Boris Johnson is attempting to regain initiative with a new legislative programme
Boris Johnson will this week seek to revive his faltering government with a new legislative program designed to show he has ideas to improve voters’ lives after the Conservative Party’s dismal local election results.
The Prime Minister is facing calls from Tory colleagues for a special focus on winning back voters in the so-called ‘blue wall’ following a disastrous performance by the party in London, southern England and Scotland.
Despite losing around 400 seats across Britain in local elections, Johnson has nonetheless secured some political breathing space: there was no immediate clamor from Tory MPs for him to resign.
Indeed, Sir Keir Starmer’s troubles with “Beergate,” a police investigation into a beer and curry night attended by the Labor Party leader during lockdown in Durham last year, have boosted Johnson’s confidence that he can turn a political page .
On Tuesday, Johnson will present legislation for the third, crucial parliamentary session of 2022-23 in the Queen’s speech. After this session, the next elections will come into view.
Downing Street is expected to prioritize bills it believes will have an impact on the election, including a leveling and renewal bill designed to breathe new life into faded city centres.
A Schools Act aims to raise educational standards in England, including helping schools join multi-academy trusts, introducing out-of-school registers and giving Ofsted, the education regulator, more powers to crack down on illegally operated ones to take action against unregistered schools.
Other legislation includes a bill creating a new regulatory framework for UK railways; a measure to speed up the repeal of EU law from the UK bill; and a Financial Services Act that introduces post-Brexit regulation to capitalize on new areas, including cryptocurrencies.
Among the surprise measures set to be included is a short bill on electronic trade documents, which follows work by the independent Judicial Commission, which found this year that global trade generates billions of paper documents annually, at great cost to businesses.
“The potential positive impacts of using electronic trade documents – including financial and efficiency gains as well as environmental benefits – are enormous,” the Commission said.
“Despite the size and sophistication of this market, many of its processes and underlying laws are based on practices developed by traders hundreds of years ago,” it said, adding that most documents used in international trade are still in paper form present .
The bill, sponsored by digital secretary Nadine Dorries, aims to support the move to digital-based transactions, aiming to save UK businesses at least £1.7 billion a year, according to officials briefed on the measure.
Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister, denied the Queen’s speech would be a ‘fresh start’ moment but said: ‘We will be talking about reforming the agricultural sector, about innovating to create cheaper, healthier food.
“We’re going to talk about areas where the UK has a real comparative advantage, technology, financial services,” he told Sky News.
However, the Queen’s speech is unlikely to change Johnson’s fate; The deepening economic crisis and its impact on living standards are likely to dominate politics leading up to the general elections, which are due to be held by 2024.
Last week’s Council results have sparked alarm among Tory MPs across the South as Labor grabbed former Conservative strongholds in London of Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have been the main beneficiaries of a collapse in Tory support further south; The party gained control of Somerset and Woking. In the affluent London Borough of Richmond, the Tories were left with just one of 54 seats.
“Boris has poisoned the Tory party,” said a senior Conservative MP representing a southern constituency. “Brexit was the start of that – people don’t forget things like that.
“They also believe he lied to secure Brexit, so the Partygate affair has reinforced the notion that he cannot be trusted. And people don’t like the culture war, like sending migrants to Rwanda,” they added.
Damian Green, a former cabinet minister, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Johnson was ignoring “the uneasiness of the South” at his peril and warned that the policies of the split were alienating middle-class voters.
He said Southern Conservatives “want a government that seeks to unite society and resists the urge to declare culture wars on institutions like the judiciary or the BBC. They believe that conservatism involves respect for institutions, not a revolutionary desire to crush them.”
At the same time, some Southern Tory MPs believe Johnson’s “leveling-up” agenda sounds like Northern policy and that their constituents feel neglected, according to South West Devon MP Gary Streeter.
But Johnson must tighten his grip on newly won Tory seats in the North and Midlands if he is to remain in power; Holding together a coalition that includes seats like Hartlepool in the north east and Guildford in the south will be a challenge.
Meanwhile, Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs are increasing pressure on Johnson and his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to cut taxes to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
Sunak wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “I know many families are still struggling with the cost of living and we will do everything we can to help people with their energy bills in the autumn when we will know more about prices then be.
“We will do everything we can to ease the pressure on families.”