Life resumes…..

It’s been an intense 11 days  since the Queen died.

For many people, a national bereavement takes a similar pattern to any other. The adrenaline gets you through to the funeral and it’s only afterwards that you have to adjust to the loss and its consequences. However we may feel about Queen Elizabeth’s legacy or, indeed, the institution of monarchy itself, it will take some time to get used to the new normal, not least because we have a brand new monarch and a brand new Government.

Anyone under the age of about 75 will not be able to remember having any other monarch than Queen Elizabeth. It’s  astonishing that we have had two Queens, covering 134 of the last 185 years. Both reigned during periods of intense social and economic change. I was thinking about this yesterday  as I woke up and looked up exactly how long they had been on the throne. Victoria had been on the throne for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days – and Elizabeth for 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. In all the wall to wall coverage I’ve absorbed since 8th September, I hadn’t heard that mentioned. Or maybe I’m the only one that finds it worthy of note.

We haven’t in any sort of memory had a new Head of State and Prime Minister in such quick succession. Elizabeth had wartime giant Winston Churchill as her first PM. When George V died, Stanley Baldwin was on his third prime ministerial stint. The last liberal Prime Minister, Asquith, had a couple of years under his belt before Edward VII died and Viscount Melbourne was extremely experienced when the 19 year old Victoria acceded.

The new King Charles has had decades to learn his trade and he has acknowledged that he can’t be as vocal on issues close to his heart as he was as Prince of Wales. A climate change denying Government is bound to be a test.

The cost of living emergency has not gone away. It is biting the most vulnerable every single day.  Inflation may have dipped a tiny bit down to 9.9% in August but households are still finding that the basics in life are a lot more expensive than they were last year before you even think about heating your house.

The last big political announcement was Liz Truss’s plan to deal with meteoric energy price rises. She intends to limit price rise so that the average household will pay no more than £2500. It’s likely you will pay more if you live in an energy inefficient, damp house. That includes many people on low incomes in private lets and social housing.

Ed Davey called Truss’s plan a “phony freeze” saying:

This phony freeze will still leave struggling families and pensioners facing impossible choices this winter as energy bills almost double.

Liz Truss and the Conservatives are choosing to allow this huge hike to people’s heating costs, while refusing to properly tax the eye-watering profits of oil and gas companies.

This is a deliberate choice and it is the wrong one. People are furious that once again the Conservatives are on the side of oil and gas giants making record profits rather than families struggling to make ends meet.

I think what is particularly worrying is that Truss’s plan to pay for this with government borrowing, while cutting taxes and reducing government income, will cause a huge problem for public services. Her right wing Conservative administration has no compunction about reducing the size of the State, but how much freedom to repair the damage will a future more progressive administration have?

It will be really important to ensure people know that the Conservatives are lining the pockets of the likes of Shell and BP while their local youth centre, or hospital closes, or their school doesn’t get as much funding to help disadvantaged children.

And that’s only the start of the problems facing the country. As Russia starts to lose ground in Ukraine, Putin may well turn to putting even more of a squeeze on gas supplies to Europe. As our Foreign Affairs Editor Tom Arms recently pointed out:

Putin believes that Russians are tougher than their European and American counterparts. Western support for sanctions will collapse, Putin believes, when European and American consumers can no longer afford their long car journeys, overheated homes, exotic foods and multiple holidays.

On top of that there is the Northern Ireland protocol to resolve. The Government intends to breach international law because of the entirely predictable adverse consequences businesses in Northern Ireland are facing. There is a very simple solution – to align to the single market. But that’s a non-starter with the hard Brexiteers who are all that’s left of the Conservative Party.  Their inability  to admit that Brexit is a massive failure, and the unwillingness of opposition parties to make this a massive issue in case it scares various horses, could irreparably damage our country for generations to come.

It is particularly frustrating that Parliament is due to have a 3 week recess, until 17th October, from next Monday. Not only that, but they have a further week from 9th November. This severely limits the ability of MPs and Peers to hold the Government to account.

Economic catastrophe, challenges with keeping the lights and heating on over the Winter, international trade problems are hard enough. That’s before you even get to the future of the planet and Jacob Rees-Mogg eyeing up the Working Time Directive and other key employment rights.

The answer to none of these problems is a hard right populist Conservative Government, so the priority for Liberal Democrats is to get ourselves in a position to get rid of them whenever the election comes.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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11 Comments

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Sep '22 - 8:15am

    That is true, Ian, but 73 is not what it was in George III’s reign – and the US President is 6 years older.

  • George Thomas 20th Sep '22 - 11:50am

    “The cost of living emergency has not gone away.”

    Indeed it has become worse in the break from politics: casual workers have seen shifts cancelled due to the funeral and an event set to ensure people local to my area knew what support was out there was also cancelled.

    Oliver Milman in the Guardian, 17/09/22, also has highlighted that big energy companies have publicly agreeing to climate action while privately distancing themselves from need and wishing bedbugs on vocal activists challenging them.

    “It is particularly frustrating that Parliament is due to have a 3 week recess, until 17th October, from next Monday. ”

    Agreed.

  • Laurence Cox 20th Sep '22 - 2:34pm

    @Ian Sanderson

    With his parents reaching the ages of 99 and 96, and with a centenarian grandmother, I would expect Charles to be more likely than not to exceed the median lifespan for a 73 year-old man in the UK, of another 13 years. I would hope that he does, not least because it will give William and Kate the freedom to have a fairly normal family life for their children before they become King and Queen in their turn.

  • “The Conservatives are lining the pockets of BP and Shell”. A touch reductionist, perhaps, given that oil companies invest vast amounts of capital and their return on that capital is not excessive when compared to other industries, that two years ago BP actually made a loss and many pensioners of average means rely on oild company dividends ? Oh, and they pay enhanced corporation tax on up stream profits already.

  • @ Chris Cory, ” many pensioners of average means rely on oil company dividends “…..

    ……….And in the last twelve months the price of BP shares has gone up by 50%, Mr Cory, so maybe they could utilise some of the capital gains they have enjoyed since September, 2021.

  • William Wallace 20th Sep '22 - 5:45pm

    But the Commons doesn’t effectively scrutinise the government when it’s sitting. That’s one of the fundamental problems of how our democracy works: the government controls the Commons timetable, the PM has a ‘royal prerogative’, and 140 MPs are on the government payroll. The Lords does most of the scrutiny work, inadequate as it is. Oh, and we’re coming back a week earlier than the Commons!

  • David Lloyd George was the last Liberal in Downing Street. Asquith would go on to split the Liberals

  • Ruth Bright 20th Sep '22 - 7:00pm

    Love the 134 years of “girl power” statistic, Caron!

  • It is recognised that the female of the species have a very beneficial influence when they invade the male dominateed world of government. (Not sure how that equates to our new PM but it is a genarality thaat holds good.)
    The cost of living crisis seems to me to need the same counter measures that reducing our impact on the planets climate requires us to make. Reduce our use of gas and oil, increase the insulation in our homes, protect our food supplies (thus keepingtheir cost down) by protecting biodiversity. Lets promote these changes and protect the long term interests of the poorest whilst potentialy contributing to saving the planet.

  • Mick Taylor 21st Sep '22 - 7:09pm

    Tom Rogers. Actually it was the infamous coupon election in 1918 that did for the Liberals and it was Lloyd-George who was responsible for that. Asquith, rightly in my view, didn’t want a deal with the Tories and the party split into a Lloyd-George faction and a squifite faction that wasn’t really sorted till 1929. Shortly after that came the National Government that split both the Liberals and Labour and as any political history student knows the National Liberals eventually merged into the Tory Party.

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