‘Let Them Eat Foie Gras’Big Issues Avoided in Johnson's Culture War Queen's Speech
The Government’s new agenda focuses on stoking culture wars against students, lawyers and LGBT rights while doing nothing to tackle the number one issue facing people in the UK, reports Adam Bienkov
Boris Johnson today promised to help those “hardest hit” by surging living costs, saying “it is right that we continue doing whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with now”.
Yet a look through the 38 new laws contained in the speech today fails to turn up any concrete new measures for those struggling to pay for their food or heating.
Instead, the Government’s new agenda is packed with a series of new laws, the sole purpose of which appears to be stoking Britain’s culture wars.
Here are the big issues Johnson’s Government does and doesn’t believe are worth dealing with right now.
Failing to Tackle Living Costs
Johnson’s party lost almost 500 seats in last week’s local elections amid rising public anger over living costs.
Yet today’s Queen’s Speech did not contain any new measures to tackle what the public say is their number one issue. Despite public support for a windfall tax on energy companies and public opposition over real-terms cuts to welfare payments, the Queen’s Speech contained no new ideas to help those struggling the most.
Defending the decision not to tackle the issue, the Government today insisted that they “are already providing support to families”. However, they added that they would “not hesitate to take further steps to support households if needed”.
Asked what these “further steps” may be, Johnson’s spokesman admitted on Tuesday that there were no plans for a new emergency financial package.
This reluctance to tackle the issue was criticised by campaign groups.
“Despite claims in today’s speech that easing the cost of living was a priority for this Government, there were no new support measures announced”, Rebecca McDonald, Senior Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.
“This will be deeply worrying for families on low incomes, particularly those who have just experienced a real-terms cut to their benefits after the Government failed to uprate benefits in line with inflation last month.”
Penalising Student Unions
While Johnson didn’t find any room for legislation to help people struggling to pay their bills, he did find the chance to get involved in student politics.
The issue of free speech on campuses, which is only very marginal concern to most members of the public, has nevertheless become a leading culture war issue among a small fringe of people on right of British politics.
In order to deal with this supposed crisis, the Queen’s Speech commits to completing passage of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. The Government says this bill will “strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities in England”.
In reality it will give the Government powers to clamp down on the freedom of universities and their student unions to run their own affairs.
Once passed, the Office for Students will be able to penalise any university which cancels appearances by visiting speakers. The Government claims this will stop the “chilling effect” of “cancel culture” on university campuses. In reality it will merely insert another layer of stifling bureaucracy onto universities and student unions.
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The Queen’s Speech also commits to passing a Public Order Act, which will outlaw certain types of protest. Once passed, it will be illegal for protesters to attach themselves to buildings, objects, or other people. The police will also be given powers to arrest anyone who “obstructs major transport works or “interferes with key national infrastructure”. Combined with other measures to outlaw other forms of noisy protests, Johnson’s Government appears to see clamping down on the right of British people to protest against their Government and its actions as one of their biggest priorities.
Targeting Human Rights Lawyers
The Government has repeatedly been found to have broken the law in recent years following court action launched by human rights lawyers. The Prime Minister has suggested that such action by “legal eagles” could scupper his plans to deport refugees to Rwanda.
Yet rather than change its policies in order to ensure compliance with the law, Johnson’s Government appears determined to simply make it harder for others to hold them to account.
Today’s Queen’s Speech announced a new “Bill of Rights” which ministers say will “restore some common sense to our justice system”. They insist the bill is designed to stop the “incremental expansion of a rights culture” while “guaranteeing spurious cases do not undermine public confidence in human rights”.
In reality it appears to have the sole purpose of making it harder for their own actions to be scrutinised or stopped by the courts.
Gay Conversion Therapy to be Allowed
Boris Johnson previously committed to make what he described as the “abhorrent” practice of gay and trans conversion therapy illegal.
However, a briefing leaked to ITV News last month revealed that this ban on conversion therapy had been dropped from the Queen’s Speech amid suggestions that Downing Street wants to stoke a culture war with opposition parties over the issue of trans rights.
The decision to abandon the bill triggered a wave of outrage both outside and inside Parliament, which led to a partial retreat by Johnson. However, despite this, the new Bill does not include a ban on trans conversion therapy as originally planned, with Johnson’s spokesman unable or unwilling to say what, if any, action the Government would take to tackle this.
Just as worryingly, Johnson’s spokesman also suggested that gay conversion therapy would also be allowed to continue for adults, when they consent to it. This makes a mockery of the entire supposed purpose of the ban.
‘Let Them eat Foie Gras’
Another big reversal in the Queen’s Speech was the decision to remove a promised ban on the import of foie gras and animal fur. The originally-planned ban, which had been backed by the Prime Minister’s own wife, was dropped due to Conservative MPs reportedly branding it “fundamentally un-conservative”.
So while Britain’s poorest people will continue to be unable to feed their children or heat their homes, Johnson’s Queen’s Speech will at least allow ministers to continue wrapping themselves in fur and filling their stomachs with foie gras.
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