Last week saw the State Opening of Parliament, culminating in the Queen’s Speech. Twelve months into the first majority Conservative Government for 18 years, this was the chance for the Tory Party to set out not only their legislative programme for the next year but their vision for what Britain is and what it will become over coming decades.
As an active member of the Labour Party you might imagine I had fairly low expectations, but it was the Conservative former cabinet minister Michael Portillo who summed up the Queen’s Speech by concluding: “The Government has nothing to do, nothing to say, and thinks nothing.”
This was the programme of a Government lacking all trace of substance or ambition, the programme of a Prime Minister distracted by the EU Referendum and a Cabinet split not only on Europe but the Conservative Leadership Election it represents in all but name.
The UK is in the midst of a housing crisis, our school system is now ranked below that of Vietnam as the Government wastes time on their ideological experiments instead of children’s education and under investment in the NHS is letting it go from crisis to crisis. Yet while these are the issues affecting the lives of everyday British citizens, the Government’s attention is focused elsewhere.
Instead of even trying to solve the very real problems facing residents in towns like Crawley, the Government has a programme focused on niche issues like rural broadband and the rules around driverless cars. All very flash, but where was the real content, where was the substance which would make a difference to our everyday lives.
For those of us on the ground, trying to make a difference at the council level, this was a missed opportunity. Local government is constantly held back by a lack of funding, but it’s not just about money, it is also the lack of powers and degree of interference from central government which frustrates our ability to meet the demands of local residents. To see such an opportunity as the Queen’s Speech squandered in this way is beyond disappointing.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council