Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:23 UK

Queen's Speech: How radical are Cameron's plans?

By Mike Sergeant
Political correspondent, BBC News

The precise pageantry and choreography dates back over 150 years. The coalition government thinks this programme is just about the most radical in all that time.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
Nick Clegg and David Cameron will need to manage their parties carefully

Certainly, it was strange to witness such timeless ceremony intertwined with what we are led to believe is a really ambitious plan for change.

However much talk there is of big and bold political reform, the pomp of these occasions does not seem to be under too much threat.

All governments try to give a unifying theme to their Queen's speeches. The challenge is to try to bring a series of disparate measures into one binding narrative - a process that inevitably blurs the detail.

"Freedom, Fairness and Responsibility" are the watchwords this time.

Well, who could disagree with those?

One thing, though, is certain in politics - there WILL be hard-fought opposition to much of this Queen's speech.

The task for commentators - on this day of customs dating back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - is to work out what the really explosive political issues could be over the next 18 months.

The Labour Party, somewhat distracted by its own leadership contest, is also trying to come to terms with the coalition's plans.

If the two parts of the government stick firmly together, though, there is a decent parliamentary majority.

So, success in passing these laws may come down to how well dissent within the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties is managed.

In the 22 bills outlined by the Queen, there could be some very significant changes for parents, pupils, patients and parliamentarians.

One interesting question is whether this government would have been quite so "radical" if there was more cash to spray around

It is about "giving people more say about how they run their lives" rather than "grabbing more for Whitehall". So says Nick Clegg.

The need to disperse power from the centre is an area where there is a genuine and deeply-held convergence of views in the coalition.

So more schools will be given freedom and flexibility from government control, individuals will be directly elected to police forces, and there will be significant cuts to big, centralised public bodies.

The plans for welfare reform look ambitious too - with a desire expressed to get "five million people languishing on welfare into work".

When governments try to improve public services, they do one of two things: Pump extra money in, or change the way the services are organised.


One interesting question is whether this government would have been quite so "radical" if there was more cash to spray around.

Cutting welfare bills, slashing "unaccountable" Quangos, and freeing up schools all have the potential to deliver savings for taxpayers, and get the consumers of public services (us) more involved.

But remember: Every government promises to bring down the welfare bill, every government promises better value for money, and every government promises reform of public services.

Tony Blair once said that he had "the scars on his back" after just a couple of years of trying to change the state.

Publishing the plan is the easy bit.

Getting it implemented, well that's always harder than it seems at first.

Political Reform is another area where fresh and exciting ideas can, within months, be consigned to lifeless and gloomy committee rooms. Take House of Lords Reform - for the Liberal Democrats one of the biggest political prizes (along with changing the voting system).

Politicians have been promising to reform the House of Lords for 100 years.

But - like many other controversial issues - it's been parked a while longer.

A committee, we are told will "provide specific recommendations" by the end of the year.

There will be lots more time for scepticism. But, today does represent a fresh start.

The end of the last expenses-tarnished parliament was a real low point for politics and politicians.

Now both government and opposition have the chance to show that Westminster can work.

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