen’s speech.
David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn walk towards the House of Lords for the Queen’s speech. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images
Yeoman of the Guard at the Sovereign’s entrance.
Yeoman of the Guard at the Sovereign’s entrance. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty Images

12.15pm BST

Pensions bill

On the pensions bill, which was promised in the Queen’s speech to bolster protections for those saving for retirement, Hilary Osborne writes:

The government had been under pressure to include a pensions bill addressing the issue of “master trusts” – schemes which are being used by many employers for auto-enrolment of workers. At the weekend, the work and pensions select committee warned that the lack of regulation around the schemes could result in savers losing money and trust in the system being damaged.

The bill will also address high exit charges faced by some retirees when they try to cash in their pensions under freedoms introduced in 2015 – that is good news for savers who want to move their money around.

However, some will be disappointed. There is nothing in it for the women who have seen their state pension age rise and have been campaigning for the government to offset this in some way. And the former pensions minister, Steve Webb, now director of Policy at pensions firm Royal London said the bill was “disappointing”. He said “urgent action” was needed to get employees saving more than the statutory minimum of 8% of their pay.

Updated at 2.11pm BST

12.07pm BST

NHS (overseas visitors charging) bill

Here is the Press Association on the NHS (overseas visitors charging) bill.

Overseas visitors and migrants face a tough clampdown on accessing NHS care, with more powers for hospitals to recover costs.

The new NHS (overseas visitors charging) bill, which is to be published before the Parliamentary summer recess, will tighten up the rules around eligibility for free NHS care.

It means fewer European visitors will qualify for NHS care, while more overseas visitors and migrants would be charged for NHS services the government says they are not entitled to.

An independent report for the Department of Health in 2013 suggested overseas visitors and migrants cost the NHS about 2 billion a year.

Under the new bill, only UK residents who “live here lawfully and make a financial contribution to this country” will get free NHS care, according to details in the Queen’s speech.

The new legislation will extend the current range of services for which the NHS is able to charge and there will also be more powers for hospitals to recover the full costs from overseas patients.

At present, emergency care, GP visits and family planning are exempt from charges. People suffering life-threatening illnesses and some other diseases are also exempt.

The government has already introduced an immigration health surcharge (IHS) for non-European Economic Area nationals who apply for a visa to stay in the UK for six months or longer.

12.04pm BST

Counter-extremism and safeguarding bill

This is from the Press Association on the counter-extremism and safeguarding bill.

New measures to protect children and restrict the activities of fanatics will be rolled out in a crackdown on extremism.

The counter-extremism and safeguarding bill will include powers to intervene in unregulated schools which “teach hate” and “drive communities apart”

Vetting rules are expected to be adapted to enable employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children.

Ministers will consult on rolling out a civil order regime to “restrict extremist activity”, as well as new powers to enable the government to step in when councils fail to tackle extremism.

The legislation aims to help deliver on the Tories’ manifesto pledge to tackle all forms of extremism, so “our values and our way of life are properly promoted and defended”.

The bill follows a programme to tackle extremism and radicalisation announced last year.

It proposed introducing banning orders for extremist organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription, and new powers for authorities to close down premises used to support extremism.

12.03pm BST

Updated at 12.46pm BST

12.00pm BST

Queen’s speech – Key points

Here is my colleague Rowena Mason’s guide to the key points in the Queen’s speech.

11.54am BST

The Press Association has filed a story on Dennis Skinner’s heckle, rounding up some of his previous, and rather funnier, contributions.

Dennis Skinner received cheers from some Opposition MPs as he shouted “Hands off the BBC” in the Commons.

The Beast Of Bolsover’s annual quip at Black Rod is almost as much part of the pomp and circumstance as the Queen’s procession to Parliament, although he opted to stay silent last year in a break from State Opening tradition.

In 2014, the Labour MP shouted “coalition’s last stand” as MPs were summoned to hear the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords.

Skinner’s remark follows the publication of a government white paper on the future of the BBC, which sets out a long-term plan for the corporation, including maintaining the licence fee.

Last year, despite apparently winning his battle with the SNP over his high-profile seat in the Commons, Skinner stayed quiet.

Traditionally, the Bolsover MP shouts out as Lieutenant General David Leakey instructs elected parliamentarians to attend the Queen in the Lords.

He won widespread laughs in 2013 when he shouted “Royal Mail for sale. Queen’s head privatised” in reference to the planned Royal Mail privatisation.

In 2012 he angered Tory MPs by drawing attention to the country’s economic difficulties, saying: “Jubilee year, double dip recession, what a start.”

And in 2006, as the film The Queen was released, Mr Skinner joked: “Have you got Helen Mirren on standby?”

11.52am BST

Here is my colleague Anushka Asthana’s take on the Queen’s speech.

Updated at 12.00pm BST

11.49am BST

MPs are now heading back to the Commons.

The sitting will then be suspended until 2.30pm.

11.49am BST

The Queen ends by saying that “other measures” may be laid before parliament.

11.49am BST

She says there will be a referendum on the EU, and the government will bring forward a British bill of rights.

The government will uphold the sovereignty of parliament and the primacy of the Commons, she says.

And she says the government will implement the powers in the Scotland Act, and establish a strong devolution settlement in Wales.

Analysis: It is interesting to note that she sounds quite non-committal about the British bill of rights, promising to bring forward “proposals” for a bill, not necessarily actual legislation. The reference to the primacy of the Commons seems to be a reference to the plan to curb the power of the Lords to block secondary legislation.

11.45am BST

She says the government will continue to modernise the law covering investigatory powers.

Analysis: The investigatory powers bill is the legislation that will update surveillance legislation, building on the draft “snooper’s charter” bill that was dropped in the last parliament.

Updated at 1.34pm BST

11.44am BST

She sets out some of the government’s foreign policy priorities, including spending 2% of national income on defence.

Analysis: The government does not legislate very much on foreign affairs, but they have to be included in the Queen’s speech.

11.43am BST

She says national citizens service will be placed on a permanent statutory footing.

Analysis: Cameron is personally committed to national citizens service, which is almost the last vestige left of his big society idea, and this legislation will expand it. Some £1.2bn is being earmarked for it.

11.43am BST

She says the government will legislate to prevent radicalisation and to tackle extremism.

Analysis: The government promised an extremism bill in last year’s Queen’s speech, but it never actually arrived. This time it is promising a counter-extremism and safeguarding bill, covering much of the ground flagged up last year. One reason that legislation has taken so long is that coming up with a legally robust definition of extremism has been extremely difficult. The bill will create new powers to “disrupt extremists” and to “restrict extremist activity”.

11.42am BST

She says the government will legislate to reform prisons.

Analysis: Some of the key elements in the prison and courts reform bill were previewed overnight. Here is the Guardian’s story.

11.41am BST

She says a bill will lay the foundations for education excellence, and to ensure more people can further their education.

Analysis: There are two education bills in the programme. An education for all bill will extend academies, although Cameron has shelved his original plan to force all schools to become academies in the face of protests from Tory MPs. The higher education and research bill may turn to be more radical. As well as enabling new “high quality” universities to open, it will also require universities to publish detailed information about the class, ethnic and gender background of applicants and students to put pressure on those that “need to go further and faster on social mobility”.

Queen Elizabeth, reading her speech
Queen Elizabeth, reading her speech Photograph: Sky News

Updated at 11.47am BST

11.41am BST

She says the government will introduce new meaures to tackle life chances, and to impose a levy on the soft drinks industry.

Analysis: George Osborne announced plans for the sugar tax in his budget, and there will be legislation in the finance bill. There will also be a separate lifetime savings bill that will legislate for two schemes, aimed at the poor and the young, that will encourage them to save by ensuring the government matches some of the money they put in.

11.40am BST

She says a bill will be introduced to ensure children can be adopted without delay.

Analysis: Cameron has repeatedly announced his desire to ensure that children in care can get adopted more quickly, and this will be one of the aims of a children and social work bill, which will change the factors must take into account in adoption cases. There will also be a “care leavers’ covenant” saying what people are entitled to expect when they leave care.

11.39am BST

She says there will be legislation to ensure overseas visitors pay for their NHS treatment.

Analysis: The NHS (Overseas visitors charging) bill may turn out to be one of the most controversial measures in the Queen’s speech, because doctors and hospitals are unenthusiastic serving as revenue collectors.

11.38am BST

She says legislation will be introduced to take on tax evasion.

Analysis: A criminal finances bill will toughen up the UK’s anti-money laundering rules, as well as making it a criminal offence for firms to fail to prevent staff from facilitating tax evasion. Cameron wrote about this in a Guardian article recently.

Updated at 11.40am BST

11.37am BST

She says:

My ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.

Analysis: This is a reference to the modern transport bill, a well-trailed measure that will create a legislative framework for the roll-out of driverless cars, as well as introduce new rules for drone and allowing the development of the UK’s first commercial spaceports. There will also be a bus services bill, which will give directly elected mayors new powers over bus services and ensure passengers all over the country can get real-time information from apps about timetables. And the local growth and jobs bill will implement George Osborne’s plans to allow councils to retain all the business rates they collect.

11.37am BST

She says:

Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.

Analysis: The government will introduce a digital economy bill that will enshrine Cameron’s proposal for fast broadband connection to be treated as an essential service which everyone can demand as of right. It will also ensure that consumers automatically get compensated when things go wrong with their broadband. A better markets bill will also make it easier for consumers to switch providers.

11.37am BST

She says that to support the economic recovery and to create jobs and more apprenticeships, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.

Analysis: This a reference to the national planning and infrastructure bill which is mostly concerned with speeding up the planning system (“excessive pre-commencement planning conditions” will be tackled, apparently), but it will also include significant changes to compulsory purchase rules, designed to make them fairer, which will obviously be of interest to anyone affected by HS2.

11.36am BST

The Queen’s speech

The Queen says:

My government will use the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people, to increase life chances for the most disadvantaged and to strengthen national defences.

My ministers will continue to bring the public finances under control so that Britain lives within its means, and to move to a higher wage and lower welfare economy where work is rewarded.

Analysis: The opening of the Queen’s speech always amounts to a mini government “mission statement”. During the general election David Cameron made “security” (economic and national) his key selling point, but after his election victory he pledged to rule as a “one nation Conservative” and the focus on “life chances” shows he has not abandoned this ambition.

11.34am BST

David Cameon and Jeremy Corbyn lead MPs into the Lords.

Cameron seems to be trying to make conversation, but Corbyn is looking away, and doing his best not to take any notice.

11.33am BST

Black Rod is in the chamber. He summons MPs to the Lords.

And Dennis Skinner comes out with his customary heckle.

Hands off the BBC.

Dennis Skinner’s Queen’s speech heckle.

Updated at 11.39am BST

11.31am BST

The Queen is on the throne in the Lords now. She asks the Lords to sit down.

Now Black Rod is heading for the Commons chamber to summon MPs to the Lords.

This is when we normally get the Dennis Skinner joke.

11.30am BST

Here is the Queen heading for the Lords chamber.

Queen in the Lords.
Queen in the Lords. Photograph: BBC

11.22am BST

Here is the scene in the House of Lords where the Queen has arrived, but has yet to process into the Lords chamber.

House of Lords
House of Lords. Photograph: BBC

11.17am BST

The Queen is arriving in parliament now.

11.02am BST

The Queen is on her way.

Queen heading for parliament
Queen heading for parliament. Photograph: BBC

11.00am BST

Johnson accuses Heseltine of ‘synthetic outrage’

Boris Johnson has responded to Lord Heseltine’s attack on his EU rhetoric yesterday. Speaking to reporters outside his home, Johnson accused Heseltine of “synthetic outrage”.

The most important thing is that everybody should cut out the synthetic outrage about things I haven’t said and stick to the facts.

The facts are that the EU is now producing about 60% of the law made in this country, it’s changed out of all recognition from what we signed up to in 1972, it is making it impossible for us to control our borders and it costs about £350m per week.

The only safe option is to vote Leave on June 23.

For the umpteenth time, it is worth pointing out that the UK Statistics Authority had described that £350m per week figure as “potentially misleading”.

10.47am BST

Here is Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, on the unemployment figures.

It is welcome that unemployment has fallen slightly, after a sharp rise in the last set of figures. However, people continue to struggle through a Tory decade of record low pay, which is resulting in earnings growth remaining far too slow.

So the Government should use today’s Queen’s speech to avert their plans to make matters even worse and ruin work incentives. They could do this by adopting Labour’s call for a full reversal of the cuts to universal credit that will result in 2.5m working families being left over £2,100 year worse off.

10.36am BST

Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, has been on LBC this morning. Here are some of the highlights. These tweets are from LBC’s Theo Usherwood.

10.19am BST

Here is Frances Crook, head of the Howard League for Penal Reform, on the suggestion that new tagging technology could enable prisoners to be allowed out to work during the week.

10.08am BST

Here is Stephen Crabb, the work and pensions secretary, on the employment figures.

These are another record-breaking set of figures, with more people in work than ever before and the unemployment rate is the lowest in a decade at 5.1%.

More people in work means that more families across the UK are benefiting from the security of a regular wage and the fulfilment that employment brings.

But the job is not done, which is why our welfare reforms, such as universal credit, are making sure that it always pays to be in work.

9.59am BST

Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, is complaining that the government has abandoned its plans for a sovereignty bill to assert the sovereignty of parliament. Responding to this story in today’s Sun, he said:

Many Conservatives have become increasingly concerned that in the governments helter skelter pursuit of the referendum, they have been jettisoning or watering down key elements of their legislative programme. Whether it is the Trade Union Bill or the BBC Charter proposals, it seems nothing must stand in the way of winning the referendum.

Yet to compound that, now it appears the much vaunted sovereignty bill, key to the argument that the prime minister had secured a reform of the EU, has been tossed aside as well. The fear in government must be that as no one in Britain buys the idea that the EU has been reformed, the sovereignty bill would draw the public’s attention back to that failure.

After all if the EU Court of justice is supreme and can strike down our laws, the British people would have just laughed at the idea Britain can be sovereign unless we leave the EU.

David Cameron floated the idea for a sovereignty bill, which would supposedly assert the supremacy of parliament over EU law, when he was hoping to persuade Boris Johnson to back the Remain camp. Johnson had been calling for legislation of this kind. But, in practice, it was very hard to see how it would work – EU law does take precedence as long as the UK remains in the EU – and as soon as Johnson came out for Leave, Cameron lost interest in the idea. It is no surprise that the proposal has been shelved.

9.44am BST

Unemployment falls

Here are the headline unemployment figures.

  • Unemployment fell by 2,000 to 1.69m between January and March.
  • The claimant count fell by 2,400 to 737,800.
  • Average earnings increased by 2% in the year to March, 0.1% up on the previous
    month.

The full details are in the Office for National Statistics bulletin here.

9.35am BST

On the Today programme this morning Chris Grayling, the leader of the Commons, repeatedly refused to say he agreed with Boris Johnson’s comment about the EU being similar to Nazi Germany in its ambitions. He was asked seven times if Johnson was right to make the comparison, but all he would say was that Johnson was speaking as “a historian”. He said:

What Boris was talking about was the reality that there is a drive towards greater political integration.

Boris was making an historical analogy from a historian talking about a whole range of actions since the Roman empire.

He is a historian making a comment in his own words. My view is that we should be most concerned about integration in the European Union.

(The idea that Johnson is a “historian” will surprise purists. Johnson studied classics and, although he has written books about ancient Rome and Winston Churchill, they are not noted for their academic rigour.)

9.09am BST

The Queen’s speech is supposed to be one of the landmark moment’s in the government’s legislative calendar. It is the day when the Queen comes to the House of Lords to open parliament and to deliver a speech setting out the government’s legislative programme. A state of the union address, it isn’t. It is little more than a list of bills coming up in the next 12 months. There is no other day in the news diary when a speech that is inherently so dull attracts so much media attention.

Even as a guide to what is coming up in parliament, the Queen’s speech is an unreliable guide. Governments are free to introduce legislation and hold votes on matters not in the Queen’s speech, and these are the measures that often produce the most parliamentary drama. There was nothing in last year’s Queen’s speech about relaxing the Sunday trading laws or the planned sweeping tax credit cuts, proposals that produced two of last session’s most significant government defeats. And there was nothing about bombing Islamic State in Syria either, another of the great Commons flashpoints from last year. Last year’s Queen’s speech also promised an extremism bill, which never arrived.

And this year, with Number 10 100% focused on the EU referendum battle, the Queen’s speech is expected to be relatively uncontentious. David Cameron cannot afford to antagonise his backbenchers even more than he is already doing – at least, not now.

Still, the Queen’s speech does provide some guide as to what is coming up. And the ceremony is excellent (if you like that sort of thing). And we will get a debate in the Commons this afternoon with major speeches from Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

Here is our preview story.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Unemployment figures are published.

10am: Sadiq Khan, the new London mayor, hosts his first Speak to Sadiq phone-in on LBC.

10am: Nicola Sturgeon is sworn in as Scotland’s first minister.

10.30am: The BBC begins its coverage of the state opening of parliament.

11.25am: MPs assemble in the Commons to be summoned to hear the Queen’s speech.

Around 11.30am: The Queen delivers her speech.

2.30pm: MPs begin the debate on the Queen’s speech. The Conservative backbenchers Caroline Spelman, the former environment secretary, and Phillip Lee open with short speeches proposing and seconding the loyal address. Then there speeches from Corbyn and Cameron.

I will be focusing mostly on the Queen’s speech today. I will post a summary at lunchtime and another in the afternoon.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but normally I find it impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer direct questions, although sometimes I miss them or don’t have time. Alternatively you could post a question to me on Twitter.

If you think there are any voices that I’m leaving out, particularly political figures or organisations giving alternative views of the stories I’m covering, do please flag them up below the line (include “Andrew” in the post). I can’t promise to include everything, but I do try to be open to as wide a range of perspectives as possible.

Updated at 9.13am BST

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Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe

An interesting perspective.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe” was written by Andrew Rawnsley, for The Observer on Sunday 27th March 2016 05.04 UTC

Napoleon wanted generals who were lucky. Napoleon would have liked David Cameron. He became Tory leader when Tony Blair’s electoral magic had faded and his days were numbered. Lucky Dave then fought the 2010 election against a Labour party that had been in government for 13 years and was showing its age.

His rival for the premiership had presided over the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s and, on his own account, Gordon Brown was not a politician suited for the television age. When Mr Cameron failed to parlay those advantages into a parliamentary majority, he borrowed one from the Lib Dems, who did sterling service sustaining him for five years while destroying their electoral base in the process.

He gambled the United Kingdom with a referendum on Scottish independence. Labour did the heavy lifting to keep the UK intact and its reward was to be toxified as Tory collaborators in the eyes of many Scots. The devastation this wreaked on Labour support north of the border played to his advantage at the 2015 election by allowing the Tories to scare English voters with the thought that a Miliband government would be a marionette of the Nationalists. Lady Luck also smiled on him when the pollsters, by calling the election wrong, helped smooth his path back to No 10.

I don’t put all this down to blind chance. That would be to underestimate Mr Cameron. He would not be approaching his sixth anniversary at No 10 were he not highly skilled at exploiting the opportunities that time, chance and opponents have presented to him. Like all successful leaders, he has made the most of his good fortune.

The trouble with luck is that she eventually runs out. She seemed to be bidding farewell to this prime minister last weekend. He had been hit with the most dramatic and damaging resignation of his premiership when Iain Duncan Smith quit the cabinet in a fit of vitriolic vapours. By Monday, the budget was unravelling faster than you can say fiasco and George Osborne had gone into hiding. Mr Cameron had to face the Commons that afternoon. This should have been a horrible experience for him.

Yet still he was in luck. Good fortune smiled on him in the bearded guise of his main inquisitor. His prayers for relief had been granted by St Jeremy, the patron saint of prime ministers in peril. Presented with a priceless opportunity to skewer the prime minister and take apart his claims to lead a one-nation government, Mr Corbyn decided the most effective approach was not to mention the self-defenestration of IDS and his excoriating attack on the cabinet which he had just left.

The Labour leader did not, as some have had it, kick the ball over the bar. He didn’t even try to connect his foot with the ball. I am still trying to fathom why not. Had no one told him that a significant element of the job description of leader of the opposition is to, well, to oppose? Was he too preoccupied drawing up lists of suspected traitors among Labour MPs to prepare for this important engagement at the dispatch box? Was he too busy tending to his allotment and nurturing his marrows to have watched any news? Maybe I am over-thinking this. Maybe he is just hopeless.

If that performance had Labour people looking on in stunned disbelief, there was worse to come two days later at prime minister’s questions. By then, Mr Corbyn had managed to find out that a member of the cabinet had resigned. But it was too late. Bringing it up 4 8 hours on only served to remind everyone that he had failed to stick the ball in the net two days earlier. On top of which, someone on his team carelessly lost a list which divided Labour MPs into five categories of loyalty and opposition to the great helmsman of Islington. The list fell ino enemy hands. So we all now know that his chief whip is designated “hostile” and so is Labour’s candidate to be mayor of London. “Core group negative” includes Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson, the leader of the Labour In campaign.

The Tory leader used the exposure of the list to crush the man opposite. “I thought I had problems,” he jeered after saying they could put him down as “core support” for Mr Corbyn remaining as Labour leader. A half hour that ought to have been torture for the prime minister turned into a humiliation for his opponent.

The most devoted of Mr Corbyn’s followers will say that this mockery shows that the Tories are frightened of the Labour leader. Let me try to break this as gently as I can. The Tories really, really are not scared of Mr Corbyn. Most Tories are more likely to lose sleep worrying about whether they put out the cat than they are about the Labour leader. For reasons I will describe in a moment, the Conservatives would be better served, and so would the country, if they were a bit more frightened of Labour. The other thing people will say is that parliamentary knockabout excites only people who live in the “Westminster bubble”. No one “in the real world” cares about this meaningless theatre.

I agree that it is theatre, but it is far from meaningless. Parliament still matters for holding the prime minister to account. It matters more under this prime minister because he rarely deigns to grant substantial interviews with heavyweight media interrogators and only holds news conferences when he has absolutely no choice. The prospect of being tested by the leader of the opposition should, at the very least, make a prime minister nervous. It should keep him on his toes. Since he started facing Mr Corbyn, Mr Cameron clearly finds PMQs so effortless that the ease with which he cruises through them must embarrass even him. It also matters because how the party leaders perform in the Commons influences how the media rate and report on them and that plays its role in shaping public perceptions. It also has a significant impact on the morale of their parliamentary troops. At the end of that PMQs, you didn’t need any lists to tell you what Labour MPs thought about Jeremy Corbyn. It was written on their funereal faces. An encounter which should have united them in exploiting the government’s divisions and disarray turned into an occasion in which the Tories roared on their man as he ridiculed the Labour leader.

My first column of this year remarked that it is highly unusual for both major parties to be doing the splits at the same time. As this year grows older, things are getting even stranger. We now have a feedback loop in which the divisions in the Labour party feed those among the Tories and vice versa. Whatever their manifold and manifest differences, one thought unites nearly all Conservatives – that the next election is as good as won for them. This is encouraging Tories to think that they can behave however they like without fear of punishment at the ballot box.

The empty space where an effective opposition ought to be is an incitement for the government to be complacent, cocky and slapdash. That arrogance has consequences, as we saw with the budget. At the same time, absent an opposition that they fear, Tory discipline is breaking down. The prime minister’s internal opponents are emboldened to be more aggressive in their rebellions against the Tory leader. The language exchanged about Europe becomes more poisonous. It lessens the chances of putting the Conservative party back together again on the other side of the referendum.

In normal times, we’d expect this to have a positive effect on the opposition. The spectacle of Tories tearing into each other like a feral bunch of ferrets ought to be uniting Labour in a conviction that the next election is winnable for them. In these extraordinary times, Tory division has the opposite effect. It is not bringing Labour together; it is amplifying Labour’s internal turbulence. Labour MPs see a Tory party which is bitterly split and despair that their own leadership seems utterly incapable of profiting from the opportunity that it ought to present to them.

A few Labour MPs have broken cover and openly called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Many more talk privately of an attempt to oust him once the EU referendum is over. Whether this will come to anything, we will see, but I would caution Mr Corbyn not to place too much reliance on that list as a guide to the mood in his parliamentary party. It has Labour MPs down as neutral or friendly who are, to my knowledge, hostiles.

While talk of toppling their leader grows on the Labour side, regicide is also on the minds of a significant number of Tory MPs. Among them, there is much chatter that David Cameron will face a leadership challenge after the referendum, whether he wins it or not. It is possible that, before year’s end, there will have been attempts from within both the major parties to oust their leaders. What would once have seemed wildly improbable is now quite easily conceivable. The terra becomes yet more incognita.

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The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all

There’s always hope, though I am not sure how much.
You have to have faith in something though. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 4th December 2015 19.05 UTC

Labour retains safe Labour seat in Lancashire heartlands byelection. No story there, then. Except that, in the case of the Oldham West and Royton byelection, there undoubtedly is a story. This has been a torrid back end of the year for Labour. Splits, bad blood and bad headlines have cooked up such a witches’ brew for Jeremy Corbyn’s party that the expectation on all sides, based on doorstep evidence, was of a Labour slump and even perhaps a loss to Ukip. Early editions of the Daily Mail on Friday were so confident that they ran a pre-declaration story headlined “Corbyn effect costs Labour thousands of votes.” But, let’s be honest, no one else saw evidence of a big Labour win coming.

It is true that the Labour vote fell this week in Oldham West compared with the general election. But so did everybody else’s. That’s because turnout as a whole went down from 60% in May to 40% on Thursday, sadly typical for a modern byelection. What matters though, was that Labour’s share of the vote actually went up – by seven points – not down, while the Conservatives fell by 10 points and Ukip, supposedly the great threat to Labour this week, managed only a small increase while still ending nearly 11,000 votes adrift of Labour’s new MP Jim McMahon.

That’s a good bankable win for Labour in anyone’s money. Mr McMahon’s success puts him into the top 20 Labour shares of the vote in Britain and gives his party a much-needed electoral fillip after a grim time. The flip side of it is that it’s a bad loss for the challengers, Ukip and the Tories, never mind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, all of whom might have persuaded themselves that Oldham West might offer them something. The gas has gone out of Ukip’s balloon, at least in Lancashire, while George Osborne’s party has no electoral dividend to show for all his northern powerhouse-building.

It’s a mistake to pretend that Labour’s win is all that unusual, though. By a coincidence, the first byelection of the last parliament was in neighbouring Oldham East and Saddleworth in January 2011. Labour successfully put up its share in that byelection too, by a meaty 10 points, while the Tory share halved. It was a reassuring win for Labour’s new leader Ed Miliband, whose party mostly did well in byelections for the next three years. But like most byelections in the early part of a parliament it said little or nothing about the 2015 general election result when it eventually came. There was a long way still to go, then as now.

Mr McMahon was clearly an excellent candidate in a crucial contest for his party. Talented, local, competent, well known in an area where he is the council leader, he was nobody’s callow besuited candidate from Westminster central casting. These things probably mattered more than that he was on a different wing of the party from his leader. Labour’s factions will argue long and loud about whether Oldham was a victory for Mr McMahon or Mr Corbyn. Their respective conclusions will reflect their respective prejudices. The truth is surely that, between them, they did enough to allow the Labour brand to win once more.

Real votes matter more than opinion polls. Yet each of them is important. Labour can draw comfort from Oldham West. But it has to beware the message of a poll this week which showed, first, that the voters grew more doubtful about air strikes in Syria as Wednesday’s Commons vote drew near but, second, that Mr Corbyn’s job ratings have fallen sharply since he took over in September. Mr Corbyn now has a net approval rating of -41, compared with -8 in September. David Cameron, by contrast, has a rating of zero, with voters evenly divided. That should be cause for Labour concern.

Still, we should not be hypocritical. If Labour had lost Thursday’s byelection, this editorial and this weekend’s political talk would all be about Mr Corbyn, especially after a searing week at Westminster over Syria. His leadership would be on the line. The profiles of Hilary Benn would be being burnished. So if defeat for Labour would have been bad for Mr Corbyn, it surely follows that victory for Labour must be good for him. His leadership is therefore not on the line right now. In Oldham at least, Mr Corbyn was not the issue in the way his opponents and critics might have imagined. On Wednesday, Labour MPs went along with majority party opinion and supported him on Syria by two to one. This tells us something, perhaps not too much, about the future. Nevertheless, the Labour leader can undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief this weekend. And so can his party, at least until next time.

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Trident is useless. That’s why we must debate its renewal

I used to have nightmares about nuclear war.  Being just able as a child of 6 to remember the Cuba missile crisis, my attitude too nukes has always been why on earth would you?

I have different nightmares now…

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trident is useless. That’s why we must debate its renewal” was written by Richard Norton-Taylor, for theguardian.com on Monday 28th September 2015 15.48 UTC

It might be perfectly understandable why Labour party delegates decided to bottle out of a conference debate on Trident, Britain’s most powerful, most expensive, most irrelevant and most useless weapon. Yet the attempt to suppress debate on the utility of Britain’s nuclear arsenal is undemocratic. And a discussion is needed, desperately.

“The question of Trident renewal becomes a symbol for Britain in the world, for patriotism, or for enlightened foreign policy,” says Michael Clarke, director general of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) thinktank. He adds: “The one thing that politicians don’t address when they talk about Britain’s nuclear weapons is how they do, or don’t, actually figure in practical defence policy for the next 10 or 20 years. It is really very depressing.”

In his memoirs, Tony Blair said of Trident: “The expense is huge and the utility … non-existent in terms of military use.” He said he could clearly see the force of the “common sense and practical argument” against Trident, but in the end he thought that giving it up would be “too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”.

It is about symbols and sacred cows. The arguments are not simply ones of left versus right. In Brighton on Sunday, unions who are pro-Trident on employment grounds voted against a debate (though their skilled workforce could readily switch to building submarines or warships that are not armed with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles).

Crispin Blunt, the Tory chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, says: “It is no longer sensible to put aside the money [for Trident] for the size of nation we are. At what point is it no longer value for money for the UK? In my judgment we have reached that point.”

Max Hastings, a historian and respected commentator on military affairs, chastised the government in yesterday’s Sunday Times, accusing it of “indefensibly” ruling out of the debate on the forthcoming strategic defence and security review (SDSR) “the huge commitment to replace Trident”. (Hastings added that the navy’s new aircraft carriers might have provided jobs for Scottish shipyards but were “less relevant to Britain’s security needs than is the Great Pyramid”.)

“When you are short of money, you should put everything in the melting pot,” says Major General Patrick Cordingley, former commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats. He argues that Trident should not be ringfenced and the costs should be weighed up against new ships, planes, tanks and infantry. The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, made clear in a keynote speech to RUSI last week that the SDSR would, as he put it, “certainly be confirming the importance of a nuclear deterrent”. Yet he also made plain that no agreement had been reached on such urgent problems as the shortfall in the number and capabilities of RAF strike aircraft and skilled navy personnel. According to the latest MoD figures, the navy is short of 620 specialists, including submarine engineers who would be needed for Trident.

Costs of US F-35B Lightning II fighter jets planned for the carriers have soared and numbers have been drastically scaled back. The RAF is having to rely on 30-year-old Tornados against Isis fighters because its newest strike aircraft, the Typhoon, is not yet equipped with Brimstone missiles, the most accurate weapon in the RAF’s armoury.

Ministers say that Trident, estimated to cost £100bn over a 30-year lifespan, will be needed as merely as an insurance policy in an “uncertain” world. Yet would a similar argument ever be used for hospitals, or for any civil, as opposed to military, contingency?

Trident is supposed to be a deterrent: the point is, it is there so it would never be used. Yet its credibility depends on whether a rational British prime minister would ever take an independent decision to order Trident submarine commanders to launch a nuclear weapon. That belongs to the realm of fantasy.

  • This article was amended on 28 September 2015 because the caption incorrectly described the submarine as Trident-class rather than Vanguard-class.

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