If there wasn’t already enough drama going down in parliament at the moment, today saw one of the biggest ceremonies in the parliamentary calendar – the Queen’s Speech.
If you’re in the dark about what the hell that means, here’s everything you need to know from Westminster today.
What Is A Queen’s Speech?
At its very core, a Queen’s Speech is an announcement by the government – made during the state opening of parliament at the start of a new session – setting out its proposed policies and agenda.
But it is also a chance for parliament to bring out every bit of pomp and ceremony it has to offer. (And it has a *lot*).
It starts with the Queen being whizzed down from Buckingham Palace to Westminster by carriage, escorted by the army’s Household Cavalry.
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After being decked out in the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State when she arrives, she then leads a procession to the House of Lords.
If that wasn’t enough drama for you, Black Rod (the House of Lords official and the person with the best title in parliament), then tries to summon the House of Commons to the Lords – but will get the door slammed in their face as part of the ceremony.
This is to represent the Commons’ independence from the monarchy. (Though you think they might have come up with a more polite way of showing this over the years.)
After MPs finally follow Black Rod and the Commons speaker to the House of Lords, the Queen (who obviously sits on a throne at this point) then gives the speech written for her by the government.
Once this is done, Her Maj heads back to Buckingham Palace, while MPs and Lords go back to their respective Houses to debate the speech.
This year’s Queen’s Speech was a return to the full grandeur of the ceremony after a dressed down version in 2017, when the Household Cavalry did not have time to rehearse so soon after the Trooping of the Colour.
Rather than arriving by carriage, the Queen came to Westminster by car and did not wear her usual robes.
What Did The Government Say In The Queen’s Speech?
Okay, back to the serious stuff. Beyond all the pageantry, what did Boris Johnson actually use this speech to announce?
This includes plans for new laws to keep serious criminals in prison for longer, tougher sentences for foreign offenders who return to the UK and better protection for domestic abuse victims.
Meanwhile, the PM revealed plans to invest in the NHS, strengthen environmental protections and raise the national living wage to £10.50 an hour.
At the same time ministers are preparing to rush through a bill to ratify any Brexit deal Johnson is able to agree this week in Brussels in time for Britain to leave on the EU on October 31.
Could Parliament Vote Down The Queen’s Speech?
In a word – yes. It’s highly unusual for parliament to vote down a Queen’s Speech, but as everyone is so fond of reminding us, we live in highly unusual times. (Not to mention the fact that Johnson has yet to win a single vote in the Commons as prime minister.)
After the Queen has given her speech (and headed home for a cup of tea), Johnson will address the Commons, talking up his agenda for the country.
As leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn will then be given a chance to respond to the speech, before other MPs pile in to debate the proposals.
This debate usually lasts around five days. At the end of this ‘Humble Address’, MPs will then vote on the Queen’s Speech.
The last time a monarch’s speech was voted down was in 1924, when Tory MP Stanley Baldwin was ruling with a hung parliament. MPs voted down his agenda by 72 votes, leading to his resignation the next day.
What Will Happen If MPs Vote Down The Speech?
The Queen’s Speech is basically a list of things that the government want to achieve – and want to be remembered for achieving.
If MPs reject a PM’s Queen’s Speech, it’s essentially a rejection of their leadership and their government.
As such, if MPs vote against Johnson’s agenda, they could table a motion of no-confidence in a bid to trigger an early general election.
On the flipside, Johnson could also table his own motion for an early election. However, this would require at least two-thirds of all MPs to back it – something they have twice failed to do when Johnson has called for an election in the past few months.
As if all of this wasn’t high-stakes enough, the speech comes amid a make-or-break week in the Brexit saga, Wednesday thought to be the last point at which a Brexit deal could be done in time to be signed off at this week’s EU summit.