TOMORROW’S Queen’s Speech will nail the lie that Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament on September 9 was needed so that his government could draw up its legislative programme.
What was originally intended by Johnson to be five weeks was reduced to just over two by the Supreme Court, to which a further three days must be added for the lawful closure last week.
It is inconceivable that the government would have had the time to plan the 22 Bills to be announced today — unless, of course, they had already made them.
Considering the Brexit situation and the parliamentary arithmetic, there is little chance that the government will be able to get its legislative programme through, so the speech must be considered as the starting pistol for the Tories’ general election campaign, with some dangerous policies included.
The Bill for a points-based system of immigration will appeal to hard-right Tory voters, and marginalised sections of the working class, but it is, as Stand Up to Racism has said, “systematically racist and discriminatory.”
The Bill to require photographic identification at polling stations will end up disenfranchising working-class voters who don’t have passports or modern driving licences.
The plan to open up markets to “create job opportunities throughout the UK” seems to be linked to improving transport connections in city-regions so that people can travel further for work — not very environmentally sound — and the development of free ports, with benefits for businesses such as fewer regulations, and lower customs charges and taxation.
And you don’t have to look very far to conclude that the plan for visa bans and asset freezes on “those responsible for severe human rights abuse” will not be applied to the US, Turkish and Ukrainian government officials, but most likely to those who, in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua, are fighting imperialist subversion.
Of course the centrepiece of the speech will be the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, designed to implement a Brexit deal if it is reached at Thursday’s EU summit.
From the meeting between Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week, it now looks like the chance of an agreement has moved forward to 50:50.
It was always a question of who would blink first, Johnson or the EU, and it seems that, on this occasion, both have.
The EU doesn’t want to be left with the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, and Johnson has come under pressure from business interests, most recently Nissan and representatives of five key manufacturing sectors.
It has been suggested that Johnson has offered the EU a compromise that would see Northern Ireland remaining in a customs union with Britain, but gaining some “practical benefits” of membership of the EU customs union.
Whether this strange bird will fly is one thing; whether it can command a parliamentary majority is another.
Johnson would need the support of the DUP, the Tory European Research Group and some rebels from both sides of the House of Commons.
The DUP, as our Saturday editorial made clear, is between a rock and a hard place.
Labour is adopting a “wait and see attitude,” saying it would oppose anything “damaging.”
But it is now being pressed to move from a conference decision to put to a referendum any deal that it negotiates to supporting a referendum on a Johnson deal — in which Keir Starmer says he would campaign for Remain.
Starmer is right that, if Johnson’s deal gets agreed, he would enter an election in a strong position to win a majority.
But if Labour votes it down or supports a referendum now, it will cement the impression of being unwilling to accept any kind of Brexit – which will lose it votes in its heartlands.
It should concentrate instead on forcing a general election, where it can campaign on its own social and economic policies.
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