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Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent

No rest for Cameron as election year looms

Published on Jun 10, 2014 11:23 AM
(From centre) Mr Cameron, Labour Party chief Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg making their way to the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Everything was as it had been for centuries when Britain's mo-narch opened her country's Parliament this week. The 2,868 diamonds on Queen Elizabeth's crown sparkled, every snob in the country fought to be as close as possible to her throne, and a variety of court flunkeys with silly names such as Gold Stick in Waiting, Blue Mantle Pursuivant or Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod marched backwards or sideways in the procession.

But the greater the pomp, the weaker the policy impact, it seems. The speech that Britain's government wrote for the 88-year-old monarch to read at the opening of Parliament was one of the most boring of her six decades-long reign; the only moment of surprise came when the Queen announced that her government plans to impose a small levy on supermarket plastic bags to reduce litter.

Seasoned observers were not surprised by this policy-free speech: With a general election due no later than May 7 next year, the last thing the government needs is a controversial initiative that divides the electorate.

Still, this is the calm before the storm - over the next 12 months, Britain will face its most severe national challenges since World War II, with epic battles over the country's place in Europe and over the very survival of a United Kingdom.

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