In a move that will have Nigel Farage fearing a left-wing conspiracy to “rub our noses in diversity”, Black Rod bashed on the doors of Parliament and demanded our representatives go to the House of Lords and listen to an old lady read out David Cameron’s plans for the year.
“My ministers will continue to bring the public finances under control so that Britain lives within its means.”
Queen’s Speeches are so expertly leaked these days that they rarely contain anything surprising or controversial. This time around was no different with Cameron keen to placate the electorate ahead of next month’s EU referendum – the plans announced were even more bland than usual. Nothing that would upset the voting public was included. The most significant legislation announced impacted prisoners, the disenfranchised group who are always there to be bashed when everyone else’s votes are too valuable to risk.
Old prisons will be closed and new ones ‘where prisoners can be more easily put to work’ will be opened, we were told. The Government, through the ventriloquist act that calls itself our monarchy, promised to change prisons from the Universities of Crime that we have currently where, at great expense, those who break our laws are held for a period of time so that they can become better criminals and carry out more successful crimes next time.
“Prison Governors will be given unprecedented freedom and they will be able to ensure prisoners receive better education,” The Queen said.
It’s hard not to hear that line and without being worried. It’s a perfectly natural desire to want prisoners to earn a buck while inside so that the burden for their incarceration doesn’t fall so heavily on the beleaguered taxpayer. It costs us £65,000 to lock someone up and £40,000 per year to keep them there. Compare this to the £9,000 per year maximum University fees and it becomes clear what a terrible waste of humanity and resource the prison system is. When Over a quarter of prisoners reoffend and those who do carry out 3.1 crimes, it’s clear something needs to change. ‘Academising’ prisons, so that they become self-running, money-earning enterprises, is not the way forward. The USA has long been treading this path and the sad fact is that as soon as you let private companies run prisons you introduce an incentive to jail more people. Let’s be honest about what those people will look like.
The way to tackle the prison problem is to stop sending people to prison for trivial offences, debt issues and drug offences. Around 15% of those in UK jails are there for using or selling drugs with another 3% jailed for failing to pay their taxes. Prison should be the place where we keep people who pose too much of a threat to the rest of us to be allowed to walk the streets. It shouldn’t be the place we punish people for not living their lives the way we want them to.
Other than prisons, there was a brief mention for driverless cars, sugarless drinks and the jobless North. Is it just me or does a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ sound like either a really naff nightclub with a rotating dance floor or a rebranding of the 19-century Workhouse idea?
Flip Flop Democracy
Another reason that the Queen’s Speech is something of a non-event is the current government is so skittish, that any laws which prove unpopular will simply be shelved.
In the last few months, the Government has reversed its plans on policies such as, fox hunting, tax credits and foreign nurses and has weakened its position on issues including, psychoactive drugs, junior doctors and academy schools. The great thing about having a Government run by PR people is that it can always be persuaded to change its mind.
The Queen’s trip to Parliament must have been a pleasant break for one of the world’s hardest working nonagenarian. (with all due respect to Robert Mugabe)
Last week she must have felt that every time she opened her mouth a pesky cameraman was there to record her conversation. She was heard being undiplomatic about China and earlier last week her Prime Minister was filmed telling her that Afghanistan and Nigeria were ‘fantastically corrupt”.
This coming from a man whose father’s wealth came in part from setting up dodgy off-shore tax havens, who has enabled some of the world’s leading money launderers in the City of London and whose party is currently under investigations for voter fraud.
My advice would be people living in handed down tax-exempt glass mansions probably shouldn’t throw stones.
How to get away with stealing an election
Cameron well may have been emboldened by the apparent lack of interest the public and mainstream media are taking in the #ToryElectionFraud story. In an historic move, seven police forces launched criminal investigations into the way the Tories funded the general election. The allegation is that money that was supposed to be spent nationally was diverted to fund the campaigns in key marginal seats.
Despite this, and the Tories shaking 17-strong majority, there has hardly been a peep from the mainstream press. When the issue was brought up on one of Britain’s top political shows, This Week, the guests looked on in blank bewilderment. Our election funding rules were put in place to make sure no one can simply buy their way to power.
There are serious suggestions that this is exactly what the Conservatives did but, like a tree falling in an empty forest, when it comes to corruption, if no one can get their heads around what you actually did, it pretty much didn’t happen.
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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He has commissioned for the Guardian, Media Diversified, Engage Magazine, Open Mind, Single Step and Voluntary Voice. Before setting up Marmoset, he had a 15-year career as a national newspaper journalist working for The Express, The Independent, The Voice, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times among others. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, race or politics.