The most remarkable thing about it was that it was delivered by the Queen herself, flawlessly and without any stumbles at the age of 95, having in recent months lost her husband, had a family bust up and been locked down by Covid. No stamina or mental health issues here for sure. Whether you are a fanatical royalist, lukewarm about the monarchy like me or a committed republican, this was gold star.
Now about the content. It was big on aspiration but spare on detail. It dodged the most critical question of social care. The Tories have been in power for eleven years now and have continually promised, fudged and failed to deliver on this central flaw, not only in the welfare state but in the way our society is organised and with what priorities. After Boris promised at the beginning of his tenure on the steps of Downing street that he had a plan to fix it and he would, the vacuous remarks in the Speech, if not untypical of his showman style, were disappointing.
The proposal to sort out some aspects of our unwritten constitution is on the other hand bold, welcome and right. It seems to be willing to deal with two points. The first is the idiocy of a fixed term parliament linked to a first past the post electoral system with a constitutional fudge which invests enormous power in the person of the monarch but refuses to allow the incumbent to exercise any of it, without the express direction of parliament which, in all matters, is sovereign.
The result was chaos during the two years of May’s premiership following the loss of her majority in 2017, when parliament thought it could become the executive, but could not agree on any plan it wanted to execute. What should have happened (the Queen was unwilling to intervene, her grandfather George V would have) is either a national government or May going back to the country for a specific mandate. Finally Johnson was able to engineer this, but by a procedural manoeuvre rather than exercising the traditional reserve power of all previous prime ministers before the now tarnished Cameron, to ask for and get a dissolution. So restoring that power is very welcome.
The second point is this. You cannot have a Supreme Court making political judgements, as it did twice during the Brexit chaos, without a codified constitution which lays down clearly the rules by which government must govern. Since England, at least, seems incapable of agreeing to such a thing, the only other option is to limit by statute the power of the Supreme Court to rule on issues of governance. This is, it would appear, the plan and it if is it is good.