Queen's speech briefing

Queen's speech briefing

04 June 2014

Political context

We’re in the final straight up to 2015.  The tactical device of the fixed term Parliament to keep the two parties together appears to have worked.   Initially the Liberal Democrats aided the detoxification of the Tories but as this illiberal government progressed the toxicity infected its leadership.    Hell bent on privatising the welfare state, the NHS and Royal Mail, the electorate rejected their claims that they were a moderating force.

In reality Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers have turned on each other with dislike and frustration over Europe and education policy.

They’ve run out of ideas.  Perhaps we should be grateful for that given how their disastrous policies have pitted old against young, able against disabled and the elite one percent against the rest of us.  Inequality levels have taken us back a hundred years.    

They are banking on the economy being revived in the run up to 2015 to improve their political fortunes but as is well known this so-called ‘economic recovery’ is not felt by those on wages that have been frozen, workers on zero hours, and where self-employment is by coercion rather than by choice.

Limping towards the general election 

Within this sparse Queen’s speech the coalition wants us to focus on its so called ‘centre piece’ – pensions.   Let’s not forget that it was Margaret Thatcher’s government that began the rot when, in 1988 it let workers opt out diverting some of their National Insurance into a personal pension scheme, thus opening  the way for mis-selling .

The speech covered the announcement made in the Budget which lets people take money upfront.  Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said then that he was relaxed if pensioners spent their money on a Lamborghini.  Apart from the patronising ridiculousness of that statement, this is a policy that according to the government gives people control over how their pension savings are used during retirement.  They claimed that it will increase security but forget the spin on ‘freedoms’ - if individuals make unwise decisions it could have entirely the opposite effect. 

Despite not actually using the term in the Queen’s speech, ‘collective defined contribution’ - referring instead to ‘private pensions’, legislating to allow such a scheme has the potential to allow a  new type of pension scheme, which may offer higher and more predictable benefits, to be developed for some employees at some point in the future. But as this will take time it’s probably ‘jam tomorrow’.

Among the Bills in this sparse speech there were measures that Unite welcomed such as tax-free childcare, tackling ‘modern slavery’ and infrastructure.

And there was a glimmer of hope with the crackdown on bosses that don’t pay the national minimum wage. 

But as Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite said, in reality this was a legislative programme that is limping towards the 2015 general election.   It was notable for what it didn’t contain:

There were no initiatives to tackle the cost of living crisis, bring work to the jobless and embark on a massive house building programme – ministers skirted around the things that matter to millions of British citizens.
The financial meltdown of the NHS did not merit one word from this government.

He summed it up by saying;

“Ministers, devoid of imagination and ideas, are limping towards next year’s general election with no real solutions to tackle the big issues that matter to working people and their families.  There are no initiatives to tackle the cost of living crisis or bring work to the jobless”.

You can read more here

Unite news release, Queen’s speech skirts around the big issues facing the UK

BBC News, Cameron and Clegg unveil coalition's 'bold' finale