The Queen's Speech highlights a government out of touch with its people

22 June 2017 - 9:15am
War on Want in the news

By Mark Dearn, Senior Campaigner at War on Want. This article was first published by

What we needed to hear was a no to austerity, a no to deregulation and a yes to maximum accountability to the British people. We didn't. This government is out of touch. 

In ‘normal’ times the Queen’s Speech represents a test for an incumbent government: state your case for your political programme, gain approval from parliament, and start your year’s work in service to the British people.

But in these most abnormal of times, today’s Queen’s Speech went further: it set out the already embattled government’s policy-making plans for the next two years, with – much as expected – a heavy focus on Brexit.

Brexit-related bills account for eight from a total of 27, including the mammoth task of transferring EU laws into UK law under the ‘Great Repeal Bill’.

Under a shaky government propped up by only the slimmest of majorities, it becomes clear why one official preparing the legislation says: “There’s going to be bloody trouble.”

But what was revelatory about the Queen’s Speech was what it didn’t mention: it wholly ignored the seismic political shifts and horrific events which have brought renewed public engagement in politics and staunch opposition to an ideologically-driven, political agenda of austerity and deregulation.

Yet we heard nothing about austerity, despite Phillip Hammond claiming at the weekend that the government is “hearing the message” on this now widely opposed political project.

We heard nothing about the NHS, despite – or perhaps because of – a leaked story yesterday. It revealed a £183.1 million budget gap across 10 London hospital trusts, meaning less money for spending on drugs, fewer patients being referred to hospital and cuts to support for people with severe health needs.

And while affirming the Great Repeal Bill and a desire for the “widest possible consensus”, we heard nothing to guarantee that the sweeping ‘Henry VIII’ powers ministers want in order to do away with laws out of sight of MPs will be accompanied by the very highest standards of accountability. As commentators note: “one person’s technical amendment is another person’s policy shift”.

Take International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP and controversial EU-Canada business deal CETA: after five years of secret negotiations on CETA, Fox signed the UK up to the deal by intentionally side-stepping parliamentary scrutiny. He subsequently apologised, but the damage was already done.

And with climate change laws, human rights and workers’ rights yet again on the table, what faith would anyone place in ministers maintaining these fundamental protections under deals done in the dark?

One thing we did learn from today’s Speech is that the government still intends to forge “new trading relationships across the globe” - which in Brexit terms means a firm ‘no’ from the government to remaining in the EU customs union.

Pair this with Fox’s comments on a trade trip to the USA this week, and the government’s adherence to an austerity programme at odds with that of its population becomes clear.

According to Fox, we just don’t have the money we need right now to spend on essential services: “Ultimately we all want to spend money on healthcare, infrastructure and education, but you have to generate the wealth first.”

And how are we to generate this wealth?

“The more we’re able to liberalise our economies … the greater the prosperity we can offer our people,” Fox said.

For a UK desperate for a deal with Trump, this means ‘liberalised’ healthcare, education and a wholesale removal of post-financial crisis regulations on finance are all on the table, to name but a few areas.

We must not forget now trainee journalist George Osborne’s threat to wage further austerity on the poorest if the UK chose to leave the EU – nor our previous governments’ ideological adherence to slashing any and all public services, whether the NHS, the fire service and community policing, and even ending free school meals for children.

As we witness protest after protest on the UK streets, it is clear that more people are mobilising as they see first-hand what War on Want has long said: poverty is political.

And the choice to ignore an opportunity to carve out a progressive vision for a politically re-engaged country may well be yet another nail in the coffin of government out of touch with its people.

Latest news

Event: "Curfew" Contemporary dance by El-Funoun & Hawiyya

16 March 2018 - 5:30pm

War on Want is happy to be supporting “Curfew”, a contemporary dance production performed by El-Funoun (Palestine) and Hawiyya Dance Company (UK), presented by Arts Canteen. "Curfew" is a thought-provoking contemporary dance production that encourages individuals to self-reflect and take action in front of injustice.

Read more

Families of massacred workers protest Lonmin’s final AGM tomorrow

13 March 2018 - 12:45pm

Families of massacred workers protest Lonmin’s final AGM tomorrow, saying corporate takeover doesn’t dissolve responsibility of mining company linked to South African president. 

Civil rights activist, bishop and lawyer representing workers at Marikana, South Africa, are in London this week to hold platinum mining company Lonmin to account over 2012 Massacre.

Read more

Join the conversation

Across the UK, people are holding pickets outside local #HSBC branches over the firm’s business with companies sell… 58 min 59 sec ago
"It is important that the spotlight drawn by the voices of high-profile women also penetrates deeper, to the plight… 1 hour 25 min ago
Join @GaiaFoundation @Londonmining + visitors from Colombia for a celebration of Water, Land and Life to mark one y… 1 hour 49 min ago