Podcast #24: The coalition relaunched?
After the coalition's nightmare local election result last week, this week was supposed to be about a fightback from the government. The state opening of parliament is a classic setpiece of political theatre in which the prime minister unveils the legislative agenda for the next year to peers and MPs. As the ceremonial drapery is folded away and parliament gets back to normal, we're now asking: did it work?
The interviews for this week's podcast were all recorded on Wednesday afternoon, in the hours after the Queen's Speech had taken place. I had been in the Lords chamber to watch the Queen deliver her speech; so was Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail's sketchwriter, who very vividly described the scene – or at least, who was wearing what. That afternoon I beetled off to the London School of Economics to interview Professor Tony Travers, one of our most well-respected political academics, to get his take on the coalition's agenda.
Inbetween all that I managed to spend some time in the central lobby of parliament asking peers what they thought about the proposals. Of course they are all hugely unimpressed with the plans to reform the House of Lords, making it an 80% elected chamber. Both Labour's Lord Snape and the Conservatives' Lord Cormack were thoroughly sceptical of the chances of success, given the level of opposition we're likely to see in the coming months. The Liberal Democrats' Lord Rennard seemed to view this one as a no-brainer: but after 100 years of successful resistance to this reform, realistically a Lib Dem success on this issue seems very unlikely.
This raises some very interesting issues about the state of the coalition. What impact will Lords reform have on its big agenda – and how will the reform affect the other bills included in this Queen's Speech, on the economic, family matters and criminal justice? Let me know your thoughts…