UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Queen’s Speech 2014 – Sleepwalking into oblivion

Google searches sometimes provide the most unusual results, in this case by providing a link to the Queens Speech under “Arts and Entertainment”. This proves one of two things - either Google has a sense of humour or is a sadist, because there was nothing entertaining about this legislative programme.
  This government revels in its declaration of the green shoots of recovery, proclaiming that the economy is improving  and that everything is getting better. Meanwhile in the real world the percentage of those working but living in poverty continues to increase, as demonstrated by the increases in those in work claiming housing benefit.
Living standards for public sector employees continue to plummet. Meanwhile the tax evaders and avoiders have seen their share of national income increase (a development applauded by UKIP) while the corporate criminals operate with impunity .Amazon's UK subsidiary paid £2.4m in corporate taxes in 2012, despite sales of £4.3bn. Google paid £11.6m in the same period despite sales of £506m.

Employment is said to have increased, but includes large numbers in precarious self employment or the million workers on zero hours contracts, living from hand to mouth. These are the workers forced to use food banks or facing the “heat or eat” dilemma.

This is in one of the world’s largest economies. Public services, from health to justice to local government services are starved of investment, or privatised, given to a private sector that seeks to ensure profits for shareholders on the back of poverty wages.

So what have the Con-dem coalition planned for this session of Parliament – A PLASTIC BAG TAX! Add further “help” for small business, more tinkering with pension schemes, childcare assistance for the higher paid.  None of these measures will make a difference in the real world we live in.

There are plans that for a “Slavery Bill” but coming from a government that reacted to complaints from farmers about the "burden of administration and inspection" by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by looking at ways of reducing the impact of the authority on employers, one is entitled to doubt how effective that will be.
Then there’s the “Social action, responsibility and heroism bill” providing legal protection for people who intervene in disputes - so-called have-a-go heroes or good Samaritans - forcing courts to take it into account if they are acting for the public benefit. That will make a huge difference to our working lives –NOT.

Similarly, plans to enable constituents to recall MPs are hemmed in by the requirements that those to be kicked out need to have a criminal conviction or that MPs agree with the petition. How many of those proved to have their snouts in the trough of Parliamentary expenses would have been able to be recalled under those conditions?

This morning’s papers are calling this a zombie government, while the headlines scream of government infighting over the succession to David Cameron. Gove is in a spat with May, trying to scupper her leadership chances, as he is a supporter of the Osborne dynasty, while May tries to boost her own profile.  

The reality is that with a fixed term parliament, and a general election next May, the political class have more interest in their own long term employment prospects than they do the problems that are facing real people, our people. They could be accused of fiddling while Rome burns, but when Rome burnt it affected all classes of the city equally. With this Government, the inequality gap between the ultra rich and the rest of the country increases and they don’t even see that there is a problem.

We need change but it will not come unless we act. As a union we have to deal with the difficulties of redundancies and attacks on conditions every day, but unless we make time for political campaigning over the next year, the deluge that threatens us will overwhelm us.