Queen’s Speech: What her Majesty didn't say spoke volumes

Queen Elizabeth II delivers a speech from the throne in House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster

Queen Elizabeth II delivers the speech on May 11 - Credit: PA Images

So aside some pomp and circumstance in a pared-down ceremony what was missing from the Queen’s Speech on  May 11?

With 26 new bills and four carried over from the last parliamentary session, the Johnson government has tabled the heaviest legislative agenda since 2015.

In that agenda are some clear messages about the Conservatives’ post-pandemic vision: strengthened police powers and tighter restrictions on protest, while exercising the right to vote becomes more challenging; Britain will be an even more hostile environment for asylum seekers; property developers shall have a freer hand; the track towards NHS privatisation accelerates, and the government will splash cash on big ticket infrastructure projects.

One key absence from the Queen’s Speech was anything more than nine words about the future of social care. After the pandemic had exacted a horrific toll in care homes, the speech simply pledged to “bring forward proposals for social care reform in 2021” nearly two years after Boris Johnson’s pledge on Downing Street to fix the sector’s crisis “once and for all”.

George Binette, Hackney North & Stoke Newington Clp Trade Union Liaison Officer

George Binette says that a threat to the NHS comes in the form of the Health and Care Bill - Credit: George Binette

The other glaring omission was any mention of legislation to establish a new framework for employment rights post-Brexit. Last autumn the prime minister branded employers’ fire and rehire tactics as “bully-boy practice”, yet there will be no attempt to bar its increasingly common use in imposing worse pay and conditions on thousands of workers from British Gas through to GO North West buses in Greater Manchester and staff at tech start-up Goodlord in Tower Hamlets.

Combined with real terms pay cuts for much of the public sector, including the NHS workforce, what the speech didn’t say spoke volumes: the prime minister’s talk of “levelling up” and “building back better” is so much hollow rhetoric.

Unfortunately, Labour’s belated, inadequate critique of the government’s disastrous pandemic response and failure to advance clear-cut alternative policies have gifted the Tories a vaccine bounce, making those examples of workers standing up for themselves, whether NEU members at Leaways special school or union organising efforts at the ever-expanding Amazon even more important.

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