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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 18:53 GMT
Yobs at centre of Queen's speech
The Queen at last year's state opening of parliament
The state opening will contain some surprises
By BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder

Tony Blair seems determined to take all the fun out of the Queen's speech on Wednesday.

For the best part of a week, spin doctors have been telling anyone who wanted to listen that one of the key policies would be a crackdown on the yob culture.

On the very eve of the speech, the prime minister's official spokesman declared: "The prime minister is determined to tackle the yob culture and take forward the responsibility agenda.

"You will see we are totally serious about giving the police the powers they need to crack down on yobbish behaviour that blights our cities and towns and you will see the work on crime continuing at every level."

But this should have come as no great surprise. Another government spokesman had, just days before, announced exactly the same thing.

And, presumably, the weekend reports had been generated not a million miles away from Downing Street.

So the message was being hammered home that the exciting thing about the Queen's speech would be the attack on yobbo Britain.

The real event

How MPs will feel about having bits of the Queen's speech announced before the speech takes place is an open question.

After all, the government has constantly been accused of by-passing parliament and announcing things outside the House.

But there's nothing particularly new in this and the government's reasoning is clear - why get only one day's headlines when you can get two, or even three?

In other words, announce a tasty little snippet which will keep the media going for a day or two but hold something better back for the real event.

Equally, by pushing one line so consistently it might just divert attention away from the things that are not in the speech. And many fear there will be plenty of those.

But this is only half the story. Of course there will be big surprises in the speech.

For one thing, voters still appear to need convincing over the state of the NHS and education, so there will be plenty about those key areas.

NHS nurse
Health service in the spotlight
And, inevitably, there will be the long-awaited ban on fox hunting, albeit in a much watered-down form.

Reassuring the heartlands

There will also need to be reassuring signs about the country's apparently crumbling transport infrastructure.

But those looking for detailed proposals on Europe and, most importantly, the single currency are likely to be disappointed.

Each Whitehall department has been hammering on Chancellor Gordon Brown's door asking for some of the cash from his giant election war chest.

And one of the tricks of analysing the speech will be to try and work out from the deliberatley vague language exactly which ministers have won, and which have lost.

As with everything the government does at the moment, the aim will be to reassure so-called heartland supporters that another Labour government would deliver while, at the same time, not spooking the Middle England voters who helped them to their landslide 1997 victory.

Looming election

So there will still be some excitement in the occasion and, in any case, it is still one of the great parliamentary occasions.

Overlaying all this, of course, is the looming general election which is still expected next May.

If that is the case, then much of what is contained in the speech cannot be enacted before then.

In other words, the speech will act as a mini-manifesto for the government by setting out the things it will be committed to if it wins a second term.

Even then, as is the custom, some of the key bills are still likely to have been left out alltogether and will be introduced later.

Many are, as a result, expecting a new sense of radicalism from the announcements.

And on that basis alone it should prove fascinating.

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Teen curfews 'to combat yobs'
01 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Setting the scene for a second term
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