An alternative Queen's speech

A progressive agenda for the coalition.

On a couple of occasions when I worked at 10 Downing Street, I had the pleasure of drafting a paragraph or two for inclusion in the Queen’s Speech. If I could draft all of Her Majesty’s speech this year, it would read something like this:

“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my government’s overriding priority is to ensure sustained economic growth and increased job creation. Measures will be brought forward to boost demand in the economy, increase investment in British businesses, tackle long-term unemployment and help raise family living standards. Consistent with these measures to boost growth and employment, my government will remain committed to eradicating the structural deficit in the public finances in the first half of the next Parliament.

My government will legislate to purchase all remaining shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland and to allow it substantially to increase its lending to UK companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. A Bill will be introduced to establish a National Investment Bank with a remit of lending for infrastructure projects. My government will temporarily cut National Insurance contributions in order to boost household incomes, paid for by the introduction of a Mansion Tax on properties valued at over £2 million.

A Bill to end long term unemployment will be introduced to guarantee work to any person who does not find employment during their time on the Work Programme. These will be newly created jobs, of at least six months in duration and paid the National Minimum Wage. The long-term unemployed will be under a duty to take up this employment or face withdrawal of their benefits. A Bill will be brought forward to create a new National Salary Insurance programme to improve income protection for working people who lose their jobs, providing anyone who had made sufficient contributions with access to up to £200 a week for up to six months while they look for a new job, repaid via an income-contingent loan, with a zero real rate of interest.

My government will legislate to devolve funding and responsibility for transport, skills and economic development to groups of local authorities or Metropolitan-area Mayors, depending on local preferences. My government will bring forward measures to increase substantially the supply of affordable housing. New Affordable Housing Grants, combining Housing Benefit and capital investment funds, will be devolved to local authorities, who will be under an obligation to ensure that more affordable homes to buy or rent are built in each area.

My government believes that improving services for the care of children and the elderly are vital to strengthening our society, increasing social mobility and sustaining full employment. A Bill will be brought forward to establish the legal framework for universal pre-school childcare, with a substantial amount free and a cap on the remaining costs for parents. As a first step, 15 hours of free childcare will be provided for all two year olds.  Draft legislation will be laid before you to focus child poverty targets on the under-fives in this Parliament and the next, and to establish greater flexibility in parental leave entitlements, reserving at least a month’s leave for fathers.

An Intergenerational Fairness Bill will restrict Winter Fuel Allowance, free TV licences and free bus passes to older people in receipt of Pension Credit, and abolish higher rate tax relief on pension contributions, to release resources to extend childcare for families with young children. Legislation will be brought forward to implement the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission on Social Care.

My government will further ease the pressure on family living standards by legislating to reform the energy market, with measures to end anti-competitive practices and protect vulnerable consumers, and to require greater transparency on the part of energy suppliers in accounting for retail and wholesale costs.

My government will continue to reform and strengthen public services. A Bill will be brought forward to establish school commissioners in England's 12 largest cities, with responsibility for raising school standards, using the school improvement powers which currently rest with the Secretary of State for Education.  A Personal Budgets Bill will be introduced to give all NHS patients with long term conditions entitlements to a personal health budget so that they have greater personal choice and control over their care. 

My government will act to strengthen democracy, regulate access to political power and ensure greater political equality. A Bill will be brought forward to introduce compulsory electoral registration so that all citizens come within the franchise, place a duty to vote on all first time voters, place caps on political donations and state funding for political parties, and enact a statutory register of interests for lobbyists. My government will proceed with plans to reform the House of Lords.

After receiving the final report of the Leveson inquiry, my government will bring forward legislation to enact its recommendations and ensure a diverse, responsible and free press.

My government remains committed to the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and will work with its partners to help overcome the current economic problems in the Eurozone. Proposals for reforming the European Union and strengthening its democratic legitimacy will be laid before you for debate. My government will maintain its commitment to securing global agreement to tackle climate change and mitigate its effects on the world’s poorest people. My government will enshrine in law its commitment to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI spend by 2013.

My government will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.”

Nick Pearce is the director of IPPR

Queen Elizabeth II prepares to deliver her speech in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Getty Images.

Nick Pearce is Professor of Public Policy & Director of the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath.

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David Osland: “Corbyn is actually Labour’s only chance”

The veteran Labour activist on the release of his new pamphlet, How to Select or Reselect Your MP, which lays out the current Labour party rules for reselecting an MP.

Veteran left-wing Labour activist David Osland, a member of the national committee of the Labour Representation Committee and a former news editor of left magazine Tribune, has written a pamphlet intended for Labour members, explaining how the process of selecting Labour MPs works.

Published by Spokesman Books next week (advance copies are available at Nottingham’s Five Leaves bookshop), the short guide, entitled “How to Select or Reselect Your MP”, is entertaining and well-written, and its introduction, which goes into reasoning for selecting a new MP and some strategy, as well as its historical appendix, make it interesting reading even for those who are not members of the Labour party. Although I am a constituency Labour party secretary (writing here in an expressly personal capacity), I am still learning the Party’s complex rulebook; I passed this new guide to a local rules-boffin member, who is an avowed Owen Smith supporter, to evaluate whether its description of procedures is accurate. “It’s actually quite a useful pamphlet,” he said, although he had a few minor quibbles.

Osland, who calls himself a “strong, but not uncritical” Corbyn supporter, carefully admonishes readers not to embark on a campaign of mass deselections, but to get involved and active in their local branches, and to think carefully about Labour’s election fortunes; safe seats might be better candidates for a reselection campaign than Labour marginals. After a weak performance by Owen Smith in last night’s Glasgow debate and a call for Jeremy Corbyn to toughen up against opponents by ex Norwich MP Ian Gibson, an old ally, this pamphlet – named after a 1981 work by ex-Tribune editor Chris Mullin, who would later go on to be a junior minister under Blai – seems incredibly timely.

I spoke to Osland on the telephone yesterday.

Why did you decide to put this pamphlet together now?

I think it’s certainly an idea that’s circulating in the Labour left, after the experience with Corbyn as leader, and the reaction of the right. It’s a debate that people have hinted at; people like Rhea Wolfson have said that we need to be having a conversation about it, and I’d like to kickstart that conversation here.

For me personally it’s been a lifelong fascination – I was politically formed in the early Eighties, when mandatory reselection was Bennite orthodoxy and I’ve never personally altered my belief in that. I accept that the situation has changed, so what the Labour left is calling for at the moment, so I see this as a sensible contribution to the debate.

I wonder why selection and reselection are such an important focus? One could ask, isn’t it better to meet with sitting MPs and see if one can persuade them?

I’m not calling for the “deselect this person, deselect that person” rhetoric that you sometimes see on Twitter; you shouldn’t deselect an MP purely because they disagree with Corbyn, in a fair-minded way, but it’s fair to ask what are guys who are found to be be beating their wives or crossing picket lines doing sitting as our MPs? Where Labour MPs publicly have threatened to leave the party, as some have been doing, perhaps they don’t value their Labour involvement.

So to you it’s very much not a broad tool, but a tool to be used a specific way, such as when an MP has engaged in misconduct?

I think you do have to take it case by case. It would be silly to deselect the lot, as some people argue.

In terms of bringing the party to the left, or reforming party democracy, what role do you think reselection plays?

It’s a basic matter of accountability, isn’t it? People are standing as Labour candidates – they should have the confidence and backing of their constituency parties.

Do you think what it means to be a Labour member has changed since Corbyn?

Of course the Labour party has changed in the past year, as anyone who was around in the Blair, Brown, Miliband era will tell you. It’s a completely transformed party.

Will there be a strong reaction to the release of this pamphlet from Corbyn’s opponents?

Because the main aim is to set out the rules as they stand, I don’t see how there can be – if you want to use the rules, this is how to go about it. I explicitly spelled out that it’s a level playing field – if your Corbyn supporting MP doesn’t meet the expectations of the constituency party, then she or he is just as subject to a challenge.

What do you think of the new spate of suspensions and exclusions of some people who have just joined the party, and of other people, including Ronnie Draper, the General Secretary of the Bakers’ Union, who have been around for many years?

It’s clear that the Labour party machinery is playing hardball in this election, right from the start, with the freeze date and in the way they set up the registered supporters scheme, with the £25 buy in – they’re doing everything they can to influence this election unfairly. Whether they will succeed is an open question – they will if they can get away with it.

I’ve been seeing comments on social media from people who seem quite disheartened on the Corbyn side, who feel that there’s a chance that Smith might win through a war of attrition.

Looks like a Corbyn win to me, but the gerrymandering is so extensive that a Smith win isn’t ruled out.

You’ve been in the party for quite a few years, do you think there are echoes of past events, like the push for Bennite candidates and the takeover from Foot by Kinnock?

I was around last time – it was dirty and nasty at times. Despite the narrative being put out by the Labour right that it was all about Militant bully boys and intimidation by the left, my experience as a young Bennite in Tower Hamlets Labour Party, a very old traditional right wing Labour party, the intimidation was going the other way. It was an ugly time – physical threats, people shaping up to each other at meetings. It was nasty. Its nasty in a different way now, in a social media way. Can you compare the two? Some foul things happened in that time – perhaps worse in terms of physical intimidation – but you didn’t have the social media.

There are people who say the Labour Party is poised for a split – here in Plymouth (where we don’t have a Labour MP), I’m seeing comments from both sides that emphasise that after this leadership election we need to unite to fight the Tories. What do you think will happen?

I really hope a split can be avoided, but we’re a long way down the road towards a split. The sheer extent of the bad blood – the fact that the right have been openly talking about it – a number of newspaper articles about them lining up backing from wealthy donors, operating separately as a parliamentary group, then they pretend that butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, and that they’re not talking about a split. Of course they are. Can we stop the kamikazes from doing what they’re plotting to do? I don’t know, I hope so.

How would we stop them?

We can’t, can we? If they have the financial backing, if they lose this leadership contest, there’s no doubt that some will try. I’m old enough to remember the launch of the SDP, let’s not rule it out happening again.

We’ve talked mostly about the membership. But is Corbynism a strategy to win elections?

With the new electoral registration rules already introduced, the coming boundary changes, and the loss of Scotland thanks to decades of New Labour neglect, it will be uphill struggle for Labour to win in 2020 or whenever the next election is, under any leadership.

I still think Corbyn is Labour’s best chance. Any form of continuity leadership from the past would see the Midlands and north fall to Ukip in the same way Scotland fell to the SNP. Corbyn is actually Labour’s only chance.

Margaret Corvid is a writer, activist and professional dominatrix living in the south west.