Boris Johnson wanted to use today’s Queen’s Speech to try to divide the parliament into two halves: two years so far dominated by Covid; and two years to come that he wants to be led by levelling up, tackling the cost of living and economic growth.
The prime minister’s plea to voters – who gave his party a kicking in last week’s local elections – is effectively to give his government a break.
“The economic aftershocks of Covid-19 and the biggest war in Europe since 1945 mean huge disruptions to the global economy, with people in every major country facing real pressures on in the cost of living,” he wrote in the foreword to the speech.
When he added “no country is immune and no government can realistically shield everyone from the impact”, he is setting expectations for no major fiscal interventions in the short term (although the pressure is clearly mounting).
But he does stress – as Prince Charles said in the first line of the speech - that the priority is to grow the economy, help ease the cost of living for families, and level up the country.
Labour’s response is to argue that the economy is spiralling downwards, with leader Keir Starmer planning to use the word “stagflation” – the combination of rising prices and slowing growth. He’ll argue that there is little in the speech to address that and the cost of living.
So, what is aimed at the economy and easing the burden on families?
Government sources say today’s legislation is about focusing on the cost of living in a “Conservative way” – by deregulation, for example, that they say will boost the economy to lead to long term growth.
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On that, there are seven Brexit bills, for example, that they will argue could strip back red tape.
They say levelling up and transport bills will help to regenerate towns, while a schools and higher education bill will boost skills and give people access to better paid jobs. There is also legislation to support tenants.
And they say the energy security bill - which tries to reduce reliance on gas by driving up renewables and nuclear - will help ease the cost of living in the longer term by reducing pressure on energy bills.
But Labour argues these measures do little to ease the pain on families now. Their response will be all about focusing on a lack of growth in the economy. As well as raising the prospect of stagflation, they will once again stress their policy to have an emergency budget, now.
On today’s bill announcements, Labour will criticise the schools bill for failing to do enough on pandemic recovery, say crime is rising, and that on Brexit, tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol could trigger a trade war.
The government do admit that much of the action on cost of living is outside of today’s announcements- with fiscal interventions like the council tax rebate already announced – and another major intervention being held back until October.
Mr Johnson insists he will not hesitate to do more fiscally – if needed, and there are reports today about the idea of cutting VAT on fuel, and bringing forward an income tax cut, but the legislation is not focused on that.
Meanwhile the pressure for a windfall tax on energy companies continues to rise. Today, Tesco chairman John Allan backed the idea, warning the country is facing “real food poverty for the first time in a generation”.
That is the scale of the challenge facing the government.