For the first time as king, Charles III delivered the throne speech to the British Parliament on Tuesday, in which Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government sought to present a “long-term” vision in the run-up to the election.
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“Anxious” to perpetuate the legacy of his “beloved mother” Elizabeth II, Charles took part in this ritual of British political life which formally opens the parliamentary session. He had already done so as heir in May 2022, delivering the previous speech from the throne on behalf of his mother, whose health was failing.
Arriving by carriage at the Palace of Westminster, the sovereign, who celebrates his 75th birthday in November, was this time greeted by dozens of demonstrators chanting “not my king” and “what a waste”, unimaginable under Elizabeth II.
Wearing the ceremonial imperial crown and installed on the golden throne of the House of Lords next to Queen Camilla, the king spoke at the end of a ceremony with centuries-old traditions, which begins with the inspection of the Westminster cellars in search of explosives and the symbolic hostage-taking of an MP at Buckingham Palace, to ensure “the safe return of the king” to his residence.
After the Covid-19 outbreak and the war in Ukraine, which contributed to the severe cost of living crisis hitting the UK, “my government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long-term decisions to change this country,” underlined the monarch in this speech prepared by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
This first speech will perhaps be the last of Rishi Sunak who tried to bring a little stability after the scandals of the Boris Johnson era and the eventful 49 days of Liz Truss in Downing Street, but is struggling to breathe new impetus while legislative elections are planned for next year. The Conservatives, in power for almost 14 years, are far behind in the polls by the Labor opposition, led by their rival Keir Starmer.
This 10-minute speech, a key moment in political life but whose political content usually remains vague and general, therefore constituted one of the last chances for Rishi Sunak to give an idea of the course followed to reverse the trend and to distance himself from the Plowing.
Controversial oil projects
Through the voice of the king, the former Minister of Finance and 43-year-old investment banker repeated his desire to fight inflation, to lower the bills of British citizens, but also to train more doctors and nurses and to gradually ban the sale of cigarettes in the United Kingdom.
Painting the portrait of a Prime Minister looking to the future, Rishi Sunak, who entered Downing Street a little over a year ago, also wants to create “new legal frameworks” to support the development of autonomous vehicles and encourage innovation in sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI).
Rishi Sunak gave pledges to the right wing of the Conservative Party, proposing to toughen sanctions against murderers and sex offenders and strengthening the powers of the police and the courts to fight against “cybercrime or the exploitation of children”.
As outlined on Monday, a bill “will support the licensing of new oil and gas fields to help the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 without adding excessive burdens to households,” it said. the king without blinking an eye, he who is known for his long-standing commitment to the defense of the environment.
This decision taken in the name of energy security is strongly criticized by environmental activists, who have been mobilizing since the beginning of November against the government’s new hydrocarbon exploitation projects at the call of the Just Stop Oil organization.
“Sunak’s problem is that he is running out of time,” said Richard Carr, associate professor of public policy at Anglia Ruskin University, interviewed by AFP. “Voters are tired and angry with conservative governments.”