Despite it being a double debut, it was a less than vintage King’s Speech. 

The first for King Charles III since he became the monarch, it was also the first legislative programme from Rishi Sunak. But the special occasion did not make for special content.

Five of the 21 Bills were carried over from the previous session, and many of the rest had previously been announced. There were no rabbits from the royal hat.

King Charles is likely to have another crack at it. Mr Sunak not so much.

For this was all about the general election that the Prime Minister’s party is dreading, and Sir Keir Starmer’s side is salivating over.
Mr Sunak set out dividing lines with Labour he hopes can turn around his party’s fortunes.

After previously watering down a raft of environmental targets, he announced a Bill for annual North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds. 

As there is nothing to stop this happening already, Labour branded it a gimmick.

Even Theresa May criticised the Government’s direction. “What we need to do now is press the accelerator on transition to a green economy, not try to draw back,” she said. 

Yet Mr Sunak called his opponents “eco-zealots”, language off-putting to voters worried about the planet, but which might shore up his right flank from the threat of Reform UK.

Expect to hear the insult thrown at Labour all the way to polling day.

The PM also wants to paint Labour as the strikers’ friend by pushing ahead with plans to force key workers to provide “minimum service levels”. 

He said he wants to “stop unions derailing Christmas for millions of people". 

The unions are pushing back hard, and the Scottish Government say they’ll refuse to cooperate with the “appalling” plan. Mr Sunak also announced a raft of measures on courts and prisons with an eye to branding Labour as soft on crime.

However what might have sounded like clever positioning in Downing Street pow-wows didn’t impress his own benches, who gave the speech a tepid response.

Tory MPs are already hoping the autumn statement later this month can deliver something   commensurate with their troubles to save their skins, principally tax cuts.

The King’s Speech alone is unlikely to change Mr Sunak’s electoral fortunes or the perception among his MPs that he is leading them towards an electoral thrashing.

However it did offer Labour a chance to make its pitch to the voters.

Sir Keir Starmer was brutal as he condemned the wretched last gasp of a party so long in power that it has lost its sense of purpose and is devoted only to its own survival.

Reduced to “the desperate spectacle of claiming it offers change away from itself”.

He went on: “They can’t see Britain. That’s the only possible conclusion. The walls of this place are too high. But let me assure this House, Britain sees them.”

It does indeed.