Posts Tagged ‘queen’s speech’

Expectations for Labour are high. Policy is the way for Jeremy Corbyn to meet them

28/06/2017, 10:36:47 PM

by Andy Howell

So, the deal with the DUP is well and truly in place. Tonight its MPs dutifully trooped through the lobbies with the Tories, blocking a Labour amendment to scrap the public sector pay cap. The deal buys May and Tories time although just how much will remain to be seen. It seems designed to last for two years by which point Tory optimists hope that a decent Brexit deal has been finalised. However, as always, political events do not aways go to plan and it is quite possible that this government will not last to the end of the negotiation period.

Corbyn is right to continue to make the case that Labour is ready to form a government at any time. At Glastonbury it is reported that he told organiser Michael Eavis that he could be Prime Minister within six months. This is not just a fanciful boast. The conference season will be a major test for May. If she continues to make the wrong choices, continues to appear wooden and inhumane and — critically — continues to be a subject for ridicule then the end could be quick.

In such a climate Labour’s biggest problem may well be the temptation to sit back and rely on its current campaign strategy and manifesto. At the moment both strategy and manifesto look to be effective but time always changes the context in which both must sit. The more that Corbyn is seen as a credible Prime Minister, indeed as the likely next Prime Minister, the bigger the challenge he faces in fleshing out the manifesto and in beginning to address detail.

Take one of the issues that devastated the Tory campaign plan, social care. The electorate was spooked by the Tory manifesto programme and singularly unimpressed by a series of subsequent U-Turns. Everyone in this country knows we face major challenges in this area. If we are not yet thinking personally about our own social care we will have parents and grandparents who, today, face the future with a great deal of uncertainty and fear. As we get closer to becoming a Party of government it will not bee enough for us to simply talk about more cash, we will have to spell out how and where we will make our investments. It might be acceptable — in a political campaign — to simply call for a new Social Care Service but it is clear that we might form the next government the health and social care sectors will look for more detail and will expect to be able to enter into a real dialogue with the opposition about the future.


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Parliamentary notebook: Cameron’s wafer-thin majority belies the Tories’ Queens Speech triumphalism

27/05/2015, 07:00:08 AM

by Jonathan Ashworth

Today, us MPs will be summoned to the other place to hear Her Majesty’s Gracious Address, the first Queen’s speech by a majority Conservative government for almost 19 years.

Later, in the Commons, jubilant Tory MPs will wave their order papers and cheer the returning triumphant prime minister Cameron to the rafters. His every (lame) gag will be met with guffaws as if he’s now the Tory answer to Peter Kay. Every snide put-down of an opponent will be met with much whooping and exaggerated slapping of thighs.

As the prime minister exits the chamber and heads for his customary glass of claret in the members’ dining room, ambitious Tory MPs will queue up to shake his hand. And let’s face it, given the scale of our defeat who can blame them?

But although our defeat in the country was resounding the parliamentary arithmetic that has consequently been thrown up offers even the most pessimistic Labour Uncut correspondent some hope.

Five years ago when Harriet Harman spoke for the opposition in the Queen’s speech debate she faced government benches with a working majority of 83. Today she will be opposite government benches with a working majority of just 16.

In the last Parliament, government MPs rebelled in 35 per cent of divisions. In those votes where the opposition defeated the government we won often because Tory MPs – many of whom have just been re-elected to the Commons – routinely voted against their own side.


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Immigration: facts not fiction, please

08/05/2013, 07:48:31 AM

by Matthew Whittley

Looking at reports of today’s Queen’s speech, where the government is set to announce plans to restrict migrants’ access to benefits, social housing and the NHS, one could be forgiven for thinking that most migrants are living the life in five bedroom social homes, staffed with their own personal GP.

But the measures mooted will have no impact on levels of immigration, because people don’t come here to claim benefits, they come to work. Of the 850,000 migrants to have arrived from Eastern Europe since 2004, only 13,000 were claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Febuary 2011. Those same migrants are about 60% less likely than natives to claim benefits or live in social housing.

And even if they were “benefit tourists” migrating in search of an “attractive benefits system”, the UK wouldn’t have been high on their list of potential destinations. The UK spends less on benefits than many other European nations including Germany, France and Italy. It would appear that we are not a “soft touch” after all.

Already this morning we’ve heard from Jeremy Hunt touring the broadcast studios about migrants “clogging up” the NHS and claims from government ministers that migrants “expect something for nothing”. This choice of language paints the picture of immigrants as a burden on resources, when in fact they are net contributors to the public finances; we would be worse off without them.

In the four years from 2004, Eastern Europeans contributed over 35% more in taxes than they received in benefits. This language also fosters a climate of suspicion and division that can easily turn to discrimination and xenophobia. We only have to look at Greece, where violent attacks against immigrants have become commonplace, to see where this can lead.


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Whip’s Notebook: Where have all the Tories Gone?

22/05/2012, 07:00:53 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Since the Queen’s Speech, the House of Commons chamber has become a very different place. As a dutiful whip I spend most of my time in and around the chamber and although too many dismiss what goes in there as irrelevant, I still agree with Tony Blair’s valedictory description of it as the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster and is often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.

Whipping affords me the advantage of seeing our opposition on the Tory benches close up, indeed I can often see the whites of their eyes.

I’m fast becoming familiar with the various personalities on the Tory benches. There are the desperately ambitious types mustard-keen for George Osborne’s recognition (it’s always Osborne they want to impress not so much Cameron oddly), the eurosceptic rebels who bang on about nothing else, the thoughtful select committee parliamentarians and the patrician grandees who, I have to admit, are like nothing I have ever come across before in my life.

But this last week I’ve seen less of them. Labour MPs have totally dominated the debates on the gracious address. Our chief whip in the Lords has highlighted already the flimsiness of this Queens Speech. All quite extraordinary for a government’s second Queen’s speech considering this government is made up of a party out of office for thirteen years and another that has been out of office for ninety or so years.


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The truth about the thinnest Queen’s Speech in modern times

21/05/2012, 06:00:57 AM

by Steve Bassam

Much commentary has already been made about the government’s wafer thin agenda for the 2012-13 parliamentary session. The thing is, it is actually far worse than most observers have noticed, not least because of the uncertainty created by putting Lords reform at the heart of the programme.

The recent Queen’s Speech identified just 15 bills in a programme designed to accommodate the LibDems’ pet obsession. Yet ministers are likely to press through even less legislation, as 5 of these bills have already been identified for carry over until the next session. We are not talking minor matters here, but big issues such as energy, banking reform, children and families, and pensions, as well as an EU Accession Bill for Croatia.

This amounts to third of the government’s new legislative programme to be subject to carry over motions. None of these bills will have been drafted yet, and some may even need a white paper to launch them.

We also know that despite the best efforts of the joint committees on Lords reform, that bill is currently being re-drafted to try and make it more acceptable – the question is for whom?

So, for much of the rest of this calendar year we, we will have just 9 bills in play in the Lords. At this stage in most parliaments, governments are just getting into their stride.

Our analysis of the period since the late 1970s suggests a government in its third year of power can expect to push up to 40 to 45 bills, 30 of which will be part of a core programme.


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What the Queen’s speech tells us about this dysfunctional government

09/05/2012, 06:37:20 PM

by Atul Hatwal

One thing is clear from this derisory Queen’s speech. Underpinning the paucity of content and the laundry list quality to this rag bag of measures is a central truth: the gangrene of government has well and truly set in.

The most obvious tell-tale sign is the absence of a top-line.  If the BBC is calling your programme a “hotch-potch” with “no over-arching theme”, you know something has gone wrong.

The package of 15 bills and 4 draft bills is rare in that there is virtually no truly distinctive or news-worthy initiative. All of the headlines from these proposals will be generated by the politics of their parliamentary passage, notably with Lords reform, rather than the substantive impact of their delivery.

In coming forward with a programme like this the government has ceded the news agenda. It will be pushed and pulled by the rebellion du jour from right-wing Tories or left-wing Lib Dems on a variety of amendments to Dave and Nick’s anodyne bills.

The real question that should be asked about this Queen’s speech is why? Why is there not a single bill that will draw a dividing line between government and opposition? That will draw their side together and focus the debate on a distinction with Labour. How can the coalition party managers in have been so incompetent?

The answer lies not in their political ability or ambition, but the process of government.


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Whip’s Notebook: Top down NHS reorganisations, Hulk Hogan and Oliver Letwin

05/03/2012, 07:00:22 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Last week the leader of the House of Commons and lord privy seal Sir George Young (who by the way reads my posts for Labour Uncut or at least his special advisers do and then lets him know if I say anything interesting) announced the likely date for the Queens Speech.

Get your diaries out because the next Gracious Address is set to be May 9th. It didn’t come as much of a surprise to Labour MPs as Politics Home’s brilliant Paul Waugh revealed weeks ago. But MPs are always the last to hear these things anyway.

It means we will have had one of the longest parliamentary sessions on record even though we’ve hardly been scrutinising any legislation at all in the Commons in recent months. Instead we’ve been spending our time on innumerable backbench business debates with countless one line whips. All important stuff of course but rather odd when you consider we are elected to be legislators and we’ve not been doing much actual legislating.

Take the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. So despite it being one of the biggest issues in my postbag (actually inbox, nearly everything I get is by email but us MPs like to say “postbag”) and I suspect colleagues’ postbags (inbox) too, MPs have only had the opportunity to debate this monstrous bill in recent weeks because Andy Burnham tabled an opposition motion on the NHS Risk Register and asked what’s known as an urgent question on Nick Clegg’s health amendments as well last week.

So effectively Andrew Lansley in recent weeks has only come to the Commons to defend his policies because Labour has forced him to. Last month at health questions, genuine Lib Dem rebel Andrew George had a question on the order paper asking the Secretary of State whether he would withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill. Did Mr Lansley step up to answer it? No his loyal deputy Simon Burns was sent into the breach instead. “Frit” was the inevitable heckle from the more boisterous Labour MPs.


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