British politics has taken a turn for the worse of late, but let’s not forget its settled, normal status is weird. Last week’s Queen’s speech – the outline of “her” government’s legislative programme for the coming year – is a case in point. In the thinnest of gruel, which we will come to sift through for juicy morsels shortly, we had the bizarre spectacle of a 15th century relic promising spaceports, autonomous cars, and more drones. I’m not sure this is what old Trotters had in mind when he wrote about combined and uneven development. Weird.
The mainstream have had all afternoon to pore over the speech and the jolly Commons back-and-forth about it. Everyone knows it’s a slim document so Dave can concentrate on the EU referendum, so push a few eye-catching, future-facing, and largely uncontroversial policies to the front and spend the rest of them time thinking of ways of scaring people to vote remain. Continue reading
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 Queen’s Speech, drafted in deathlessly trite prose by civil servants and special advisers, should – and occasionally does – rise to the challenge of setting the national agenda. This one was flat all the way through.
- There was nothing about countering austerity, allowing hard-working people to share in the recovery with a proper wage increase.
- There was nothing about rebalancing the economy from the City to industry to create decent jobs and a sustainable livelihood.
- There was nothing about warding off the risk of another financial crash or tackling continuing banking scandals.
- There was nothing about the revival of manufacturing to erode the massive inflow of imports rising year after year.
- There was nothing about reversing grotesque inequalities in income and wealth, or making the super-rich pay for the economic/financial breakdown and extended recession that they largely caused.
- There was of course nothing about redrawing the boundaries between State and markets even though the papers are filled almost daily with revelations of the greed, corruption, performance failures and poor service of the privatised and outsourcing companies.
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Arguably the most important bill in a weak and flaccid Queen’s Speech today is the Banking Bill. But it is a fiasco. It has one central objective – to prevent too-big-to fail banks from being bankrupted by the recklessness of their investment bankers and requiring another gargantuan bail-out at ruinous cost to taxpayers and deep and prolonged recession to the economy.
But it will fail because the retail and investment arms of banks are not being split, merely having so-called ‘Chinese walls’ erected between them – a ramshackle device that highly-paid lawyers and accountants in the City of London will take no time circumventing. But that’s not even the half of it. Of all the other reforms now so urgently needed in the banking sector, not a single one is to be found in this Bill.