Fri | Jun 24, 2022

There was nothing in the Queen’s Speech to fix cost-of-living crisis

Published:Saturday | May 28, 2022 | 12:19 AMDawn Butler - Guest Columnist
 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II .
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II .
Dawn Butler
Dawn Butler
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The Prince of Wales recently delivered the Queen’s Speech, outlining the UK government’s legislative agenda for this parliament. It was filled with the usual combination of bold promises and a worrying lack of detail.

The problem is that this Conservative government’s record in delivering its pledges is so poor that it is hardly worth the paper it is written on. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, who writes the speech with his Cabinet, lies so often and so brazenly that he simply cannot be trusted.

So when the government pledged in the speech to address the cost-of-living crisis, how can we take them seriously?

Campaigners have urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do much more to support people, but he has refused. Yet he is willing to raise taxes on working people.

If the government was serious about helping people during this tough time, they would have included some helpful policies in its speech. But there was nothing at all to directly address the cost-of-living crisis affecting families across Britain now.

One of the simple solutions offered by Labour is a windfall tax on the North Sea oil and gas producers currently raking in huge profits. We would then use the proceeds to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

The Queen’s Speech did, however, contain many other pledges, including improving on transport, delivering cleaner and cheaper energy (despite the fact that) estimates bills will rise by £800 in October), and making our streets safer, to name but a few.

All admirable aims, but the Conservatives have been in power for 12 years! What has stopped them doing these things before? Successive Tory governments have shown neither the desire nor the big ideas to do it.

It seems that to this government, everything is a joke. It sickens me because my mailbox is full of (reports from ) my constituents in Brent who are suffering, working, and not being able to afford to eat – a shocking state of affairs in the fifth largest economy in the world.

Slowest rate

The truth is that the Tory government’s record is one of failure. Many are worse off, and the economy is set to grow at the slowest rate in the G7 next year.

And whether it is underinvestment in our transport networks, failing to invest properly in green energy, or slashing the number of police officers on our streets, this government must not be allowed to take credit for seeking to fix problems they themselves created.

It is like someone stealing your fridge full of food and then offering you a sandwich and expecting you to be grateful.

The challenges the country faces are enormous. The cost of living crisis will be like nothing we have seen before.

We also face a crisis in our NHS after years of underfunding, with waiting lists at record levels. Not to mention the housing crisis so many of our communities face – another issue that has been ignored.

Michael Gove suggested only on Wednesday that the government will not meet its manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year.

His government says things at the time to look good or to get themselves out of a tricky situation. It is time to expose them and hold them to account.

This week’s legislative agenda should have risen to the challenge and delivered not empty promises, but bold action to fix the problems we face.

The priority should have been action centred around an emergency budget to ease the cost of living. Inaction is not unavoidable. It is a political choice.

This government ignores what needs to be done to boost our economy. Instead, they choose to water down our human rights, planning for inhumane treatment of refugees or refusing to properly tackle the threat of climate change. Their priorities are all wrong.

Protest

Their Police and Crime Bill alone is a blatant attempt to silence people in the UK so that persons cannot protest about the things they are doing wrong.

I would suggest that if people haven’t read Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, then they should – because this is how it starts.

Even when the Tories pledge something for which Labour and campaigners alike have been calling – such as a ban on conversion therapy – it is half-baked.

Not only does the policy not include protection for trans people, but the government has said that it will still allow gay conversion therapy if an adult consents to it. What a betrayal of the LGBTQ+ community!

One of the biggest failures, however, is the absence of action to protect women.

When I was shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, we pledged to put women front and centre of decision-making in government. Every policy would be tested before implementation to ensure that it would not negatively and disproportionately impact women.

At a time when women feel in danger on the streets of our country and continue to suffer most from economic crises and institutional misogyny, the lack of policies to support women is shameful.

It is about time we had a real plan for women. I can guarantee that if the policies help women, they will help everyone else.

This Queen’s Speech, to me, was a damaging, missed opportunity from a government that wields huge power but refuses to help those in desperate need.

When I had the honour of seconding the Queen’s Speech in 2007, it showed us the difference a Labour government can make and what we can achieve with a government that truly cares about people and has hope for the future.

So let us never forget that inaction is not unavoidable. It is a political choice from this cruel and heartless Tory government, which is not on our side.

Dawn Butler is Labour member of parliament for Brent Central and writes a monthly column for The Weekly Gleaner