Socialist Worker

Queen’s speech is a preview of a repressive Tory election manifesto

Issue No. 2676

Belmarsh prison in south east London

Belmarsh prison in south east London - the Tories want harsher sentences for prisoners (Pic: Anders Sandberg/Flickr)

The queen’s speech on Monday won’t lead to many, if any, new laws.

Johnson lost his working majority last month when 21 MPs were booted out of the Tory party for supporting parliamentary efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The queen’s speech could even be voted down for the first time in 95 years. But it gave a preview of what the Tory manifesto for a general election will look like.

At its centre were repressive “law and order” measures designed to direct anger away from the Tories and towards an “enemy within”.

The Tories want harsher sentences for many crimes and the removal of the possibility of release on licence halfway through a sentence for some prisoners.

Community sentences would be made harsher and there would be more extradition powers to replace the European Arrest Warrant. Maximum sentences for foreign nationals who breach a deportation order would be “drastically increased”.

Frances Crook, chief executive from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the sentencing changes were “the politics of the lynch mob”.


“We already know that prisoners are in appalling conditions, with a lot of violence, injury and suicides,” she said.Crook later tweeted, “Desperate and weak governments always try to curry favour by stirring up hate, increasing punishment is a race to the bottom of politics.”

The queen’s speech featured calls for further attacks on migrants, with a points-based system that will seek to limit poorer people coming to Britain.

None of this will reduce crime, which is fuelled by austerity policies and alienation from society. But it is further evidence that Johnson wants an election dominated by reactionary arguments.

Realising that rail privatisation is a powerful target for Labour, the Tories said they want to reform the present franchising system.

But they aren’t taking back rail from the privatisers.

RMT union general secretary Mick Cash said, “Train companies will always suck the life blood out of the system in profits and dividends.”

Voter ID plan hits vulnerable

The queen’s speech said “the union is of the utmost importance to the government”.

But 50 percent of people in Scotland want independence, according to a recent poll.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said last weekend that she will request a new independence referendum before the end of the year.

But both the Tories and Labour have said they are against such a move.

The government claimed in the queen’s speech that there will be measures to improve air and water quality.

They are under pressure over environmental issues.

But they will do nothing meaningful to interfere with firms’ profit-making.

There is one measure that Boris Johnson would like to rush through before an election—making it harder for people to vote.

The queen’s speech said there would be measures to “protect the integrity of democracy”.

This could mean compulsory photo ID—such as passports or driving licences—for voters.

It would hit groups such as migrants, homeless people, young and older voters hardest.

A trial voter ID scheme at ten authorities in the English local elections in May saw 2,803 people turned away.

Tory cuts hit school uniform support

Support for families to help with the cost of school uniforms has fallen by more than 70 percent across England since 2010.

More than 80 percent of local councils now offer no assistance, blaming years of cuts.

Data collected through the Freedom of Information Act showed that the “school uniform grant” has been dramatically scaled back.

The Department for Education still advertises the grant, but councils have to fund it. Just 27 out of 149 councils surveyed provide the grant.

A third of those only do so in cases such as fires, floods or “extreme poverty”.

Only three councils offer a grant to poorer children in all school years and situations.

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