Any doubts that the Prime Minister was planning an election on May 5th were dispelled by his speech. A huge chunk of it was devoted not to the Queen's Speech, but to Michael Howard's Alternative Queen's Speech. There was no need to do that unless he thought that an election was imminent, and that it was important to put the boot in. The most depressing part of the day was the realisation we are all going to have to live through this somewhat sterile exchange until May.
And that begs another question; if we are to have an election in five month's time, what is going to happen to all the Bills we heard about? The answer is that, unless they have their second reading before Christmas, you can forget about them. They are statements. There is no way that any but a small number will reach the Statute Book.
And what about the Bills themselves? Winding up the Strategic Rail Authority, which Prescott established three years go, strikes me as an admission that they have not got the structure for the railways right yet. On Identity Cards, I do not have a rooted objection to them in principle, but I do need to be persuaded that what the Government is proposing will work and be cost-effective. And on all the Law and Order Bills, I suspect that the police would like more time and fewer bills - in other words, more time to police and less to fill in forms.
The final thing tha struck me was the empty space on the Government benches. Where were all the Labour MP's? Out canvassing already?