Dennis Skinner summed up the country’s mood when he declared the recent Queen’s speech to be the “Coalition’s last stand.” The Government set out their agenda for the next 12 months leading up to the general election. It was a missed opportunity, lacking the ideas, policy and ambition that is required to meet the challenges we face, neither did it address the clear concerns and disconnect that was present during the local and European election.
We must face facts, our politics is broken when people no longer believe voting can make a difference to their lives. We needed a Queen’s Speech that set a new direction and offered hope but instead there was no policy to tackle the cost of living crisis, make work pay, or rebalancing the economy to allow every to share the benefits of growth. Unfortunately, we got more of the same from a rudderless Government who are planning when it is best to break up the Coalition in order to maximise their electoral chances.
The austerity of the last four years has seen our public services decimated, the NHS put on the road to privatisation, and the most vulnerable in society left paying for an economic crisis created in the heart of the city and financial intuitions across the globe.
No one has been spared: the young, old, sick or disabled, those in work or looking for work. All but a very few wealthy individuals have suffered under years of austerity. The City has been left unreformed and has returned to business as usual with excessive pay, bumper bonuses and tax cuts from Government. For everyone else the promise of “making work pay” has proven itself to be empty rhetoric as wage freezes and stagnation have left people on average £1,600 worse off annually.
Over five million workers are on low pay and the increase in zero hour contracts has caused job insecurity with families struggling to make ends meet.
The Government has done nothing to tackle to root causes of poverty and will leave office with soaring demand for food banks and in work poverty exceeding out of work poverty for the first time. We should be ashamed that such poverty can exist in the world’s fourth richest nation.
We needed an alternative Queen’s Speech that gave hope to those who have given up on politics. A renewed promise, guaranteeing work for the long term unemployed, new efforts to increase the minimum wages closers to average earning, and a commitment to end the scandal of low pay by ensuring companies who can afford to pay a living wage do so. End job insecurity and deliver dignity in the workplace, with those working regular hours receive a regular contract, not a zero hour contract.
An ambitious house building programme and real protections for those in the private rented sector through introducing new long term and secure tenancy allowing families to plan with certainty.
We need a real alternative, however, the Coalition’s last stand has shown they are unable to deliver the change we need.