Conservative MPs described Rishi Sunak’s final programme for Parliament as “thin” and “safe”, arguing it will allow them more time to campaign in their constituencies before the next election is called.
Tory MPs and party sources told i that the reason for the relatively light King’s Speech of just 21 bills was to keep the legislative burden on MPs low, so they have more time over the next year to spend in their constituencies.
But former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May accused the Prime Ministers of “lacking ambition” on the transition to Net Zero.
One party source suggested MPs could see major legislation consigned to the start of the week, with one-line whips from Wednesday onwards so MPs can campaign.
“We can’t leave all the doorknocking until after the general election is called,” they said.
MPs also said that the lack of controversial legislation in the speech, with contentious issues like Suella Braverman’s ban on homeless people living in tents shelved, was an important move in the run-up to the next general election.
“It was a very sensible King’s Speech,” one Tory MP said. “I don’t think there are many flashpoints in it, which is probably part of the idea.
“We don’t want to talk about party splits over the next year. You want to give everyone the opportunity to get behind the Prime Minister.”
Another backbench MP said the Prime Minister was “definitely playing it safe” amid what was set to be a challenging year as the Conservative Party ramps up to the next election.
“It was thin compared to the last [monarch’s speech] (which contained 30 bills) but that’s what we need right now,” they continued.
“We have several pretty tricky bits of legislation to get through. We can’t overload ourselves with an election on the cards in the next year.”
Other MPs, however, were critical of the Government for playing it safe.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon, former prime minister Theresa May accused the Government of “missing an opportunity” in relation to its programme on climate change.
“What we need to do now is press the accelerator on the transition to a green economy, not try to draw back,” she said.
“I fear that despite the fact that the King’s Speech says ministers will seek to attract record levels of investment in renewable energy sources, that that is not sufficiently strong in ambition from the Government to make sure that they are making that transition quickly enough to ensure that we reach net zero in 2050.”
One issue that could prove divisive for the Tories is the conversion therapy ban, which was absent from the King’s Speech.
There have been reports that Mr Sunak has backed out of the commitment amid intense lobbying by some of his MPs who argue a law could criminalise parents or teachers who give advice to children.
Many MPs are said to be very unhappy that the legislation was not included, and will likely seek to force the ban through via a Private Member’s Bill in the next Parliamentary session.