The Local Elections results across the UK sent the Conservatives a clear message about the cost-of-living crisis – yet the Queen’s Speech offers struggling households nothing.
The 05 May local elections saw the Conservatives lose almost 500 council seats across Britain as the public delivered its verdict on the Conservative government’s performance in Westminster. Voters expressed their dismay at the Chancellor’s refusal to either get a grip on rising inflation or to offer families support through the cost-of-living crisis. The Welsh people recognise the uncomfortable fact that Rishi Sunak is presiding over a low-growth, high tax economy.
This week’s State Opening of Parliament provided the Conservatives with an opportunity for a reset – to bring forward legislation to tackle rising household bills, to grow our economy, to cut rising crime in our communities, and to reduce our reliance on hostile foreign states.
Yet Boris Johnson’s Queen’s Speech offered none of this. It fell utterly and spectacularly flat.
Despite the opening sentence of the speech containing a government promise to ‘help to ease the cost of living for families’ there was nothing of the sort to be seen. With household energy bills rising by £700 per year and inflation outstripping wages, we needed a Queen’s Speech that tackles the crisis we face head on. Instead, the Conservatives are pushing ahead by raising taxes on working people.
Labour would scrap the national insurance rise, and we also have a clear plan to put money back in people’s pockets. We would reduce energy bills by as much as £600, expand the Warm Homes Discount, and support those businesses that are hardest hit. This would be paid for by a windfall tax on the spiralling record profits of oil and gas giants who, by the admission of BP bosses themselves, “have more money than we know what to do with” and are effectively “a cash machine”.
Labour would also plan for the long-term. There is too little in the UK overnment’s new agenda which actually gets to the core issues that underpin the cost-of-living crisis – low growth and alack of resilience in the economy after 12 years of Tory neglect.
A wasted decade has left our economy weakened and unable to deal with shocks. The Tories have become the party of high taxes and low pay, because they are the party of low growth.
Rather than focus on how government can partner with business to grow the economy across the UK, the bills put forward point towards the type of deregulation under Margaret Thatcher which has led us to the deeply unequal economy we have now, whereby wealth is concentrated primarily in London and South East England. So much for ‘levelling up’ Britain. Indeed, the Levelling Up Bill itself is so weak that fails to paper over the canyon sized cracks that have been caused by low growth and inflation. It has become clear that the promise to bring prosperity to all parts of the UK no longer appears to be the centre-piece of the Tory agenda.
Labour has a plan to build a better post-Covid economy, to drive growth and truly get our economy firing on all cylinders, with a commitment to buy, make and sell more in Britain and a promise to fund 100,000 new start-up businesses. A modern manufacturing renaissance – which new tech, green industry and twenty-first century steelmaking at its heart – would not only drive growth and level-up Britain but deliver the good, meaningful, well-paid unionised jobs which you can build a family on. Contrast this approach to work and good jobs with the Conservative’s axing of the long-promised Employment Bill, which was expected to outlaw the type of dreadful business practice which saw 800 P&O Ferry workers sacked and replaced by foreign workers paid less than the minimum wage. Labour would outlaw this immediately.
My constituents in Aberavon know better than most that steel, manufacturing and our critical national infrastructure form the basis for our economic resilience and national security. We are now seeing the results of a decade of Tory neglect to our energy market, and the consequence has been an over-reliance on Russia gas and Chinese state ownership of Hinckley Point nuclear power station.
This is another reason why Labour’s make, buy and sell more in Britain policy is so critical. We need to build a more resilient Britain that can stand more firmly on our own two feet. This should start with a commitment to more onshore wind generation – again, a missing part in the Queen’s Speech jigsaw.
But perhaps the most striking area of Conservative neglect has been on law and order. The Conservatives cut 21,000 neighbourhood police officers over a decade and our communities have paid the price. Since 2019 alone crime is up 18% but prosecutions are down 18%. The number of arrests has dropped by 35,000. Anti-social behaviour is rife and fraud is soaring. Under the Tories, criminals have never had it so good.
The government’s ‘Victim’s Bill’ has now been promised in four Queen’s Speeches and three manifestos yet is still only in draft form, while the new Public Order Bill seeks not to target dangerous criminals, but to criminalise protesters.
Labour is demanding action now, with a visible police hub in every community and new neighbourhood prevention teams to support victims. We would also increase the use of community payback schemes to make sure offenders pay back the communities they have harmed.
From tackling the cost of living, to reducing crime, to growing the economy, the people of Wales deserve better than this incompetent and indifferent Conservative administration.