This column first appeared in the Telegraph & Argus on 11th November
The state opening of Parliament this week signalled the start of a new parliamentary session, likely the last before the country goes to the polls in the next General Election
It is a day of ancient traditions and ceremony.
It is also an opportunity for the Government to set out a clear vision for the future direction of the country.
But this week, we saw none of that. Instead, we were left with an underwhelming bundle of previously announced and repackaged policies that do nothing to take our country forward.
It shows that this Conservative Government really has lost the will to govern.
When families in Bradford are paying hundreds of pounds a month extra on their mortgage, seeing their rents rise astronomically, spiralling energy bills, and when the cost of putting food on the table is higher than ever, I can’t help but think that people hearing the King’s Speech will have been left wondering - ‘is that it?’.
Take our energy security, for example. Every family and business in Bradford are paying the price for this Government ’s failed energy policy. Major businesses in Bradford have cut jobs because they face rocketing energy costs which have seen a five fold increase over the last few years.
Yet, the Government ’s Energy Secretary herself admitted that their flagship project to license new oil and gas fields wouldn’t even ‘necessarily bring energy bills down’. You read that right – licenses that hand billions in taxpayer subsidies to the oil and gas companies who are raking in record profits while we don’t get so much as a penny off our bills.
It is vital that the UK diversifies its energy supply so that we can be less reliant on foreign states for our energy needs. At the same time, families need to see their bills made more manageable now.
Meanwhile on crime, the Government used the King’s Speech to promise tougher sentences for serious offenders.
But under their watch, more criminals are being let off, and more victims are being let down. Just last month, the Government also announced that they would be sending fewer so called ‘low-level’ criminals to prison to prevent over-crowding.
Rather than tackling antisocial behaviour and crime within our communities, they are turning a blind eye. Criminals are now half as likely to be caught as under the previous Labour Government.
Turning to transport, we heard more warm words again about much needed improvements to transport infrastructure in the North.
I have fought for years for Bradford to get the regional and national transport links we need to grow our economy and bring in more good jobs.
But 85 per cent of what was announced in ‘Network North’ are simply old projects that have been repackaged as new.
If this Government couldn’t deliver projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail before – how can we believe they will now?
And finally, on health, the Government has offered nothing of substance to fix the problems in NHS dentistry, community pharmacies and access to GPs.
For instance, it is simply unacceptable that 455 desperate people went to A&E at Bradford Royal Infirmary in dental agony, because they were unable to find an NHS dentist and cannot afford to go private.
Labour has already committed to provide funding for 700,000 more urgent dental appointments and would cut red tape to improve coordination between pharmacies and GPs.
The Prime Minster has said that the country needs change – and he’s right.
But he is leading the same old tired Conservative Party that has no ambition for this country and is out of ideas. What we needed from the King’s Speech was a hard reset and a fresh approach to dealing with the problems our country faces.
Instead, we got more of the same, from a Government in its dying days.