Jan Royall reflects on the past year in UK politics, and her hopes for the period ahead
It’s the end of term, and Labour Lords have finally headed for home and holidays. For me it is a good time to reflect on the past year. A year in which Labour has consolidated its position in the polls, and in which increasing numbers of our citizens are listening to our arguments.
Last September, few people shared the concerns expressed by Ed Miliband about predatory capitalism, or supported his calls for a new responsible capitalism and the break-up of unwarranted private sector monopolies in energy, banking and the media. Now these concerns and calls are on the lips of the many not the few. We have both the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press, and the Parliamentary Committee on banking in light of the Libor scandal.
The public feels they have been failed by three major pillars of the British Establishment: the banks, the media and politics. So despite the excitement around the Olympics, it is now wonder that people are deeply concerned about the future for their families; especially when faced with a government whose economic plan has failed and which refuses to change course. With Ed Miliband, Labour has a leader who continues to demonstrate that he understands the enormity of the problems and the need for fundamental change to rebuild Britain, our economy, our society and our politics.
In the Lords, our team has done a brilliant job opposing the Coalition’s wretched policies, holding them to account, trying to amend the most pernicious parts of legislation whenever possible and exposing the duplicity of the LibDems.
At times, this has felt like a thankless task; for example when during the passage of the odious Health and Social Care Bill LibDem Peers were being feted by the outside world for getting the government (of which they sometimes seem to forget they are an integral part) to pause and listen. But now that the Bill is an Act and the realities and chaos are becoming clear, people rightly ask why didn’t the LibDems use their power to save the NHS rather than Lords reform? The whole government is out of touch.
Ministers’ priorities must seem seriously skewed to those relying on foodbanks to feed their families, to the young people desperately searching for employment, and the millions of women juggling jobs, families and caring responsibilities and who are anxious because social care has been cut to the bone. All of these people are or want to be hard working contributors to the economy, and all have been hard hit by the government’s failed plan and dogged pursuit of policies that are harming rather than strengthening the fabric of our society.
We live in a terrific country, with great people, great potential and a great future. In welcoming participants and visitors to the Olympics, we have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our strengths and to celebrate all that is great about Great Britain. I hope that by the time Parliament returns, the government will have been bold enough to adopt a Plan B so that the people of this country can have more confidence in their future.
Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Labour’s Leader in the Lords