Royal Disinterest: When Even the King Finds the King's Speech Boring, What Chance Do the Rest of Us Have?
As the lords and ladies filed into the upper chamber for Charles III's opening of parliament, an air of anticipation mingled with the riot of scarlet and ermine. The grandeur of the occasion was evident, with tiaras dusted off and even a curious headpiece resembling a vegetable garden on display. In this upper echelon, the sense of entitlement reigned supreme, as each member bore the conviction that their place was unquestionably deserved.
The proceedings unfolded with a peculiar blend of tradition and the unexpected. The youngest peer, Charlotte Owen, remained a mystery in her baroness status, a testament to the enigmatic workings of the aristocracy. As peers perused the program, the anticipation for the first king's speech in 70 years grew. The running order, labeled as Preliminary Movements, prompted some raised eyebrows and discreet chuckles.
At the entrance of the king and queen, accompanied by a cadre of eight-year-old pages (one proudly adorned with a swimming medal), the spectacle was both regal and charming. The breakout star, a kilt-clad equerry from the coronation, added a touch of allure to the proceedings. Charles and Camilla assumed their thrones, the height distinction carefully maintained, as Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, known for his legal shortcomings but Disney cartoon lord chancellor flair, presented the king's speech.
This speech, the longest in words since 2005, paradoxically bore the fewest bills. A symphony of waffle and filler marked the dawn of the Golden Sunak age, embodying the peculiar leadership style that characterized Rishi Sunak's era. As the ceremony unfolded, it became clear that the new reign was to be defined by verbosity and an intriguing blend of tradition and whimsy.
In a monotonous drone, Chas delivered the governmental script he had meticulously practiced — a symphony of disinterest and dissent, carefully signaling his detachment from the Tory government's narrative. Plagued by the misfortune of a populist prime minister, Liz Truss, who seemed out of touch with the pulse of the nation, Chas couldn't help but reflect on the cautionary words of his mother regarding the perils of wishful thinking.
As Rishi Sunak took center stage, promising to make "difficult but necessary decisions," Chas recognized the familiar pattern of Sunak's rhetoric, a subtle tell indicating the opposite of what was being conveyed. While proclaiming growth, the reality was that it flourished elsewhere in the G7 countries, leaving the UK lagging behind. Brexit's supposed advantages were to be exploited, though the specifics remained elusive, and energy security discussions stung the environmentally conscious Chazza.
Moving on to education, Chas dismissed the proposals as a joke, convinced that the Tories were destined to lose the next election. The notion of a smoke-free world seemed optimistic, and housing policies appeared tailored to favor those with multiple properties. Amid the usual tough-on-crime rhetoric, the absence of action on internal party sex offenders left a bitter aftertaste.
Notably absent was a mental health bill, a reflection of Sunak's apparent belief in mental illness as a personal failing. The seven-bin policy remained unaddressed, almost as if it never existed, and Suella's proposal to view rough sleeping as a lifestyle choice lingered in the shadows. As Chas dissected the governmental spiel, it became clear that the promised legislative landscape was a mirage, leaving room for skepticism and a tinge of sarcasm.
A few hours later, the Commons filled to capacity as parliament delved into the debate on the king's speech. Tradition dictated that two government backbenchers kick-start the proceedings with lighthearted speeches, a ritual that, more often than not, lacked the humor it promised, leaning towards self-consciousness rather than genuine wit. Robert Goodwill and Siobhan Baillie found themselves in this unenviable position this year, neither managing to set the Commons ablaze with their brilliance. Goodwill, with the impending glow of retirement, ran through his limitations, while Baillie used her speech to lament what had been omitted from the king's address, possibly acknowledging her precarious political future.
Keir Starmer entered the fray, initially taking a jocular jab at Sunak, a move that visibly discomforted the prime minister, who prefers to be taken seriously as the infallible leader. Starmer expressed support for Ukraine and Israel before delving into the overall economic pessimism projected by the Tories. The king's speech, according to Starmer, offered no glimmer of hope; Rishi Sunak's only guarantee was a further downturn, a perspective starkly at odds with Sunak's belief that the nation had never had it so good. Sunak, seemingly oblivious to the discontent, even praised the brilliance of Goodwill, a talent so profound that Rishi had relegated him to the backbenches.
As the debate unfolded, Chris Bryant interjected, questioning Sunak on whether he agreed with the home secretary's controversial statement that homelessness was a lifestyle choice. Suella's Pavlovian denial and Sunak's indecision exposed the prime minister's weakness in maintaining control over his party and the nation. The discontent among MPs was palpable, reflecting the looming prospect of another year under Sunak's leadership. The scene was set for continued political turmoil, prompting reflection on the state of affairs in British politics.
In conclusion, the parliamentary debate on the king's speech unfolded with a mix of ritualistic humor, political jabs, and an undercurrent of discontent. The lighthearted speeches from backbenchers proved more self-conscious than amusing, setting a tone of subdued expectation. Keir Starmer's playful mocking of Rishi Sunak visibly irked the prime minister, emphasizing the seriousness Sunak demands in his role. As the debate progressed, the lack of consensus on critical issues, such as homelessness being labeled a lifestyle choice, showcased the fractures within the government.
Sunak's apparent detachment from the economic concerns voiced by Starmer further highlighted a disconnect between the government's narrative and public sentiment. The prime minister's praise for a sidelined talent, Robert Goodwill, only underscored the political disarray. Chris Bryant's probing question exposed Sunak's vulnerability, revealing a leader unable to assert authority over his party or the nation.
The concluding atmosphere hinted at a year of continued political upheaval, leaving both MPs and the public grappling with uncertainties. The livestream discussion promised for December 11th with John Crace, Marina Hyde, and Pippa Crerar offers a platform for further reflection on the unfolding anarchy in British politics. The lingering question remains: what lies ahead for Westminster in the coming year?