John McDonnell MP
After 11 years of harsh austerity and a year in which the covid pandemic has resulted in such a scale of human suffering, the Queen’s Speech should have been a paradigm-shifting intervention in which were established a new set of ideals upon which the future of our society was at least envisioned. Instead, it was crowded with little more than base, grubby political manoeuvres aimed at corrupting the electoral system and suppressing opposition. It failed completely to capture the spirit of the age.
The pandemic pressure-tested our society and exposed the appalling impact of a decade of gross underfunding of our NHS and social care sector. Covid has laid bare the millions who are in poverty and a social security system that has provided no security. Austerity fatigue and the pandemic are prompting a paradigm shift. The old neoliberal dominance of trickle-down economics, the market always knowing best and “private good, public bad” is under serious challenge. Even this Government have been forced through political expediency to synthetically get with the programme. That is why this Queen’s Speech is so full of rhetoric but so easily exposed as lacking in substance.
The pandemic has created a renewed sense of social solidarity. There is a greater feeling that we all stand or fall together and that everyone should have a right to a decent job, education, a home, health and social care, and an income to secure good quality of life. This should not depend on where people live or what their background is. There is a greater belief that the distribution of rewards in our society should be based on the social value of the contribution that a person makes to our community and not solely on its market value. The mismatch in the Queen’s Speech between these values of our age and what the Government propose is starkly exemplified.
There is nothing in the Queen’s Speech that will realistically ensure that the NHS receives the funding to cope with backlog of treatments or, especially, to deal with the impact of long covid. It maintains the pay cuts to NHS staff and public sector workers, forcing many into absolute penury. Social care reform is delayed yet again. We await the outcome of further discussions in the autumn but doubt whether anything productive will come from the Government.
There is nothing to give hope of a secure home to many people, nothing to address low pay and poverty on a scale that we have not seen for a generation, including the rising numbers of the homeless back on our streets and the renewed threat of eviction that is affecting so many of our constituents who rent their properties.
The existential threat of climate change is met with nothing more than press releases and, obscenely, international aid is cut and the Government fail to back Biden’s patent-waiving campaign to save lives as the covid pandemic ravages the global south.
This is a Queen’s Speech that does not just fail to meet the challenges of our times, but drags us back to mundane politicking, providing no sense of hope or direction at a time when our people are in desperate need, having suffered 12 months of tragic loss of life and 11 years of austerity pay cuts and the undermining of their public services. This Queen’s Speech is a grotesque disappointment and has failed the community yet again.