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Phil Collins: The King's Speech - the change Rishi needs?

8 Nov 2023
Read: 6 min

First published in Political Capital - our weekly public affairs and polling news drop.

Phil Collins, Founder of The Draft, speechwriter to former Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior advisor to Lansons discusses the major announcements from yesterday’s King’s Speech and whether they can deliver the change Rishi Sunak needs.

Phil Collins Lansons Advisor
Phil Collins
Senior Advisor to Lansons

King’s speeches probably get more attention than they deserve. This was the first such event at the State Opening of Parliament since 1951 when, in fact, the King himself was absent ill and the words were delivered by Gavin Simonds, the Lord High Chancellor. 

The King sounded somewhere between neutral and bored as he delivered the lines but what, if anything, did they amount to? 

There are three dimensions to a King’s Speech – the speech, the policy and the politics. It is almost always the third that counts and that was certainly true yesterday.

The speech, judged as a piece of rhetoric, was a bit of a non-event, as these occasions usually are. There were plenty of forlorn hopes - lower inflation, trade agreements, NHS waiting lists, peace and stability in the Middle East and quite a few rather obvious traps for the Labour party - new oil and gas fields, terror legislation, illegal immigration, tougher prison sentences. Rishi Sunak’s reckless conference promises were all ticked off in turn – but there wasn’t much by way of an organising principle.

The most substantive policy was the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, the purpose of which is to confer powers on the already-established digital markets unit of the Consumer and Markets Authority. 

The Media Bill shifts the focus, finally, from television. 

The Criminal Justice Bill and the Sentencing Bill will give more power to the police and more rights to victims of crime respectively.

The Rail Reform Bill, which will unwind HS2, will be a teaser to the Labour party to say “well, will you repeal that?” The same is true of the Offshore petroleum licensing bill.

The rhetorical wrapping of the speech was that it was all about the long-term but of course it was nothing of the sort. The crucial point is the politics and it was all a bit sign-posted and obvious. In fact the pivotal moment of the day probably came during the debate on the Loyal Address when Keir Starmer accused the Conservative party of having “given up on governing”. Sunak retorted by using the term “change” more than a dozen times.

It was hard, in the end, to conclude anything other than that he will definitely experience a change but not the one he wants.





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