Fair pensions. Decent care in your old age. A tax cut for small businesses taking on staff. A major new high speed railway. Energy investment to keep lights on and bills affordable. Shared parental leave. Rehabilitation of prisoners to set them back on the straight and narrow.
Just a few highlights from the Government’s plans for legislation this year, outlined this Wednesday in the Queen’s Speech, designed to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Britain, enabling everyone to get on in life.
The state opening of Parliament is an eccentric highlight of the year in politics. Pomp and pageantry are not really my thing, but I’ll confess to a certain affection for the whole rigmarole: you have probably seen the marching up and down and slamming of doors in people's faces on TV. One thing you might not know is that we had to work to a very strict deadline to finalise Her Majesty's words. That's because the speech has to be written out on goatskin and it takes a few days to dry.
Plus of course, it’s rather fun to see my usually austere colleagues Alistair Carmichael and Dick Newby dressed up in robes looking like refugees from Hogwarts or a Gilbert and Sullivan production. One thing’s for sure: I’m relieved there aren’t any Deputy Prime Minister robes to wear.
What matters most is the substance of course. We made sure all the big measures needed to grow the economy, create jobs, and improve people’s quality of life were included. But we also made sure some things - plans for a Snooper's Charter tracking everyone's emails and social networking - were kept out.
It won't have escaped your attention that the mood has changed in the Conservative Party after the local elections, and that changes the rhetoric we’re hearing from them - about equal marriage, development aid, and most of all Europe. The lesson for us is clear and simple: it is more important than ever that we stick to our path. Our job is to anchor the Government in the centre ground, stopping others from lurching this way and that and making sure the Government delivers our core objectives: a stronger economy in a fairer society.
That's why major liberal reforms and investment – from childcare to pensions – will remain the core business of this Government. Not endless navel-gazing about when and how a referendum may take place in years to come in circumstances we can't predict. We Liberal Democrats must remain focused on the things people really care about, whatever other parties may say.
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PS I hope you noticed the Queen mention the drive for a “stronger economy and a fairer society” in the very first line of her speech. I knew our message was starting to hit home!