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This Queen’s Speech is a pre-election stunt, as many have acknowledged today. As such, it is long on spending promises—what some would call pork barrel politics—and short on a real plan for the economy. This Queen’s Speech has 25 words devoted to the economy, whereas the 2017 Queen’s Speech had five paragraphs and in the 2016 Queen’s Speech the economy was the main priority. This would be fine if our economy was going gangbusters, but let’s all face it: 1.5% economic growth is not much to sing about, not to mention the problems of low productivity and wage growth that has been relatively low.
The reason for this is that the party of which I was a member, the Conservative party, has moved away from being the party of economic competence. There was a time when rising stars in that party were credited with coming up with ingenious ideas to create prosperity and growth, but now the minimum requirement to become a Minister is to support no deal. In other words, they are willing to throw the economic cards up in the air, and that is why the Conservative party is not emphasising the economy as much in this Queen’s Speech.
I was surprised when the Chancellor said that he was not going to produce an economic impact assessment for the Government’s Brexit plans. We can argue that we do not trust economic evaluations because they underestimate how great Brexit will be, or we can say that people care more about GDP, so economic evaluations of Brexit are irrelevant—but we cannot argue both, or we risk mimicking the 10 leaky buckets.
My main concern with the Queen’s Speech is that at the heart of it is a deceit, which Conservative Members know very well. Every election comes down to two things: it is either more of the same or time for change. The Conservatives are arguing that our country can have more of the same on the economy—to give them credit, they have done a lot of good work to rescue it from the financial crash, helped by the party that I am currently a member of—while at the same time taking the biggest gamble on our economy. They are effectively saying that people can still have all the benefits of leaving while retaining the benefits of remaining. That is what this Queen’s Speech suggests is possible, and we know that it is not, as my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Davey said.
When we come to the big economic divide in our country, between the north and the south, all the economic analysis shows that the recovery from the last recession has been unbalanced. Left-behind towns, post-industrial towns and seaside communities are all struggling, but they will not benefit from this Queen’s Speech. Yet the electoral strategy of the Conservative party is to win those people’s votes, to get an increased majority.
This Government have deprioritised the economy and are taking a huge gamble on it. Every assessment says that our growth will be lower. The Government will not be able to deliver these spending plans, and they will be going back to those same people who are crying out for change to ask for an increased majority. That is a serious deceit, and those of us on the Opposition Benches who stand for remain know that we can give the country what it needs to invest and grow.