Look Left: The Queen’s Speech, the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and Britain falling behind in the ‘global race’

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

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The long awaited Queen’s Speech on Wednesday was a damp squib, with a government that has seemingly run out of steam offering platitudes and vague promises in place of an ambitious plan to get Britain’s economy growing.

Predictably in light of UKIP’s surge in last week’s local council elections, the speech was heavy on immigration, with pledges to place limit on migrants using the Human Rights Act, as well as a promise to make landlords vet their tenants to ensure they are legally entitled to reside in the UK.

The speech was so disappointing that even City AM, which at times appears to resemble the house journal of the austerity hawks, called it a “damp squib” that “a complacent government in the middle of a frenzied boom might pursue”.

This week Jenny Pennington of IPPR argued that the measures announced in the Queen’s Speech won’t solve the coalition’s immigration problem, and at worst they risk further undermining key human rights legislation. James Bloodworth meanwhile looked at the possible repercussions of the plan to require landlords to check the status of migrants

• Sir Alex Ferguson announced on Wednesday that he would be standing down as manager of Manchester United Football Club at the end of the season after 26 years in the job.

A lifelong socialist, Ferguson was Britain’s most successful football manager, winning 38 trophies in 26 years in charge. Everton’s David Moyes is the favourite to take over from Ferguson.

This week James Bloodworth looked at five things Sir Alex Ferguson has previously said about the Tories.

• The UK is experiencing a slower economic recovery than 23 of 33 advanced economies monitored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is lagging behind all but one G7 country on exports, wage growth and manufacturing, according to new analysis published on Wednesday by the TUC.

The analysis also revealed that the UK is emerging from recession at a slower rate than at any time in recent history.

UK income per head in 1985 was six per cent higher than it was before the 1980 crash. In 1995, UK income per head was seven per cent higher than before the 1990 recession. However, UK income per head is today still six per cent below its 2008 level.

Progressive of the Week:

Business for New Europe director Philip Souta pulled apart many of the Eurosceptic myths surrounding the EU in a piece for Left Foot Forward on Thursday.

Souta warned that leaving the EU could jeopardise the 49 per cent of foreign direct investment stock in the UK that comes from other EU countries, as well incur significant import taxes for British goods entering the EU market.

He ended on an optimistic note, however, saying that, ultimately, the voting public were “too clever to turn away from our most valuable relationship”.

Regressive of the week:

Richard Branson’s Virgin made the headlines this week after female staff complained about new uniforms for staff on Virgin Trains.

Female staff refused to wear new uniform blouses because they were ‘see-through’ and left ‘very little to the imagination’. One staff member reportedly said the uniforms were ‘cheap and nasty’ and became transparent in the sunlight.

Were the complaints by Virgin staff about its new uniforms an isolated incident, one might put it down to a simple misunderstanding – or a predictable desire by the company to cut costs. For Virgin, however, this is the latest in a long line of questionable stances it has taken towards women – and its female employees in particular, leading one to wonder whether Virgin has a problem – a sexism problem. 

Evidence of the Week:

The latest estimates of fraud and error levels in the benefit system in Great Britain, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Thursday, found that benefit fraud accounts for just 0.7 per cent of the welfare budget. #ThingsyouwontreadintheDailyMail

Public perceptions are lagging behind reality, though: polling carried out by the TUC in January found that on average people think that 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently.

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