Wednesday 15 November 2006

My Alternative Queen's Speech

Below is an article I've written for the Guardian's Comment Is Free website on today's Queen's Speech. You can also see the article I wrote for the Guardian yesterday here. If you want to download the full alternative Queen's Speech I am proposing, you can download it in PDF format here.

The whole point about the new politics I am trying to engender in my campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party is to encourage politicians to be straight about their aims and political judgements. This is not the same as political balance or objectivity. I have a political philosophy by which I judge political events. It's called socialism, which at its core is about achieving equality, justice and peace through democracy.

How do the proposals in the Government's Queen's speech stack up against these criteria?

Will our society become more equal? I'm pleased that pensioners will be able to travel free on buses across local authority boundaries and that measures are being taken to improve child maintenance but these welcome additional benefits pale into insignificance with the announcement this morning that city financiers have awarded themselves up to £5.5m each in bonuses this year.

Will our society become more just as a result of the Government's Criminal Justice bill proposals to increase sentences and extend ASBOs and its plans to privatise the probation service and our prisons? This model of criminal justice has failed to work in America so there must be serious doubts about its efficacy here. The private companies which run some of our prisons already make their profits out of cutting the wages and conditions of staff, undermining the professional approach needed if prison is to rehabilitate. The laws aimed at restricting trial by jury and using legal powers against those suffering mental illness need careful consideration if our basic civil liberties are to be protected.

Will our society be better protected against terrorism and part of a more peaceful world as a result of the proposals in the Queen's speech? Tightening up border and immigration controls go nowhere in addressing the underlying causes of terrorism in our society and in our world. There is a widespread consensus that the government's policies of pursuing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East have led to an increased threat of terrorism and increasing division between communities. We have got to deal with Iraq sooner rather than later and recognise that the presence of occupying forces is part of the problem not the solution. Instead of remaining isolated with Bush and the neo-cons, all our powers of diplomacy should be directed towards fully involving the international community in helping resolve Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world's conflicts. Unless the injustice of the Palestinians is effectively dealt with the terrorist threat will continue.

Overall this Queen's speech provides even more evidence of the gap between the government and the real world.