Why the Queen's Speech Was Delayed

The Conservatives are still in talks with the DUP—and goat's skin parchment paper takes time to dry.

Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II’s speech to the U.K. Parliament, in which the government lays out its legislative agenda, has been delayed, the BBC and others are reporting, because Theresa May’s Conservatives are still in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over support for the minority government.

The queen’s speech was scheduled for Monday, June 19, and the decision to delay it by a few days—no date was given—suggests the Conservatives are still fine-tuning the government’s agenda because of their stunningly poor performance in last week’s parliamentary election in which they went from a party with a slight majority to one with not enough seats in Parliament to form a government. Enter the DUP, a Northern Irish party, which, unlike May’s prescription, prefers a “soft” Brexit and is also far to the right of her Conservatives on issues like climate change, abortion, and gay marriage—issues that enjoy wide support across the U.K.  Add to this another reason for the delay, which as the BBC points out, “is … believed to be because the speech has to be written on goat’s skin parchment paper, which takes a few days to dry—and the Tory negotiations with the DUP mean it cannot be ready in time.” Goat skin paper, it turns out, contains no animal hide. It’s also distinct from calf-skin paper, or vellum, on which the U.K.’s prints its laws. Vellum is, in fact, made of animal hide.

The Conservatives won 318 seats in last week’s election, down from 331; The DUP won 10 seats; 326 are needed for a majority. Labour went from 232 seats in 2015 to 262 now.

May’s intention to remain prime minister has been criticized by other parties. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, said she was “squatting” in 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence. Tim Farron, the head of the Liberal Democrats, said she should resign. But it’s unclear if any of the other major parties has enough support in the hung Parliament to for a new government.