A Queen’s Speech which opens a pandora’s box

The nation is fracturing and the common threads that link us all are beginning to fray. Warm words about one nation won't be enough


“A One Nation Queen’s Speech from a One Nation government”.

That was how the prime minister dubbed the announcement of the Tories’ legislative programme today in the document outlining the detail of the Bills that Westminster will get its teeth into over the next year.

Putting aside the bare faced cheek of David Cameron claiming that mantra having fought an election campaign based on dividing England and Scotland, today’s Queen’s Speech will open a Pandora’s box that the prime minister, and the country, will live to regret.

At its heart, today’s speech pledged to introduce a Bill providing for a referendum on EU membership subject to the completion of renegotiating the terms of the UK’s membership.

With the prime minister unlikely to publish his negotiating demands in full – demands which will either not be met by the EU or not be enough for the right wing of his party – what the country faces is a prolonged period of uncertainty that will stifle the very economic recovery ministers have been at pains to highlight.

For the supposed party of business to have found itself in opposition to the CBI on the issue is about as ironic as it’s possible to get.

And what of Scotland? Without the kind of lock called for by the SNP and others to ensure that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t find themselves out of the EU just because of the votes of those in England, David Cameron is knowingly driving a wedge across Hadrian’s wall.

Then there’s the Human Rights Act, the decision not to proceed immediately with legislation must surely be an appreciation that the rhetoric of removing the Act cannot possibly meet the realities that would, as Left Foot Forward has previously reported, see the devolution settlement unpicked bit by bit. Not that anyone at Conservative HQ will have thought about it from their London bunker when drafting the manifesto.

And what of English Votes for English Laws? Again, the wedge is being driven between England and the rest of the UK with two classes of MPs being created – all because of David Cameron’s rushed and misguided statement the morning after Scotland voted to stay in the UK. Had the voters in Scotland known what he was thinking before they went to the ballot boxes one only knows what the result might have been.

The UK stands at a pivotal moment in its history. The nation is fracturing and the common threads that link us all are beginning to fray. Warm words about one nation will not be enough. The prime minister needs to deliver on his pledge to respect the nations.

To do otherwise will lead his epitaph to read that he was the last prime minister of the United Kingdom as it currently stands.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.