David Cameron launches the Conservative Party's European and local election campaign last month. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron's zombie government is out of ideas and out of steam

The government has grown in size but has seriously diminished in purpose.

The Queen's Speech on Wednesday is David Cameron's last chance to live up to his own PR hype. Instead of breaking his promises and letting people down, he has to try and show that he has the ideas and values to tackle the major long-term challenges we must face in our economy, society and politics. He has to explain how we can earn and grow our way to a prosperity that can be shared by all rather than just a few at the top. Judging by his record since 2010, I'm not holding my breath. He doesn't have the answers because he doesn't have the right values. He just doesn't get it.

I've knocked on countless doors over the last few weeks, and people's alienation from politics has never been more pronounced. People don't understand why David Cameron is on their TV saying the economy is improving when they are still struggling to make ends meet. They don't understand why George Osborne crows about unemployment statistics when their zero-hours contract won't guarantee them a basic income, give them any security, or allow them to plan their life. And they don't understand why if we are all in this together, millionaires have been given a tax cut while the rest of us pay more.

If politics has one job, it is to answer the concerns of the nation. People are clear that David Cameron's government has not done so.

Recent months have shown that this is a government that has run out of steam and run out of ideas. Ministers should be bringing forward legislation to make work pay, to reform markets so they serve consumers and to increase the supply of affordable housing - but instead a lack of ideas and action has left Parliament twiddling its thumbs.

This government is now spending less Parliamentary time on legislation than at any point during the last Labour government. In the Parliamentary session 2012-13, just a third of time in the House of Commons Chamber was spent debating government legislation. The last session of Parliament had the fewest number of government Bills compared to any other year since 1950 -  fewer than even John Major's disastrous administration. The government is bulking out this years' Queen's Speech with a record number of "carry over" bills (bills they've already published). And MPs have been given the equivalent of an extra month off each year since 2010 because the government can't come up with anything for them to debate - and because it would rather rebellious Tory MPs were not in London plotting.

David Cameron claimed he would "cut the cost of politics" but this is the biggest government since reliable records began, with 121 Ministers, 95 Special Advisers and 160 new peers since 2010. This makes the House of Lords the largest legislative assembly outside of the Chinese National People's Congress in Beijing.

The government has grown in size but has seriously diminished in purpose. I've taken to calling this a zombie parliament because I've really not seen anything like it in my 22 years in the House. We have day after day with no legislation to discuss, and a government that seems completely unprepared to take the big decisions our country needs.

If this were Labour's Queen's Speech, we know exactly what we'd do. We'd tackle unfairness in the rental market by creating new long-term predictable tenancies. We'd tackle unfairness in the energy market by freezing gas and electricity prices until 2017. We'd tackle tax unfairness by cutting tax for working people. We'd stop jobs being undercut by foreign workers by enforcing the national minimum wage. We'd give unemployed young people a job guarantee. We'd help working parents with 25 hours free childcare. We’d guarantee an appointment with a GP within 48 hours. We’d back small business by cutting business rates and reforming the banks. We wouldn't just ignore this crisis in our living standards, a Labour government would tackle it head on.

In 11 months time, the country will face a clear choice. A choice between an ineffective, out-of-ideas government that wants to just leave people to sink or swim and a Labour government that believes our economy and our politics should work for everyone and not just a few at the top.

Angela Eagle is shadow leader of the House of Commons

Angela Eagle is the Member of Parliament for Wallasey.

Photo: Getty
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In the row over public sector pay, don't forget that Theresa May is no longer in charge

Downing Street's view on public sector pay is just that – Conservative MPs pull the strings now.

One important detail of Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party went unnoticed – that it was not May, but the Conservatives’ Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, who signed the accord, alongside his opposite number, the DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

That highlighted two things: firstly that the Conservative Party is already planning for life after May. The deal runs for two years and is bound to the party, not the leadership of Theresa May. The second is that while May is the Prime Minister, it is the Conservative Party that runs the show.

That’s an important thing to remember about today’s confusion about whether or not the government will end the freeze in public sector pay, where raises have been capped at one per cent since 2012 and have effectively been frozen in real terms since the financial crisis.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, signalled that the government could end the freeze, as did Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary. (For what it’s worth, Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May’s chief of staff, said before he took up the post that he thought anger at the freeze contributed to the election result.)

In terms of the government’s deficit target, it’s worth remembering that they can very easily meet Philip Hammond’s timetable and increase public sector pay in line with inflation. They have around £30bn worth of extra wriggle room in this year alone, and ending the pay cap would cost about £4.1bn.

So the Conservatives don’t even have to U-turn on their overall target if they want to scrap the pay freeze.

And yet Downing Street has said that the freeze remains in place for the present, while the Treasury is also unenthusiastic about the move. Which in the world before 8 June would have been the end of it.

But the important thing to remember about the government now is effectively the only minister who isn’t unsackable is the Prime Minister. What matters is the mood, firstly of the Cabinet and of the Conservative parliamentary party.

Among Conservative MPs, there are three big areas that, regardless of who is in charge, will have to change. The first is that they will never go into an election again in which teachers and parents are angry and worried about cuts to school funding – in other words, more money for schools. The second is that the relationship with doctors needs to be repaired and reset – in other words, more money for hospitals.

The government can just about do all of those things within Hammond’s more expansive target. And regardless of what Hammond stood up and said last year, what matters a lot more than any Downing Street statement or Treasury feeling is the mood of Conservative MPs. It is they, not May, that pulls the strings now.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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