Conflicting reports in the media have suggested that the Queen’s Speech might not take place on June 19 as originally planned (while the Daily Telegraph made the delay seem like a certainty, the BBC suggests that the issue is still undecided). Bizarrely, a Downing Street spokesperson has claimed that the delay is necessary in part because it will take several days for the ink to dry on the special goatskin parchment that is used for the speech.
This excuse is, quite frankly, laughable. Due to the unexpected nature of this election, it’s already been established that the forthcoming State Opening of Parliament will be a less formal affair: The Queen will travel to the Palace of Westminster by car rather than carriage, and she’ll wear ordinary day dress with a hat instead of the Imperial State Crown and her parliamentary robe. Those are both highly visible elements of the ceremony, yet they have been dispensed with for the moment out of necessity. Surely something as obscure as the use of parchment for the Gracious Speech could be set aside as well. The idea might even find favor with Her Majesty, given that a delayed State Opening would likely clash with Royal Ascot!
I suspect the real reason for the delay is that the Government has no idea what to put in the Queen’s Speech. The Conservative manifesto won’t be much help, as rumor has it they’re planning to jettison large portions of it. They’re also not helped by the fact that the promised deal with the Democratic Unionist Party has yet to materialize. To top it off, they’ll need to particularly sensitive to the feelings of the backbenches–with such a tiny majority, they can’t afford any rebellions.
There’s nothing wrong with delaying the Queen’s Speech. But it would have been far better for the Government to admit that they need more time and leave it at that instead of nattering on about parchment. That makes them seem laughably hidebound, and it also feeds the narrative that Theresa May is in office but not in power. No Prime Minister wants to be perceived that way, but it’s particularly bad when you’ve burned up most of your political capital on a disastrous election. If May is going to survive, she can’t afford these kind of self-inflicted wounds.