‘Labour a government in waiting’ – Corbyn responds to Queen’s Speech

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Marchers on behalf of Grenfell Tower fire victims setting off to Parliament from Shepherd’s Bush Green yesterday
Marchers on behalf of Grenfell Tower fire victims setting off to Parliament from Shepherd’s Bush Green yesterday

‘MY GOVERNMENT’S priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union,’ the Queen said yesterday, outlining the Tory party’s proposed programme.

The main pillars of the Tory party election manifesto which lost them the general election were not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. The Queen’s Speech is debated for a week and put to the vote next week.

If it falls, so does the Tory government, with Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell stating yesterday morning that they are prepared and capable of forming a minority Labour government. Signalling further austerity cuts, the Queen continued: ‘My government will continue to improve the public finances, while keeping taxes low.’

On the Grenfell Tower disaster she said: ‘My government will initiate a full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.

‘To support victims, my government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.’

Outlining the Tories’ military strategy and the beefing up of the state, the Queen said: ‘My ministers will continue to invest in our gallant Armed Forces, meeting the NATO commitment to spend at least two per cent of national income on defence, and delivering on the Armed Forces Covenant across the United Kingdom.

‘My government will bring forward proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security. A commission for countering extremism will be established to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread.

‘In the light of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, my government’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to ensure that the police and security services have all the powers they need, and that the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are sufficient to keep the population safe.

‘… My government will work to find sustainable political solutions to conflicts across the Middle East. It will work to tackle the threat of terrorism at source by continuing the United Kingdom’s leading role in international military action to destroy Daesh in Iraq and Syria.’

The removal of free school meals for school children, the ending of the triple lock on pensions, forcing pensioners to sell their homes to pay for their care after they have died and the introduction of new grammar schools were all excluded from the speech. The Queen’s Speech was then later in the afternoon debated in Parliament.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘This is a government without a majority, without a mandate, without a serious legislative programme lead by a Prime Minister who has lost her political authority and is struggling even today to stitch together a deal to stay in office.

‘We will use every opportunity to vote down government policies that have failed to win public support. We will use every opportunity to win support for our programme. Labour is not merely an opposition, we are a government in waiting.’

Underlining the Tories’ plan to strengthen the powers of the state, Theresa May then addressed the House of Parliament: ‘Control Orders were increasingly being knocked down in the court. We introduced the Terrorism and Prevention Investigation measures; we have subsequently enhanced those measures.

‘We have also ensured through the Investigatory Powers Act, which we introduced when I was Home Secretary that our police and our intelligence agencies have the powers they need. What we have seen now is an increase in the scale and tempo of terrorist attacks and it is in that context that we need to look at new powers for the future.’

John McDonnell, speaking earlier, said: ‘No party won the general election and I am really disappointed that the Labour Party did not get a majority, of course I am. They are interesting times at the moment because here we have a government who never secured a majority. In addition to that, under our constitutional conventions, you go to the electorate with a manifesto, you fight an election on that; if you win the election, you then implement the manifesto.

‘What has happened here is that they have actually torn up their own manifesto, so we have now got a situation where we have a government that is formed without a majority, without a manifesto and doing deals behind the scenes which none of us have been privy to. They are trying to manage the power they have, even though they do not have the majority they thought they may have.

‘What is politics is that the opposition is then saying: One: we will put forward our own views and our own policies and seek majority support within parliament itself. And yes, we will put ourselves as an alternative government. Yes, a minority government just as the Conservatives are doing at the moment.

‘But we feel that our policies are based upon a manifesto on which we stood, which people voted for. We have a government now that has not got a majority and has ripped up the manifesto it stood on, I do not think that that is democratically legitimate.’