The Queen’s Speech. Running out of steam before they’ve even started. 

So the Government’s legislative plans for the coming two-year parliamentary session have been announced. The Queen’s Speech outlined 27 bills, of which 8 relate to Brexit. Of course, without an overall majority, it remains to be seen whether the Tories will stay the course.

As for the overall tone of the Queen’s speech, this what Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party said:

“This hollowed out Government has produced a stunningly unambitious Queen’s speech at a time when Britain desperately needs a change of direction. Failing to propose any meaningful plans to tackle climate change is a near-criminal act of political vandalism, and refusing to give our hard pressed NHS workers the pay rise they deserve reveals a Government utterly out of touch. The proposed immigration clampdown sees an increasingly hardline Government doubling down on plans they know will wreck our economy.

“Though climate-deniers in the DUP might be celebrating this Queen’s Speech, it simply isn’t a serious programme of Government. This speech should have included an Environmental Protection Act and a guarantee for EU Nationals that their rights would be protected, but these basic Brexit laws were nowhere to be seen.

“While some proposals in the Queen’s speech deserve praise – in particular plans to help people suffering from mental health problems – the overall picture is one of a Government which has run out of steam, and a Prime Minister who has lost authority.”

For most people, the Government’s programme will be judged by its impact on themselves their communities. On this theme, here is what Neil Cleeveley, Chief Executive of NAVCA had to say about the Queen’s Speech:

“Many in the local voluntary sector will be concerned about what is missing from the Queen’s speech rather than what’s in it. As a society we have major issues to address around inequality and community cohesion. We also face an unprecedented squeeze on the services that local communities rely on such as health and education. Many of our public services are at breaking point and it is local charities that are rooted in local communities to which people turn. There is nothing in this Queen’s speech for them, it is a wasted the opportunity to confront the real issues facing communities across the country.”

“Many warned that Brexit would all consuming for the Government, and so it is proving. It appears the interests local charities and the people and local communities they serve are being pushed into the background.”

And so it begins…the alarming prospect of five more Tory years

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And so it begins…The general election campaign kicks-off officially today with when the current parliament is dissolved. As it currently stands, we face the alarming prospect of five more Tory years taking us towards a hard Brexit, with continued austerity, and the underfunding of our public services.

Calling the election has been a cynical, and well-calculated step by Theresa May. She knows things will get ugly as Brexit day approaches. I predict that she will not have secured a good deal (if any deal at all), the pound will fall further, inflation will be rising, and international companies will begin pulling out of London and elsewhere.

But she knows she has a massive lead in the polls, due in part to the continued in-fighting within Labour ranks; and a media, including it seems our BBC, that presents the Tories in a favourable light . Not only that but she will also avoid the embarrassment of a potential 20 or more by-elections if  Tory MPs are prosecuted for alleged election fraud.

And if this wasn’t cynical enough, Theresa May is refusing to debate anything on TV with the leaders of other parties. Instead she will settle for soundbites, and pro-tory articles in right-wing newspapers. Public accountability it seems, is not her thing.

Sadly, this unwillingness to engage in democratic debate will end up being to her massive advantage. She has everything to lose from debate, and nothing to gain. Indeed, in our flawed first-past-the-post democracy she will, unless there is some real shift in opinion, likely win well over half of the seats in the new parliament, with much less than 50% of the vote. What’s more, she will claim a mandate to pursue her hard Brexit with far fewer total votes than the number who voted “leave” in the referendum. Meanwhile, the majority of us – the ones who didn’t vote Tory – will have five more years to endure.

 

 

 

 

Here, in no particular order, are just some reasons why I’m voting to #Remain 


1. Free movement of people: I like that I could study, work, live and retire anywhere in the EU without the need for visas and other paperwork. I like that I can get free health care while travelling in the EU, I like that I don’t have to pay duty on beer, wine and gin etc. And I like that from next year, I also won’t have to pay roaming charges on my mobile.

2. The economy: I haven’t heard a single independent economist say we would be better off outside of the EU. 

3. Sovereignty: Well there has certainly been a load of misinformation about this. You’d think everything we say or do was controlled by Brussels. Boris, Gove, IDS and Farage should perhaps check Wikipedia. The UK has kept its sovereignty over monetary policy, education, the NHS, welfare, defence (although it shares sovereignty in NATO), and border security (we never signed the Schengen Agreement). However, as an EU member the UK considers it beneficial to pool with other EU member states, its sovereignty on issues such as trade, employment rights, environmental protection, consumer protection and food standards. 

4. The people in the Leave campaign: Almost entirely made up of hard right Tory politicians, their post Brexit utopia of a well-funded NHS is just not credible. They are not about to go on a public spending spree if we leave the EU because: (a) they won’t have the money – EU costs less than 1% of total public expenditure, (b) the economy will suffer (so again, no money), and (c) They are most certainly not socialists. Indeed, they are neoliberal conservatives who voted for public spending cuts, privatisation and austerity as a member of, or in support of, the current government.

5. Fear for the future: If we vote to leave it will be seen as a victory for the hard right. Farage and his followers will say their anti-immigrant stance has been legitimised; and it will pave the way for a more intolerant society. Pressure on infrastructure is not the fault of immigration, but years of failure by successive governments – Tory and New Labour – to build affordable houses, properly fund public services, and empower communities and civil society to act for the common good.

6. We live in an increasingly connected and inter-dependent world, with common problems from which we can find shared solutions. Going it alone is surely a big risk. Even Norway, often held up as an example of a non-EU country, recognises the need for cooperation since it pays into the EEA to access the single market, and in return accepts the social and economic rules including free movement of people.

(Note: For the avoidance of doubt, any similarity above with anything Cameron has said on the referendum is just a coincidence, as I’m definitely not a Tory).

Extra spending on the NHS following Brexit just isn’t believable

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, largely due to a long-standing health issue that has meant five operations in three years, with two behind me already this year. So I have seen at first hand the finer workings of our National Health Service; and I believe very strongly that it is something worth fighting for. But that is an issue for another blog post…

However, our NHS has been the subject of a somewhat wild claim in the ongoing referendum campaign. Of course seeing the two sides of the Tory party beating the crap out of each other is an interesting side story; and I wonder how they hope to build bridges afterwards. But to get their voices heard the main protagonists seem to prefer the headline catching sound bite over reasoned argument.

So it was the other day when Gove suggested that the NHS would be a £100 million a week better off if we left the European Union. If Gove was a socialist I might be more inclined to believe him. But really? The cost of EU membership is less than 1% of total UK government spending. So the money saved from Brexit would not go far when divided up between the many calls on the public purse.

But more significantly, Gove comes from a party of government that has been quietly privatising the health service. What’s more, he and his fellow conservatives have been responsible for some serious cuts in public expenditure, inflicting upon the more vulnerable in our society a deliberate policy of austerity. So if a post Brexit government, presumably led by Boris Johnson, had money to spare, do we honestly believe they would spend it on public services?

Of course not. If anything a more likely beneficiary would be the rich elite in the form of tax cuts, presumably so that the wealth trickles down to the rest of us. Seriously though, Gove’s ‘leave’ group of very right-wing politicians, assuming they took control of the Conservative party, would – Brexit aside – make little difference to how the country was already being run.

So back to the NHS: When I woke up in recovery after my last operation, it was clear that the staff were stretched. In between the doses of  Tramadol I did ask about this, and was told that they needed at least one extra person. This example may be just anecdotal, but I don’t believe Brexit would solve NHS funding problems. Indeed, after Brexit what would be the impact on staffing if EU nationals were no longer able to get jobs in the NHS? If Brexit was followed by a recession due to a falling pound and other economic problems, what would happen to the current funding of our health service? Gove and his mates don’t seem to have any answers; but them spending extra on the NHS just isn’t believable.