Disappointment delivered

May 9, 2012 12:52 pm

Today’s Queen’s Speech is being marketed by the Government as the second phase of the coalition, focusing, as the speech – carefully crafted in 10 Downing Street – puts it, on “economic growth, justice and constitutional reform”.

Well, as I listened to the words being read out in the chamber of the Lords this morning, you could have fooled me.

What I heard was a speech from a Government which is incompetent, unfair and out of touch.  What I heard was little, if anything, on jobs and growth. Little, if anything, to help most people, with their real worries – about their jobs, their mortgages or rents, their grocery bills, about whether they can afford to fill up the car, and their children’s future.

What I heard, just as we heard in the Budget, is this government helping their own.  The Coalition is doing nothing for the vast majority of people across the country because this government is putting the wrong people first. Indeed, instead of trying to tackle the people’s priorities, this government wants to tackle the Coalition’s priorities.

That’s why, for instance, they’re proposing Lords reform – something that isn’t high on most people’s worry lists.

Don’t get me wrong, Labour, our Peers included, wants to see reform of the Lords.  But we want to get reform right, and the government’s proposals we have seen from the government so far don’t do that.

And we don’t share the LibDems view that it is the burning issue which, at the time of the first double-dip recession since the mid-1970s, absolutely must be addressed now.

It was interesting to hear the media briefing around the proposal – suggesting that not much will move if there isn’t consensus, if it frightens the horses: that is, if it provokes opposition, not so much from Labour, but as Lord Strathclyde, the Tory Leader of the Lords, has warned from backbench Tory MPs, who could kill the government’s Bill.  We shall see.

So, yes, the Coalition’s legislative programme does indeed include some constitutional reform, as it claims.  But justice?  Economic growth?  Where were the legislative proposals on those issues?

Bills on deregulating business, reforming competition law and banking reform won’t do much, if anything, in themselves, to get our economy going again.

And justice?  A bill on victims and witnesses was promised – but nothing.  Reforming the law on defamation won’t do much to allay people’s fear of crime – which will be underlined when police march in London tomorrow under the banner ’20% cuts are criminal’, over 16,000 job losses, cuts so deep that my local and principled Chief Constable in South Gloucestershire resigned rather than implement them.

We will judge whether there’s anything of value in the bills the government is proposing to bring forward on adult care, on family-friendly work flexibility, on arrangements for children with special educational needs, on pensions, on a green investment bank, on public sector pensions and others.  The devil will be in the detail – and we’ve seen in this last, long, two-year session how wretched that detail can be, on the NHS, on welfare, on legal aid, and on forests.

What we should have seen today were measures to give everyone a fair deal on tax, reversing the tax cuts for the rich; a fair deal on energy, breaking up the big six energy companies and helping pensioners; a fair deal on transport, stopping above-inflation price rises; a fair deal for consumers, with new powers to combat rip-off surcharges by banks and others; and a fair deal on jobs, taxing bankers’ bonuses to help young people into work.

What we did see today was a no-change programme from this no-change government.  A government which is continuing to cut spending and raise taxes too far and too fast, leading directly to low, if any, growth, and high unemployment.

We’ll see a government with the wrong priorities, doing the wrong things, and aiming to help the wrong people.

What last week’s elections made crystal clear is what the country wants is action: on jobs, growth and the economy. Action to help our country, not action that just serves to help the Coalition.

 Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour’s Leader in the House of Lords, and was first published here.

  • Paula Dirac

    At least no mention of further persecution of the unemployed, sick, disabled, or carers was announced. Good news for the Labour Party since sticking it to the poor will still an option open for prosecution if by some dark miracle Labour ever regained power again.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    That’s why, for instance, they’re proposing Lords reform – something that isn’t high on most people’s worry lists.

    Please don’t take this personally, but as a member of the Lords, any opinion you have on the importance, popularity or relevance of Lords reform is rendered null and void.

    Whichever party tries to enact reform, the other side will block it and the Lords can always blame it on political bickering in the House of Commons. Different parties will try and stuff it full of their supporters and it will remain a bastion of the corrupt, the incompetent and the self-entitled.

Latest

  • Comment Change starts now

    Change starts now

    The outcome of the Scottish referendum answers decisively the question on independence. But the issues unleashed and feelings exposed in the campaign will mean further important action for Labour, action to address the economic disaffection and political alienation which was laid bare on the doorsteps in Glasgow just as they are in towns across England. While we campaigned for a No vote, too many of the poorest, most deprived, who we are in politics to empower and to represent, voted […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Miliband calls for UK Constitutional Convention – and the whole country will have a say, not just politicians

    Miliband calls for UK Constitutional Convention – and the whole country will have a say, not just politicians

    This morning David Cameron called for a rushed through, Westminster-based, top-down, politician-led approach to solving the questions around UK-wide devolution. I wasn’t impressed. I said that: This is an unprecedented chance to extend similar powers down from the centre to the whole of the UK. The Labour Party – in every corner of this land – has an important role to play in the renewal of our society and democracy that must take place. We must end top down Westminster […]

    Read more →
  • News Make this Conference about the NHS, LabourList readers tell Miliband

    Make this Conference about the NHS, LabourList readers tell Miliband

      Ed Miliband should make the NHS the focus of his Labour Conference speech, say LabourList readers. 52% said that setting out Labour’s offer on the health service should be the central offer of Miliband’s address to delegates on Tuesday. It has been rumoured that Labour will attempt to make the NHS the defining issue of the 2015 election, and a poll earlier this week suggested it was the only “big” issue that we hold a lead on, beating the […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “Our country only works for a tiny elite few at the top, and this Labour Party knows that must change” – Miliband responds to the referendum result

    “Our country only works for a tiny elite few at the top, and this Labour Party knows that must change” – Miliband responds to the referendum result

    This morning, Ed Miliband gave a speech, following on from Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling, in which he responded to the results of the referendum. He clearly emphasised that although Scotland voted to remain part of the UK, this was the beginning of massive change across the country: “this was a vote for change. change doesn’t end today. Change begins today…devolution is not just a good idea for Scotland and Wales, it is a good idea for England and indeed Northern […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The English question must now be settled too

    The English question must now be settled too

    So it’s a No. But the process of constitutional change is only just beginning. While it is not yet clear precisely what additional powers on tax, spending and welfare, the Scottish Parliament will get, the binding pledge of the main Westminster party leaders will have to be honoured. But in the process, the English question must be settled too. The first, curmudgeonly, reactions of predominantly Tory MPs has been to complain about Scotland’s special treatment. Before too long, resentment will […]

    Read more →