Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Layer 317. . . The Mace is in Place


As the TV presenter said - it's been a momentous morning this morning . . at the Chelsea Flower Show.

A wonderful, colourful occasion, full of nice, well-off  people trying their hardest to impress and to keep the old traditions going. To judge only from appearances you'd never guess the amount of shit that's been shovelled and the heavy lifting that's gone on behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, a short distance away, outside the Palace of Westminster, another significant event was taking place:

Protester Brian Haw arrested before Queen's speech

Anti-war campaigner one of two arrested as police clear protest camp on Parliament Square



Inside the palace, having just trotted down from her own palace, the Queen was performing her regular duties. And very well she did them too. A flawless reading of her script, with every word perfectly enunciated, without any hesitation, repetition or deviation. And she's 84 you know! Isn't it just wonderful that she's still the head of state for Australia, Canada and New Zealand? Prince Philip will be 89 next month. Bloody marvellous! I must say he still looks splendid in his uniform with his medals & stars.

It's a bit odd though that the Queen doesn't kick things off with even a "Good morning folks!" A few warm-up exercises might also be good, if the great and the good gathered there didn't already know one another too bloody well already.

So here comes the Sergeant At Arms, with his arms swinging like pendulums, at the head of The Speaker's Procession, making sure the mace is in place - because that has to happen before anything else can happen. Obviously.

We also have the Lord Great Chamberlain, The Earl Marshall, the Lord High Chancellor, and finally, in the centre of the State Procession, the Queen herself, clutching the hand of her consort, surrounded by playing-card people, a mad hatter, a girl called Alice and a hooker-smoking caterpillar. (I made the last bit up. About the caterpillar.)

All of this takes place in complete hushed silence, apart from when some mad person shouts "Hats Off!" to no-one in particular, since no-one seems to be wearing a hat in that particular part of the palace, and apart from when Dennis Skinner shouts something rude or sarcastic about the royals, which is also traditional. This year it's about Fergie's financial dealings.

So here we have it - the wigs, the cloaks, the ermine, the crown! The page boys! What do you have to do to be a page boy?

And now, as we approach the climax ( - the reading of the speech) we have Black Rod, or rather the person who's today deputising for the indisposed Black Rod - someone called The Yeoman Usher - walking towards the House of Commons . . . only for the door to be slammed in his face.

So then there's the pounding on the door with a big stick with a big knob on the end, and finally the cry goes up - "The Queen commands this House to attend her immediately!" And so they do.

There's Harriet walking side by side with the Cameron, and looking very human and real, which is good because none of the New Labour leadership contenders can quite manage it, as they walk along in file like the arseholes they truly are.

The Duke is impressive - looking relaxed, with a slightly sardonic smile on his face. As well he might.

And so to the big speech . . .

This government will abide by its principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility. Good start.

Its priority will be the management of the public finances, and the structural deficit. Mmmmm.

They will make the tax system fairer. They will prioritise work and employment. They will regulate (re-regulate?) financial services. They will invest in high-speed broadband and trains. They'll reconnect pensions with average earnings.

They will limit non-EU "economic migrants". They will make us energy efficient, and sufficient. They will promote flexible working and equal pay. They want a strong and fair society. They want individual and social responsibility. They want more academy schools. They want teachers back in control of the curriculum. They want to improve public health and to reduce health inequalities.

They want to make the police more accountable, to diminish the effects of alcohol on bad social behaviour, and to reduce the costs of bureaucracy.  They will give greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods.

They will instigate parliamentary and political reform. They want to rebalance the relationship between the citizen and the State. They will legislate for 5 year fixed terms between general elections. They want equal sized constituencies, and an elected second house on the basis of PR. They'll hold a referendum on an AV system for electing the Commons. They want a new way of funding political parties.

They want to restore freedoms and civil liberties. They will give additional powers to Scotland, Wales and N Ireland. They want no more powers being given to the EU. They want effective global collaboration - for example on combatting climate change.

They will carry out a strategic defence review. They will work for a 2-state solution and a viable state for Palestinians. They want to reduce the threat from nukes and proliferation. They will maintain a 0.7% of GNP commitment to development and third world aid.

And I reckon a more enlightened Labour party could have gone for most of that lot. So why the fuck didn't they? Because they were New Labour!


And owing to New Labour's failure to regulate the fat cats and the City, and to forsee a perfectly forseeable financial crash as a consequence of the financial bubble, we now face an era of drastic cuts, increased unemployment and reduced standards of living.

The good news is that the Tories really are sounding pretty liberal, and far more concerned with civil liberties than New Labour. Of course they'll want to keep Trident, but I'll be the first to congratulate them in the unlikely event of the defence review coming out against its replacement.

Unfortunately they'll fiddle the new constituency boundaries, and they'll never support PR, or even AV.

But I keep finding myself feeling strangely optimistic that Cameron really will force his party to be liberal and "progressive" in order to carry on occupying the electoral middle ground. I keep on fantasising that politics in this country might become more enlightened and based on a consensus around well-understood and agreed liberal principles, with the Labour party eventually returning to its socialist roots and making the case for greater equality and the elimination of poverty and social injustice as the way to a better and happier society.

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Some Guardian comments here:


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