Today it was reported that John Godfrey, the Prime Minister’s Head of the Policy Unit, was stepping down from his post. It would appear that the Queen’s Speech, on which he has been working these past few weeks since the election marked the death of the manifesto, was one of his last tasks. This marks another major departure from the Prime Minister’s top team, having already lost her two chiefs of staff, her director of communications and Godfrey’s deputy. So who will implement the policy detail? That will be for a new team, yet to be assembled.
Despite the team being hollowed out, the Queen’s Speech today was a not insubstantial effort, outlining how Britain plans to implement Brexit in Parliament, and making a subtle shift toward recognising the need to demonstrate the Government’s caring side. During the 20 minutes or so that the monarch was in the House of Lords, bills on equality, climate change, mental health, domestic violence, social care, and unfair tenants’ fees all featured, giving a flicker of the leader Theresa May set out to be when she stood on the steps of Downing Street for the first time last summer. There were also words about the recent terrorist attacks and the fire in Grenfell Tower that struck a centrist tone, promising an Independent Public Advocate for those affected by great tragedies.
So the Prime Minister must now wait and see what, if anything, unravels over the course of the next few days. If George Osborne has anything to do with it, the Standard should give it a good go. By and large, her programme will necessarily centre on Brexit, but she will be hoping that her domestic policies are sufficiently uncontroversial that they do not alienate any of her backbenchers, and are issues where she believes Jeremy Corbyn can agree with the principles. For all that outsiders see the British system as adversarial, this is truly a consensual approach to government – and probably the only approach possible to policymaking in a hung parliament.
So now the question turns to parliamentary arithmetic. The DUP have said they will support the Queen’s Speech, and it goes without saying that most of the others will oppose it, but is it enough to prevent any of her MPs from abstaining or – even worse – voting against? For it is that close now, that even a handful of her own MPs could mean the difference between this Government pushing on and finding a new team to deliver the programme if it passes, and the fate of a second General Election if she’s unsuccessful. Watch this space.