A group of Conservative MP’s have put forward a series of hard right bills before the House of Commons – terming it the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’. There are 40 separate proposals including banning the burqa, privatising the BBC and turning the late August Bank Holiday into Margaret Thatcher Day. What does this say about the future of UK politics?
The Gang of Four
The bills have been put together by Conservative MPs Peter Bone (pictured above), David Nuttall, Christopher Chope and Phillip Hollobone. One has to at least admire the determination of this cabal of grey men in grey suits who held a four night sit in at the House of Public Bills Office to use an obscure parliamentary procedure to present their bills before the House last night. The four MPs apparently agreed a rota for toilet and sustenance trips in order to keep their place at the head of the queue and put their barmy bill before parliament.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone, who slept on a camp bed in the office for four nights in order to keep their place at the head of the queue said: “It was four nights in a rather hot, square stuffy room right under Big Ben – so not conducive to a good night’s sleep. But it ensured that we were first in the queue when the slots for Private Members’ Bills were given out.”
The MPs claim that their plans are popular among Conservative MPs, represent the will of the public and could form the bulk of the 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto. Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough and one of the architects of the document, said: “This is serious attempt to deliver policies that the British public really want. There are ideas here that could form the basis of a future Conservative manifesto.”
The bills may be music to the ears of right wingers Melanie Phillips and Jeremy Clarkson
The bills themselves sadly illicit no admiration at all. They are a bigot bomb of populist and nonsensical proposals, more suited to a scene from Spitting Image than modern day politics. The policies include:
- Ban the burqa (1)
- Bring back national service (2)
- Leave the EU (3)
- Make parents legally responsible for crimes committed by their children (4)
- Reintroduce the death penalty (10)
- Decriminalise the non-payment of the licence fee (16)
- Rename the August bank holiday as Margaret Thatcher Day (18)
- Hold a referendum on equal marriage (23)
- Privatise the BBC (27)
- Abolish the office of Deputy Prime Minister (also known as “kill Nick Clegg”) (28)
- Leave the EU – again (they’re not taking any chances) (30)
- Ban sexual harassment claims unless the alleged offence is illegal and has been reported to the police (34)
The full list of bills can be viewed here.
The bills amount to a full swing to the knee jerk right by the Conservative back bench. The policies seek to abolish laws on racial and gender equality, to weaken laws governing sexual harassment in the workplace, to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to deport immigrants and asylum seekers and withdraw any rights to welfare, to bring back the death penalty and withdraw from the European Union. They amount to nothing more than an attempt to reset the balance of power. They articulate rich, straight, white male fury at needing to think before they speak, keep their hands to themselves, to share their workplace with women who are not simply there to pour their tea and massage their ego, and share a country with people who do not look or sound like them. It is an inward looking, selfish, cruel set of bills which seek to throw Britain back to the 1950’s – a place where you would not want to be if you were anything but a straight, white, man. No surprise then that the MPs who conceived and back these policies are just such men.
A Bit of Contrast in Monochrome Politics
As appalling and ridiculous as these policies may be, it cannot go unnoticed that at least these plucky little bigots got it together to mount a decent rebellion – however misguided. For those of a different hue who have seen the Labour Party entirely co-opted by neoliberal zealots, this kind of revolt is the stuff of dreams.
The Labour Party left has manifestly failed to seize back its party from the clutches of Blue Labour – and as a result, the electorate have been left with absolutely no choice in the mainstream political system. No choice on austerity, no choice on foreign military intervention, no choice on Europe, no choice on the Bank Bailout, no choice on civil liberties.
The only difference between the parties is the willingness to use taxpayer money to subsidise the failures of Capitalism. Labour will spend to pick up the worst damage done by unemployment, poverty wages and soaring living costs – the Tories will divert that money into tax cuts and corporate subsidies believing (or not) it will all trickle down in the end. Either way, we’re paying for the egregious wealth of others.
While we might be offended at the right wing nature of these bills, we should be vastly more offended by the utter moral bankruptcy of our political system.
The people of Turkey and Brazil are out in the streets in their millions right now, in the face of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and reported live fire. Meanwhile, the majority of the UK electorate have been sitting on the fence so long their asses are full of splinters. The fight back is being left to the disabled, the jobless, those in the Precariat who have no choice but to fight, and a passionate but too small diaspora of critical thinkers and activists. We are outnumbered and we need the engagement of a much wider cross section of the British public.
Where is our solidarity?
Where is our compassion?
Where exactly is the end of our tether?
Today we might think the above bills unthinkable, that there would be a revolt before they were passed. Yet, if someone would have said in 2010, that the NHS would be privatised, secret courts would be introduced, people would be forced to work full time for corporations in order to receive their social security payments, or that 10,600 sick or disabled people would die each year within weeks of having their benefits removed after ATOS declared them ‘Fit to Work’ – if someone had suggested all this would happen, with barely a whimper of protest from the masses, we might not have believed it.
Until we become more active and engaged citizens, we will get the government we deserve.