Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Queen's Speech

Nye Bevan's quote that 'the language of priorities is the religion of socialism' sums up the central challenge for any Labour government, how to ensure that amongst all the competing challenges and demands we keep our focus on the changes that will make the most difference and meet the aspirations of our supporters.

As an experiment, I decided to do a comparison between the priorities which the government set out in the Queen's Speech for legislation over the next year, and the priorities which people on low incomes identified through the 'Get Heard' project, which was meant to inform government policies on social inclusion. You can read the Queen's Speech here, and the summary of Get Heard, 40-odd pages of policy suggestions on a wide range of different issues made by people living in poverty, here.

Here are the measures in the Queen's Speech which are also found in Get Heard :

...

reform of the criminal justice system, giving the police and probation services new powers to protect the public from violent offenders and anti-social behaviour.

...

reform the welfare system to reduce poverty. [though presumably that this means the welfare reform bill, which most certainly isn't driven or informed by suggestions from people living in poverty]

improve the system of child support.

...

...

reform the further education system so that it can better equip people with the skills that they and the economy need.

...

And that's it.

Not every bill in a legislative programme is going to be concerned with social inclusion and reducing poverty and inequality, but a lot of what is in the Queen's Speech seems at best to be curious things to prioritise (regulation of estate agents?)

It's not that there is a shortage of things that need doing, or ideas for popular reforms. There just seems to be a gap between what the government has decided are its priorities and what its supporters care most about, and it's sad to see the opportunities which we have while there is a Labour government being wasted in this way.

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