A Queen's Speech that showcases Boris Johnson's contradictions

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston runs through what was included, and not included, in the Queen's speech

For a prime minister whose life has been defined by a less than fastidious approach to the rules followed by most people and who would claim to be a small 'l' liberal, there is a lot of nannying and restrictions on our liberty in his legislative programme. And characteristically of Boris Johnson, there are also plenty of measures that will divide the UK. The most eye catching - though not the most important - is the proposal to force us all to show photo ID cards before voting in elections.

The prime minister has 'no problem being inconsistent' as he says voters will need to show photo ID, says Peston

On the face of it, this is a solution to a non-existent problem, since the government can produce no evidence of widespread impersonation of voters.

Saying that, there is proof that those who lack ID or may be reluctant to show it number the least advantaged in the UK, especially those from ethnic minorities. It will stoke up opposition even within the Tory party, some of whose members will see it as a softening up exercise for mandatory ID cards.

It's an initiative the libertarians feared would come after the PM dropped his opposition to so-called Covid Immunity Certificates, for use when we travel abroad or go to the cinema. But fomenting an attention-grabbing political punch-up is probably the whole point.

It is clear from this Queen's Speech that Johnson loves a gratuitous and attention-deflecting culture skirmish even more than did his estranged former chief aide, Dominic Cummings.

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For a PM who claims to want to heal the United Kingdom's social, economic and cultural divisions, he is promising much that will anger and upset many. On his own benches, there'll be deep unease about the lightening of planning requirements for house builders. For those who celebrate the UK's long history of giving haven to the oppressed and persecuted from the rest of the world, there will be dread at two pieces of legislation that give asylum seekers second-class status, speed up adjudication of whether they should be expelled and lower the threshold for a decision to expel. There's an explicit assault on what the prime minister's allies see as pernicious "wokeism" - and many younger people feel as simply the expression of their identity - in a bill to make it much harder for students to "no platform" speakers they dislike and another to ban public institutions from boycotting goods and services that emanate from states like Israel, when there are no official sanctions.

The Queen in the House of Lords Credit: Eddie Mulholland/The Daily Telegraph/PA

There's a proposal to reduce the power of the courts relative to the executive (AKA Boris Johnson) and Parliament, with reforms to the judicial review process - seen as Johnson's retaliation for the way the Supreme Court humiliated him in 2019 by ruling as unlawful his decision to send MPs home when they were frustrating his Brexit negotiations. The straightforward social nannying includes a ban on junk food adverts on television after 9pm and online at any time, the stigmatisation of fois gras as part of animal welfare legislation, an online safety bill compelling social media companies to remove toxic content at risk of massive fines and a ton of new laws to protect our crucial infrastructure and government itself from sabotage by rogue states. The economic nannying includes new discretion for the government to subsidise business, a public sector Advanced Research and Invention Agency that will back new technologies (Cummings's legacy) and the provision of loans for any of us under 60 who want to acquire university-level qualifications. So, the Queen's Speech is a typical Johnsonian melange of internal contradictions, the liberal and illiberal, the divisive populist and the consensual popular, the left and the right. Presumably, the unifying theme is simply what he believes will win him another general election - which he'll be able to call at the time that suits him best, as and when his Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill passes. The optimal election moment for him however will have little connection with what's been announced today.

It will all depend on the pace and timing of an economic recovery that will be the inevitable consequence of the coronavirus recovery, but that defies control even by a prime minister as self-assured as Johnson.