“There were 38 bills in the Queen’s Speech, but nothing at all to address the growing and brutal cost of living crisis and that’s absolutely staggering [when] we’ve got millions of people skipping meals every day.”Rebecca Long-Bailey MP.
By Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook
In an exclusive interview with Labour Outlook on the Queen’s Speech, Rebecca Long Bailey MP has slammed Tory inaction on the cost-of-living crisis and indifference to growing poverty and inequality.
You can watch the interview in full below:
Long-Bailey noted that “there were 38 bills in the Queen’s Speech, but nothing at all to address the growing and brutal cost of living crisis and that’s absolutely staggering [when] we’ve got millions of people skipping meals every day… and there’s a catastrophe coming down the track like a speeding train.”
She explained that we needed to understand the scale of the crisis to come, where “many people might be at risk of losing their homes or be taking on crippling amounts of debt to make ends meet, and their physical and mental health will suffer.”
But the Government’s priorities are very different to protecting peoples’ health, jobs and livelihoods, instead the Queen Speech ‘s main priority being “a raft of bills that will potentially undermine democracy, workers rights, safety and environmental standards,” including “the British Bill of Rights which is understood to be a backdoor vehicle to undermining in the Human Rights Act.”
It is not enough just to oppose and expose the Tory agenda, the Left and labour movement also needs to be putting forward alternatives, and as the architect of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution policies and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, Rebecca Long Bailey was well placed to outline some of the socialist solutions to the crises urgently needed at this time.
These must include “an emergency budget; [which] at the very very least… increases Universal Credit and legacy benefits and pensions in-line with inflation,” increases the minimum wage, delivers a real-terms public sector pay increase and funds such measures immediately through “a Windfall Tax on fossil fuel companies.”
She argued that our movement needs to be putting forward bold and radical policies, not least in terms of “fundamentally reforming our energy system.” Highlighting public ownership as “the only real solution… because if we had publicly owned energy companies we would have been able to use the good times to create a contingency bond – a buffer if you like – to help people when there were these international price fluctuations. We’d have also had the capacity and the power to roll out a real Green Industrial Revolution.”
Asked about the Tories’ supposed “levelling up” agenda, she commented that due to Tory policies over more than 10 years, “many of our regions and nations that have felt left behind for so many years haven’t received the investment that they deserve and all they were offered really was a bit of a lottery to try and access the so-called ‘levelling up fund’ – where the government have the ability to pick winners.”
Long-Bailey argued that the Labour movement should instead be proposing “an industrial strategy… focusing government and private investment into areas that need it, to create jobs and better living standards for everybody.”
A “real levelling up agenda”, would mean both that “we’ve got to see the short-term support measures put in place to help people through the crippling cost-of-living crisis, but beyond that [also] looking at the causes of the crisis,” including “that over 40 years of privatisation has meant that many of our energy companies have been prioritising dividend extraction over investment in critical infrastructure.”
As the multiple crises facing the country worsen, more and more people have taken to the streets in resisting different elements of the Tories’ reactionary agenda and another central tenet of the Queen’s Speech was a further wave of restrictions on our right to protest. The Left needs to rise to the challenge of mounting massive resistance to these attacks.
In the words of Long Bailey this means that “we need to come together as a movement because what’s coming down the track is very, very worrying,” with people who are “going to be very angry “ having their ability to protest severely limited.
Furthermore, this planned legislation adds to “the measures that the government tried to put through in the last Parliament where what’s called a serious annoyance – or causing a serious annoyance – at a protest could give you be 10 years in prison.”
Such measures were “absolutely staggering… but what’s coming down the tracks is even more Orwellian… and of course you’ve got the Brexit Freedoms Bill [that] many people will fear is going to be a bumper selection box of back door attempts to cut regulation and water down workers’ rights, so that our ability to organise is restricted even more.”
Reading between the lines, it is clear this so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill means the Tories are “going to water-down workers’ rights, environmental standards, health and safety” and more.
In terms of a way forward for our movement, Rebecca Long Bailey is clear that we mustn’t abandon the transformative agenda of recent General Election manifestos and that we need to “keep the conversation going on the economic origins of this cost-of-living crisis because it hasn’t happened by accident and we actually have the policy ideas within our movement to address this crisis, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
To conclude, this means “we’ve got to be bold” and offer those long-term, socialist solutions.
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- Read Labour Outlook‘s round-up of the Left’s response to the Queen’s Speech here.
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