This week the Queen was summoned to Parliament to read out Boris Johnson’s Government’s agenda.
But this was a highly unusual Queen’s speech, because the Prime Minister, now 45 MP’s short of a majority, is unlikely to get his wish-list through Parliament.
A Queen’s speech should set out the legislative process for the year ahead, but the Prime Minister can’t even say what will happen next week. And the General Election he is calling for will end the new Parliament barely before its begun.
This was little more than a party-political broadcast for a Conservative Government in panic mode, and who better to deliver it than our 93-year-old, politically neutral monarch? I’m sure she was less than thrilled.
With just days to the third Brexit deadline, the Prime Minister wasted precious time on pointless pageantry. It was another ploy to distract us from the chaos and confusion of his weak and dishonest administration.
Closer examination of the Government’s agenda gives little comfort. With no less than eight bills dedicated to law and order, the message rang out loud and clear.
Boris wants the electorate to think he will be tough on crime. But longer sentences for prisoners won’t solve the problem. There was no strategy for rehabilitation, no recognition that it is years of cuts to our public services that have caused our prison population to balloon.
Nothing for youth services or public health and no realistic settlement for local government on the horizon. A few warm words about improving mental health provision but nothing concrete and we have been waiting years for the in patient mental health beds to be reinstated.
And while it is welcome news that Bedfordshire police is getting 54 additional officers, 440 are needed, so we’re very short of where we need to be. Bedfordshire has lost 8% of its police officers over 10 years of austerity, while violent crime levels have soared.
The Prime Minister talks about more funding for the NHS, but we now know only a handful of hospitals will benefit. Bedford has been offered nothing as a result of the merger and severe staff shortages are crippling our NHS.
Since 2010 there are more workers in poverty, more children in poverty, more pensioners in poverty. There are more families without a home of their own and more people sleeping rough on our streets. Wages are still lower than a decade ago, a million work in the insecure gig economy and foodbanks have become the norm.
Even the things that were promised in the speech are dependent upon the delivery of a form of Brexit that doesn’t cripple the nation – and right now Boris can’t tell us how much poorer we’ll be under his plans.
He’s also recklessly bluffing that he’ll take us out of the EU without a deal. I think the public should get a chance to have a final say on whether his ‘dodgy deal or no deal’ approach works for them, and I’ll be voting to make that happen.