My thoughts on the Queens Speech…
The Queens Speech showed us we have a government in office, but not in power. A manifesto ditched, the idea that austerity could continue on its well worn path quashed, and a Brexit crafted in Theresa May’s image gone.
To understand why the government has been reduced to a barely existing legislative programme we first have to understand how we got here.
History doesn’t start on June 8th 2017, but June 8th was the day when the rumblings those of us had been hearing for a good few years came exploding onto the surface. Ordinary people had simply had enough.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour did not win the election, but they defied political common sense, and once you accept that you start to understand Corbyn’s achievement. What happened on June 8th simply wasn’t supposed to happen.
So no majority delivered, a hung parliament and a PM clinging to power – Brexit, which was supposed to be the final nail in the welfare state as we reached the home straight in the government’s race to bottom (from wages, to public sector cuts, to lowering cooperation tax), now not to be shaped in her image.
Austerity, so the Chancellor tries to convince us, is dead. Let’s remember many Britons could put up with some belt tightening in the national interest, for the greater good. But with no end in sight the same people sent the government a clear message. No more would they accept privatisation of the NHS, the hollowing out of police forces and our children’s schools begging parents to keep the lights on.
With £23 billion of spending headroom available per year, will the Chancellor’s actions match his rhetoric, will the government listen to the message they have been sent?
So we come to the Queens Speech, and viewing it through the results of the 2017 election we see the influence it had. Bringing back Grammar schools – scrapped, our kids will now get school meals as the promise to axe those has too been scrapped. 7p breakfasts gone. Fox hunting remains banned and plans on fracking dropped. Pensioners keep their triple lock and the dementia tax gone – but no words on how we beat the social care crisis.
We have 8 Brexit Bills – none contain a vision of the future, but of a damage to be limited, and a consensus in the country about how we leave the EU yet to be reached nor sought.
Positively there is to be a focus on increased mental health provision, a Domestic Violence Bill and a ban on letting fees – but these planks of the Government’s agenda will require Labour support given the high likelihood of rebellions on their back benches.
Here again we see the achievement of the Corbyn campaign it has not just halted a further lurch to the right but has presented Labour MPs the chance to shape the more progressive elements of this parliament. In making significant changes to legislation Labour will appear a Government in waiting.
Of course being a Council Leader, we have to come to local government finance. The 100% business rate retention scheme, like many of the measures in the Local Government Finance Bill, has been scrapped. Some may celebrate – but it begs the question just how serious is the Government is about the future of Local Government? How serious is Government in providing us with the funding we need to provide the services our residents require?
On that question I’ll leave you to ponder, if you have any thoughts, questions or comments on the above please get in touch.