With splendor but without a queen, the British government sets the agenda for the year

The 96-year-old monarch stopped reading the Queen’s Speech at the ceremonial opening of Parliament because of what Buckingham Palace calls ‘episodic mobility problems’. Her son and heir, Prince Charles, stood inside, rattled by a short speech outlining 38 bills the government plans to approve.

The speech, which was written by the government, promised that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government would “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families”. But there were few immediate measures to alleviate households struggling with rising household energy and food prices.

Johnson said in a written introduction that the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine had caused “massive disruptions to the global economy”. But he warned that “no government can realistically protect everyone from the impact.”

The speech also promised laws aimed at pleasing the government’s right-wing voter base, including promises to seize ‘Brexit freedoms’ by cutting bureaucracy for businesses and overhauling financial services and data regulation now that Britain has the European Union. leave.

Some of the plans have already been heavily criticized by opposition parties and civil liberties groups, including a controversial new law to ban disruptive protest tactics favored by groups like Extinction Rebellion.

Human rights groups have also criticized plans for a UK Bill of Rights to replace current rights laws based on the European Convention on Human Rights. Some environmentalists worry that a bill to allow “precision farmed plants and animals” opens the door to genetically modified foods, which are currently banned.

Greenpeace UK’s Rebecca Newsom said the government is giving in to the “whims” of conservative backbenchers and is “not offering a single cent of extra support to households struggling with energy bills”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has rocked the European security order, has been reflected in plans to tighten espionage laws, introduce a US “foreign influence registration system” and tighten money laundering laws – though the mild-sounding measures unlikely to wipe out London’s reputation as a hub for ill-gotten gains.

Despite rumours, there was no legislation to change post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, a move that would worsen already tense relations between Britain and the EU. But the government hinted it could act, stressing the importance of the “internal economic ties” between all parts of the UK, a key issue for Northern Ireland’s British trade unionists.

Johnson’s Conservatives have 358 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, which should ensure all his legislation is passed easily. But it has been repeatedly derailed by ethics scandals and internal conservative dissidents.

The opening of a new sitting of Parliament came days after Johnson’s Conservatives were beaten in UK local elections

Johnson’s personal popularity has been hurt by months of headlines about partying in his office and other government buildings that have broken coronavirus restrictions. The prime minister was fined £50 ($62) by police last month for attending his own surprise birthday party in June 2020, when lockdown rules banned social gatherings.

Johnson has apologized but denies knowingly breaking the rules. He faces the possibility of more fines than other parties, a parliamentary inquiry into whether he misled lawmakers about his behavior and a possible vote of no confidence from his own lawmakers.

The Parliamentary Opening Ceremony is a spectacular procession steeped in the two sides of Britain’s constitutional monarchy: royal pageantry and political power. Traditionally, the monarch travels from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in a horse-drawn carriage and reads the speech to assembled legislators from a golden throne, with a crown studded with 3,000 diamonds.

The Queen has only missed two previous state openings during her 70-year reign, in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with sons Andrew and Edward respectively.

This year, Charles traveled to Parliament by car instead of by coach, and did not wear the crown, which got its own cushioned seat. But other symbolic elements were also present, including the scarlet-clad Yeomen of the Guard and an official known as Black Rod who called lawmakers from the House of Commons to the House of Lords.

The ceremony takes place in the House of Lords, the unelected upper house of parliament, because the monarch is not allowed to set foot in the House of Commons. Ever since King Charles I tried to arrest legislators in 1642 and was eventually deposed, tried and beheaded, the monarch has not been allowed to enter the chamber of the House of Commons.

In another symbol of the battle between the House of Commons and the crown, a legislator is ceremoniously held hostage at Buckingham Palace during the ceremony to ensure the safe return of the royal family.

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