Sarah Olney writes…We should be pleased if the Conservatives can’t form a Government

Of all the things I regret about my time in Parliament being so short, one thing I really don’t mind is that I never got to hear a Queen’s Speech.  Cornerstone of our democracy it may be, but it’s really just a festival of flummery that I can do without. I can’t imagine how it must have been in today’s 34 degree heat, dressed in one’s best, squashed into the Lords to hear Her Majesty read out the Government’s plans for legislation.  Hats off to my former Parliamentary colleagues, and those who have recently joined them, for enduring it.

But at least it was short.  Just nine minutes to sum up not one, but two years-worth of Bills.  And, for Liberal Democrats, there was much to be pleased about.  Not only has Mrs May ditched her plans to scrap the triple-lock on pensions and free school meals, she’s also backtracked on the dementia tax, promising instead to “consult”.

Liberal Democrats will also be pleased that a key provision of our own Renter’s Rights Bill, outlawing letting agents’ fees to renters, will make it into law.

The speech focuses instead on the Government’s plans for Brexit, providing details of the Great Repeal Bill (apparently already being dubbed GeRBil in some quarters, which should please those Liberal Democrats who never miss an opportunity to post a picture of a fluffy animal), and various enabling legislations to set up our own regulations post-Brexit.  The key message here is that hard, soft, clean, red, white, blue, grey, whatever, Brexit will happen and the main Parliamentary activity for the next two years will be getting ready to implement it.

What’s infuriating about this Queen’s Speech are all the issues that it fails to address.  Speaking to residents in Richmond Park over the last six to seven months, I know that their key issues are funding for public services, particularly schools and the NHS, policing and security, immigration and housing.  It may be an untypically wealthy and well-educated area, but I very much doubt that we’re different from the majority of the country in these concerns.  There is nothing in the Queen’s Speech about any of this.  The appalling Grenfell House fire last week has surely concentrated attention like nothing else on the failure of housing policy over the last few decades, and urgent action is required.  Not only has the Government got nothing to say, it tells us that it won’t have anything to say for at least two years.

What I find at least as infuriating is the way that the Conservatives continue to play fast and loose with democracy to suit their own ends.  They set out their manifesto and won the most seats (if not an overall majority) off the back of it, enabling them to form the Government.  Surely the main policies from that manifesto should therefore be in the Queen’s Speech?  I know I’m being paradoxical, because I don’t want to see the return of grammar schools or fox-hunting, but shouldn’t the people get what they voted for?

No, because Theresa May knows that a Queen’s Speech containing any of the key themes from the Conservative manifesto won’t make it through the House.  And if the Speech fails, then the Tories can’t form a government.  So once again, we see democracy being subverted, and the people short-changed, to suit the interests of the Conservative party.

Obviously, I have something of a vested interest in another General Election, so my comments should be viewed in that light.  But, if the Conservatives fail to form a government, then we should be pleased, at least, that they aren’t rewarded for their lack of integrity.

* Sarah Olney is the MP for Richmond Park. She joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 and won a spectacular victory in the Richmond Park by-election in December 2016. She lost the seat by a heartbreaking 45 votes in the 2017 General Election, but then regained it resoundingly at the 2019 General Election.

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33 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jun '17 - 4:31pm

    What I and I am sure most people regret about your time in parliament being so short, is you could have stood for the leadership and in my view could win !

    You better get back there soon, a voice of common sense, likeable personality and no bags , some have got luggage more than baggage , as far as the electorate are concerned!

    We had better get a progressive alliance on to the agenda, even if it is Labour doing what the Green party did , in several constituencies it would make a lot of difference.

    Sarah, stand for president next time !

  • David Becket 21st Jun '17 - 5:10pm

    I agree with Lorenzo, and if you were able to stand for leader I would have voted for you.
    By all means stand for president, pity the Leader must be an MP

  • @ Lorenzo Two timer. You’re already publicly committed to Norman.

    However, good luck Sarah. Keep at it – it might not be too long before the whole shaky Tory edifice implodes. Always a pleasure to listen to you.

  • So pleased to see Sarah has not lost any enthusiasm following the sadness of such a narrow defeat. I hope this continues.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Jun '17 - 7:14pm

    The parliamentary draughtmen have already said that “Great” is in-parliamentary language, Tory spin for eurosceptics. A bill can be large without being great, but this bill may be broken down into manageable chunks, and as Caroline Lucas has said, the laws and standards so transferred will need new enforcement mechanisms.
    The “Great” Reform Bill 1832 disappointed many of its supporters, disallowed votes for women, and led to the growth of the Labour Party.

  • I kind of agree with this, but the disaster that is Brexit now needs to progress and another election will likely cause problems in this regards.

    The reason I say Brexit must progress is certainly not any longing for it, merely a reflection that Labour are as committed to it as the Tories. Yes, they managed to keep it off the agenda during the election but the fact is that if they come out against Brexit, or even it seems for the single market, they fear losing those of their core that are pro-brexit and the red UKIP votes…

    The only positive I can see from a further election is that you would have chance to return to Parliament!

  • paul barker 21st Jun '17 - 8:25pm

    If this Government falls we should all cheer. It would then be up to Labour whether to form a Minority Government or go for another Election. Either way we can exploit the division between their Pro-Brexit Front Bench & the mostly Anti-brexit activists.
    What we really need now are some Local Byelections so we can see how much of Mays 18% we retain.

  • Bernard Aris 21st Jun '17 - 9:00pm

    The forming of the coalition is becoming more and more similar to forming a coalition in for example Belgium (where it took a whole, or most of, a year) and there is a striking similarity with the present Dutch coalition building: a small orthodox-Calvinist party playing hard to get (see: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-40347632 )…

    If your politics become more similar, what’s the point of Brexit?

    😉

  • Yeovil Yokel 21st Jun '17 - 9:10pm

    Delighted to hear from you, Sarah – Parliament is the poorer for your absence (and I agree with you about all the ritualistic nonsense; a famous sea-captain once said “Tradition makes for good ballast but poor cargo”). I’m also pleased that your 6 months of experience as an MP hasn’t put you off trying to win the seat – YOUR seat – back. I just hope you have an understanding employer……

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jun '17 - 9:19pm

    ‘Not only has Mrs May ditched her plans to scrap the triple-lock on pensions and free school meals, she’s also backtracked on the dementia tax, promising instead to “consult”.’

    The triple lock on the pension was barely justifiable in 2010 – it stinks now. Free schools meals are another sweetie jar for a client group of voters. The so-called dementia tax was an argument that needs to be had. Property wealth should at the very least be a consideration.

    I keep hearing that the LDP are the party that resiles from populism and easy answers. There are, for sure, arguments to be had on all three of the policies you mention. But if all (stress, ALL) parties are guilty at times of ducking hard questions Mrs May at least deserves a hearing.

    To be quite honest Ms Olney I thought you were better than this.

  • @Lorenzo
    Come on now my friend
    Layla, Norman, Sarah – where Income from, you pin your colours tom the mast and be Loyal 🙂

  • My goodness predictive text – now completely lost the humour , but Lorenzo, I know will get both the drift and the humour. S
    hould of course read –
    Where I come from you pin your colours to the mast and remain Loyal 🙂

  • Little Jackie Paper. The point is not about the rights and wrongs of the policies but the fact that they were in the manifesto when the Tories were trying to win votes, but not in the Queen’s Speech when they’re trying to stay in power. Both the triple lock and free school meals were Lib Dem policies from the coalition government, so you would expect us to be pleased that they’re not being scrapped. There already has been a wide ranging consultation on the best way to pay for social care and a solution proposed that balances individual and taxpayer contributions. It’s called the Dilnot Report from 2012 and our manifesto proposal was to implement its recommendations. There is no need for the government’s dementia tax.

  • The Tories may as well not bother with a manifesto next time. Unless it’s ‘wait and see/we’ll consult on this/we can’t tell you, trust us it’ll be great.’ You’d have thought it would have been easier just to admit upfront Brexit was going to take so long in the manifesto really, but that seems to have only just occurred to them. Good to know there’s a plan.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jun '17 - 12:11am

    @Sarah Olney “free school meals were Lib Dem policies from the coalition government”
    Really?
    Nick Clegg certainly announced it but it seemed to come as a surprise to Lib Dems.
    Ed Balls, as a Labour Education Secretary, launched trials of universal free school meals and Lib Dems opposed the idea. When the report was presented to Michael Gove, as a Tory Education Secretary, he was reported to be supportive of the idea. Months later Nick Clegg launched it at his party conference (apparently as a quid pro quo for the Tories’ married couple tax allowance).

  • Down but never out Sarah! Keep the pressure on ZG as I am yet to understand what he stood for, except that he is back with the party that supports Heathrow expansion. It was so close here in Richmond Park. Let’s hope it isn’t long before you get another chance to take him on! You have my support!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jun '17 - 3:30am

    David and Mike

    Now, fellows, Norman , my first choice if from those in coalition, but , a part of me wonders if we need a new era, so obviously then casting around, my choice of those in the House now, would be Layla, but she would probably be after Sarah, if Sarah were there, in chronology , as elected before ,not priority, as they are both excellent !

    But if he does stand , it’s the Norm for me, to support him !

  • This speech is a humiliation for the Tories, and while we shouldn’t let them off the hook, one of our long-standing policies is the need for PR, and as such we should be supportive of the idea that parties with less than 50% of the vote (and especially seats) should be expected to compromise.

    I’d like to think we’d get some credit for forcing the Tories into retreat on some of their policies, as it was often our work that placed the spotlight on the extent of the shoddiness of manifesto. Sadly, it mainly seems to be Labour getting the credit, as they did during the election campaign.

    I missed the news last night, but based on the LibDem twitter feed (I know), we did seem to get a number of our MPs on the rolling news reaction to the speech, which I was pleased to see.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jun '17 - 8:47am

    I have emailed Greg Clark and suggested investing in tidal power. His staff have said they will make sure he sees it. There is a channel linking the sea with the central loch where the water flows with great force twice a day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Clark

  • Sarah Olney 22nd Jun '17 - 9:56am

    Peter Watson – I don’t know if Labour had suggested something similar when they were in Gov’t but the reason we have free lunches for infants now is because Nick Clegg and David Laws backed the plan when in coalition against opposition from Michael Gove.

    See this report from the Telegraph at the time – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/11068836/Nick-Clegg-defends-1bn-free-school-meals-plan-for-infants.html

  • Dare I say that free school meals are most certainly a Liberal idea, as they were first introduced by a certain David Lloyd George 🙂

    Sarah – excellent article. So glad to see carrying on and can’t wait to see you back in Parliament.

  • Lorenzo, your posts always seem to be interesting, but are often unfathomable. Your latest post here begins with one very long sentence, with 66 words, 14 commas, and 7 verbs before ending in an exclamation mark. I can honestly say, having read it several times, I have no idea what you are talking about!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jun '17 - 1:48pm

    David Evans

    You gave me a pet on the back and kick up the back side !

    I often think aloud , not literally , bits of thoughts happening , expressed in typing them, as one of my heroes, Sir Peter Ustinov ,said ,

    ” My mind works at the speed of a pen.”

    My posts vary according to ,

    firstly, whether they are initiated by my thoughts,

    or a response to an article,

    or a reply to a comment

    Or a conflict !

    They deteriorate according to that sliding scale !

    And according to the lateness of the hour and inability to sleep or think straight !

  • David Pcocok 22nd Jun '17 - 2:05pm

    I must disagree with you on the Queens speech Sarah, I love the history of it all and would love to see one!

    As for the Government…. I firstly find the Hubris of May and the position she has put herself in to be both dramatically ironic and completely amusing. Perhaps first among her fails is she has managed to unite the labour party. From strong and stable to the puppet PM; sagging in her throne as various tory factions fight to control the strings.

    I agree with you about the lack of substance in the speech, doubly so as this is it for two years. I wonder if the tories have made such a thread bare queens speech by design or by circumstance.

    I dare say you will be fighting for election very soon regardless!

  • Given that your last post was at 3.30 am, Lorenzo, I suggest a few early nights would help.

    I suppose your internal conflict between Sarah, Layla and the blessed Norman could be reported to a stress counsellor………………. on the other hand, you could sleep soundly and content if you voted for the Yorkshire bruiser as a steady the ship competent Captain whilst the Junior Officers learned and practiced their navigation skills.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jun '17 - 3:45pm

    Dr David Owen advised voting Tory in the close election of 1992 on the front page of the Mail on Sunday. There is “a special place” for him, which is the Daily Telegraph.
    Cynical journalists tend to count the number of times he said “when I was foreign secretary” which is only one today. There was a youthful team in Washington inn 1976 under President Jimmy Carter, a southern Baptist, peanut farmer from Georgia.
    He refers to Alfred Broughton MP being brought to the Commons on his deathbed.
    https://www.bing.com/search?q=Alfred+Broughton&form=WNSGPH&qs=SW&cvid=577a638c38044953b2d1fe860cfafba0&pq=Alfred+Broughton&cc=GB&setlang=en-US&nclid=D19A84F13F0AA22DEE7AE50DDCF460A0&ts=1498132033821
    He does not refer to a Northern Ireland MP who flew down to London in order to do deals and abstained. Although Jim Callaghan had bought Welsh votes with a special bill for slate quarrymen he refused to make concessions for Northern Ireland.
    On BBC Radio 4 Conservatives explained that the Northern Irish MP was in a room with two bottles of whiskey, which had become locked. They declined to say who locked the room. He was a publican with republican sympathies for prisoners in H blocks (from the shapes of the buildings).
    https://www.bing.com/search?q=the+reunion+radio+4&form=WNSGPH&qs=AS&cvid=18844fe522a349f59a5f6a2463114054&pq=the+reunion&cc=GB&setlang=en-US&nclid=D19A84F13F0AA22DEE7AE50DDCF460A0&ts=1498133300120

  • @ ATF “Dare I say that free school meals are most certainly a Liberal idea, as they were first introduced by a certain David Lloyd George 🙂” Sorry ATF, I’m afraid you dare not.

    They were started in Bradford in 1904 by the Council after years of pressure from Fred Jowett (the ILP MP), the educationalist Margaret MacMillan and Jonathan Priestley a Headteacher (and father of J.B. Priestley). Manchester did something similar. The School Meals Act of 1906 was a private members bill introduced by a Labour MP for Westhoughton. William Wilson. It received government support.

    No doubt Lloyd George would have liked to claim credit (as he did for many things) but he was President of the Board of Trade at the time.

  • I can’t think of an MP whose election made me happier. Good luck.

  • Alastair Ross 22nd Jun '17 - 9:26pm

    Stick in there Sarah. It’s a long game and there are loads of us who are eager to see you back in the house ere long. We may be small in terms of MP numbers but those we have are all quality players. And we need more. I’m thrilled to bits to see Christine Jardine in parliament at last but so sad to see you out for the moment. You would make a great team.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Jun '17 - 12:08am

    @Sarah Olney “See this report from the Telegraph at the time”
    Nick Clegg’s announcement was in September 2013. Universal free school meals was recommended in July 2013 by “The School Food Plan”, commissioned by Michael Gove, when it was reported by the authors that “Gove believes simply that this is what schools should be doing … he’s signed off every word in that document.”

    “I don’t know if Labour had suggested something similar”
    You should know that Labour “had suggested something similar”. In the article to which you link Nick Clegg cites “the pilots in Durham and Newham” which were commissioned by Ed Balls who in 2008 wanted “free lunches for all pupils”. What did Lib Dems make of those pilots? In Newham Lib Dem leaflets criticised “millions for free food for the richest kids” and Simon Hughes wrote, “Labour-run Southwark Council are wasting extraordinary amounts of money … giving free school meals, some of this going to the borough’s richest families, irrespective of whether they can afford to pay for them already.” In Hull, “the scheme was scrapped when the Liberal Democrats took over from Labour, before it had been properly evaluated”. Elsewhere in 2008 when the SNP wanted free school meals for primary school children in Scotland, “The Scottish Parliament voted by a margin of 87 to 28 to approve a statutory instrument implementing the change, with SNP and Labour MSPs in favour and Tories and Liberal Democrats against.”

    Do “we have free lunches for infants … because Nick Clegg and David Laws backed the plan when in coalition against opposition from Michael Gove” or were Tories happy with this bribe for middle-class voters in return for their married couple’s tax allowance? Is “bribe” harsh? Nick Clegg pitched it as “a policy that will save a Daily Mail reader who has two children at infants’ school nearly £900 a year.”

    But what would be the basis of “opposition from Michael Gove”? The article says Gove “believed that diverting money away from teaching was “wholly unacceptable””. Is that unreasonable? The report on the original pilots concluded, “the universal entitlement pilot appeared to deliver better value for money (in terms of higher attainment of pupils on average) than some educational interventions, but worse value for money than others. This raises questions about its overall value for money compared with other initiatives.”

  • Peter Watson 23rd Jun '17 - 12:08am
  • Peter Watson 23rd Jun '17 - 12:09am

    Ooops – a follow up post with links for my quotes is not yet visible 🙁

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