Great Britain

Queen’s Speech felt like a moment to be bold… but it felt a bit same-old

THE Queen’s Speech yesterday was perhaps the most important in a generation.

It felt like a far more solemn moment than previous speeches as Her Majesty, sitting for the first time as a widow, spoke before a country that has had a year of devastation.

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It was also the first moment for the Government to speak to all those who had given it the seal of approval at local elections last week.

Labour lost more than 260 seats and the Tories gained nearly 300, much to the shock of those who continue to underestimate how far Labour have fallen from grace in the eyes of the majority of the British electorate.

The election results proved that ordinary people are not obsessed or deterred by Westminster gossip about fancy wallpaper and private texts from vacuum cleaner companies.

They want a party they can trust with maintaining some sense of economic stability, that gives themselves and their families material support while not sneering at them for the values they hold and the patriotism they feel.

It is clear the Conservatives are now the real party of the working class — and that they understand ordinary people more than Labour do.

But if this Queen’s Speech is to mean anything at all for those people, they need to put their money where their mouth is and deliver materially in a far more ambitious way than the speech suggests.

The pandemic has ravaged the country for working people.

The number now claiming Universal Credit has doubled from 3million to 6million.

And once the millions who have been on furlough come off that income support scheme, this will no doubt sky-rocket even more.

We’ve been told that one silver lining from being forced to stay at home has been that people are saving more.

Except this doesn’t apply to the least well-off in society, who have actually racked up more debt than before

Inevitably, the poorest children face a widening disadvantage gap.

Younger workers have been hit hardest by the economic effects of lockdown, accounting for 60 per cent of job losses.

A Conservative vision to deliver for those who are fast becoming their biggest backers has to be ambitious in delivering — and deliver big — when it comes to the key issues that matter to people.

Vague catchphrases such as “levelling-up” and “job creation” will not be reassurance for those facing the most insecurity.

Proposals in the Queen’s Speech for making home ownership easier, better access to life-long education, improving mental health and getting children caught up on lost education are a good start.

I’m also pleased to see being tougher on the most violent criminals and strengthening the UK border against people smugglers are on the cards for legislation over the next Parliament.

We do have a Conservative government after all, and why shouldn’t we expect Conservative policies on issues of crime and immigration?

But I worry that the generic language of investing in housing and creating jobs is far too samey-samey for what should be the most ambitious policy agenda in generations.

What people want to hear is that the Government has a radical plan for helping them overcome the damage the pandemic has done.

Take housing for instance.

Yes, plans to reform planning laws and help more people own their homes are good.

But for younger people and less well-off families, home ownership is sadly a pipe dream

Fewer than one in ten people under 35 have been able to buy a home, as have less than five per cent of the poorest fifth in society.

Low-cost rented homes which look and feel nice matter most to these people in the short term.

And what’s in it for all those people who will face uncertainty when they come off furlough?

The Government’s plan to “create and support jobs” doesn’t feel very reassuring to those who, in a few months, could be jobless and on benefits.

Nor does the proposal for “social welfare reform”.

With its whopping majority in Parliament, local election success and an increasing vote of confidence from working-class communities, the Government has a real chance to deliver in a radical way for the working-class bases and the things that matter to them.

The Queen’s Speech shows the Government’s heart is in the right place.

But to win the hearts and minds of all the ordinary people who have put their faith in it to deliver, nothing short of bold, tangible solutions will do.

Queen's Speech 2021: Her Majesty delivers address setting out government's legislative agenda

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