Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Pomp, pageantry and politics

State Opening of Parliament today and sitting in my office this morning we could hear the military bands on Whitehall - a real sense of occasion.

People sometimes carp because I am quite happy to modernise some of the procedures around parliament. My feeling is that there is a time and a place for preserving tradition and the State Opening of Parliament would be top of my list. The procession is wonderful, the House of Lords looks spectacular with all its glittery splendour (although I am told that there were a lot more diamonds before the hereditary peers were reduced in number) and there is always a real sense of occasion.
State occasions such as this are something that I really do think the British excel in and we should be proud of this part of our heritage.

There was one moment of humour at the beginning of the day and, for once, it was not provided by Dennis Skinner.
Black Rod was announced. This announcement is usually followed by the arrival of Black Rod in the Chamber but today who should scuttle in - looking a little sheepish - but Tory Chief Whip David Maclean - who always has along cane with him to help him keep his balance.

As to the speech itself - there were few surprises as much of the material has been drip fed to the press over the last week or so. What is slightly depressing is that some of the legislation appears to be a second or third stab at addressing problems such as anti-social behaviour etc. It seems that nothing is allowed to bed down and be given a chance before there is further tinkering at the edges.

Was particularly pleased to see the equalities stuff but there was no mention of age discrimination. It could be that this will be included but it is particularly disappointing to see that it wasn't deemed important enough to be mentioned.

It looks as though the Home Affairs Teams are going to be particularly busy as they seem to have the Lions share of the action. It also looks as though some of those Bills will be among the most controversial so we could have some interesting times ahead.