The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 23rd June 2017

The Queen’s meagre speech

by Daphne Liddle

THE QUEEN delivered a very short speech when she re-opened Parliament on Wednesday, with all the main features of the Conservative Party manifesto abandoned.

Elizabeth Windsor abandoned her crown and usual regalia and arrived by car rather than by state carriage — possibly because of the effects of the very hot weather on an elderly woman or possibly because she knows she will be doing this again in the not too distant future when Theresa May’s government finally collapses. It could also be because Ms Windsor was intending to leave straight for the racing at Ascot after the ceremony was over.

And this very lightweight programme of legislation is meant to last for two years — May has suspended next year’s Queen’s speech to devote more time to Brexit negotiations.

Most of the programme is concerned with Brexit — setting up a new framework of laws for when the country withdraws from the European framework, and will include a large “Repeal Bill” to eliminate European Union laws and replace them with British laws.There are one or two progressive-sounding bills — an acknowledgement that the social injustices brought about by austerity are recognised — but no mention of the necessary funding that would be needed to make them meaningful.

For example, the Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to protect the victims of domestic violence by appointing an abuse commissioner, raising public awareness and monitoring how statutory agencies perform. But there is no mention of giving local authorities the funding to re-open the scores of domestic violence refuges that have been forced to close because of cuts and no mention of restoring legal aid to help the victims.

Policies that are missing include building more grammar schools, means testing winter fuel payments for pensioners, changes to social care funding and the restoration of fox-hunting.

Some of the issues that were not mentioned leave us unsure of whether May intends to proceed on the basis of changes already announced or abandon the changes. These include the question of funding for social care and a previous commitment to implement the Naylor Report that would compel NHS trusts to sell off their land and property assets to raise funds.

A promised policy to improve mental health care was also missing but that proposal seemed to prioritise cutting down on compulsory hospitalisation. Most mental health patients and their carers will be aware that even those in the deepest distress who really want hospital admission are currently being turned away for lack of beds and lack of staff.

Doctors do not section any patient who does not want to be hospitalised except in rare and extreme cases where the patient is very likely to harm themselves or someone else or has already done so because there are not enough beds. That would require a reversal of funding cuts.

For now the austerity juggernaut has been halted but not reversed. There is no end to the bedroom tax, to benefit sanctions and to the widening of the wealth gap.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the proposed programme of legislation as “threadbare”. He said the Queen’s speech was proof of a government that has “run out of ideas” and pointed out that the Tories have now removed their election manifesto from their website.

Corbyn continued: “This is a government without a majority, without a mandate, without a serious legislative programme and is struggling to stitch together a deal to stay in office.”

He went on to say that Labour now is “not so much an opposition as a government in waiting.” He told the House that austerity is a “choice, not a necessity” and that its main effect has been to increase the wealth gap in Britain.

Then he listed the things a Labour government would do to restore public services and high on the list was the restoration of trade union rights for free collective bargaining in order to redress the steep decline in the value of wages.

Corbyn quoted May’s pre-election statement that if she lost six MPs she would have lost the election. She has lost far more than that.

May is finished, her party is hopelessly divided, a new election seems probable and the Tories will not want to enter it with her as leader — except they have no alternative who could unite the party.

One way or another, a Labour government seems inevitable in the near future.