Queen’s Speech: Cameron’s ‘one nation’ excludes millions

Anyone who doesn't fit a narrow definition of 'hardworking families' will suffer under this government


David Cameron labelled his government’s programme, delivered yesterday in the Queen’s Speech, as being for a ‘one nation’ Britain.

That’s a ‘one nation’ that, it appears, is ‘one nation of the kind of people we approve of (and tough if you don’t fit the definition)’.

That dreadful, hackneyed, divisive phrase ‘hardworking families’ appears in the official briefing for the speech.

You could, indeed should, define a single mum struggling to deal with her depression while providing care for her children, or a disabled adult contributing to their community through campaigns and supporting others, as ‘hardworking’ – but it is clear that our prime minister wouldn’t do that.

These are members – many members – of our society, but not members of Cameron’s ‘one nation’.

The Speech stated front and centre that ‘nothing is more crucial to [security] than a job’, but of course that only applies to some jobs, not those that are on zero-hours contracts, those that pay less than a Living Wage (as is the case for more than 20 per cent of jobs), those that are seasonal or offer only part-time contracts when workers want full-time employment.

All of those individuals are likely, with the government’s planned freeze in benefit levels, to find themselves struggling even more next year than they are this, with scant hope of improvement on the horizon. The five million workers earning less than the existing tax threshold will see no benefit from the government’s much-vaunted increase in that figure.

These are members – many members – of our society, but not members of David Cameron’s ‘one nation’.

Another ‘one nation’ approach the Speech played up was owning your own home – with the government’s much-slated plan for the sell-off of housing association homes (and even more council homes). A ‘one nation Britain’ that excludes plenty when you think of the unaffordability of house prices across most of the country. And certainly no help for the 1.8 million households on the social housing waiting list.

And then there’s the 18-21-year-olds who’ll no longer be eligible for housing benefit – struggling to survive in our grossly inflated rental markets. As Crisis says, many risk being pushed into sleeping on the street – not members of David Cameron’s ‘one nation’.

There’s also the fate of our children. The overall picture of the way in which we’re failing our young was well set out in the Guardian by Aditya Chakrabortty, but there’s one particular discrimination that sticks out here: free childcare will be available for three and four-year-olds where ‘all parents are working’.

So those children for whom this doesn’t apply – and it isn’t hard to imagine the complications – will miss out on the chance to learn and develop in a group setting, their parents denied the chance to participate in education or community activities. These are not members of Cameron’s ‘one nation’.

So who are the ‘approved’ members of this one nation? Well, it would appear bankers and high earning tax-dodgers are approved – this Speech says nothing needs be done about them.

Despite the recent slew of financial scandals exposing of the depth of fraud and corruption in the sector there was no mention of regulation (although Cameron in the speech debate did slate the former Labour government for its failures in this area – provoking the thought that the Tories weren’t calling for regulation then, and still aren’t).

And of any measures to deal with tax-dodging, either the excellent bill proposed by Oxfam, or a simple crackdown on the infamous Mayfair tax loophole – there was no word.

So, what positives can be found from the contents of this speech? Well the term ‘climate change’ was included, but only in the context of supporting global negotiations, not in terms of British government action (and only put in second place behind economic growth). Here’s the entire section, in case you missed it:

“My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.”

And the Green Party policy – which I found highly popular on the campaign trail – of reregulating local bus services makes an appearance in attenuated form. It is proposed to only apply to communities that opt for directly-elected mayors. It’s an interesting attempt to offer a policy to which is entirely against Conservative ideology (re-regulation) as a bribe to try to win support for a generally unpopular constitutional change.

There’s much more that could be pulled apart about the ‘one nation’ claim, and no doubt many will be doing just that in the coming days, but one important thing to focus on now is not just anger, but action.

Yesterday I headed to the People’s Assembly protest against the speech, and I’ll be joining the big march on 20 June. In the short period since the election I’ve already seen an upsurge of activism around the country – and that’s exactly what we need, to send a message that the quarter of the electorate that put this government into power did not give it the authority to tear the UK asunder under the figleaf of ‘one nation’.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

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27 Responses to “Queen’s Speech: Cameron’s ‘one nation’ excludes millions”

  1. AlanGiles

    I wish all political parties would cut out the catchphrases: “nothings ruled in, nothings ruled out” “fixing the roof….” and most of all, “hard-working families” (is it Hard working, hard-working, or Hard-Working)?. Labour were not immune from this term in their Brown/Purnell years.

    What all parties need to realise is that when you are retired, many people through choice or necessity, don’t work, neither do people over 40 because of age discrimination making it hard for them to find work, and in unemployment blackspots this equally applies to younger people as well.

    The term excludes a great many people and Ms. Bennett is quite right to deplore it’s use.

  2. Cole

    So the first thing the ‘One Nation’ government do is to start a jihad against the unions (and generally attack our freedoms).

  3. Dave Stewart

    I completely agree. I through choice have no children but am excluded constantly based on that fact. I work hard but I’m not considered a family and therefore am not worth helping is the message I get.

    Not to mention the whole fallacy of the virtue of hard work. I always find it interesting how if you’re rich working hard is optional and something you can choose to do. If you’re poor you’re scum if you don’t work yourself into an early grave. It’s nonesense work in itself is not important. Being able to feed, clothe and house yourself is important and to be intellectually stimulated (whatever that maybe for you) is important. Working for works sake most definitely is not and is a fallacy that has been pushed on the poor for hundreds of years by the rich and powerful.

  4. TN

    Oh go cry me a river you sanctimonious bore. I thought Natalie Bennett would hibernate after the election. The left failed completely, because British people are sick and tired of the feckless and the nanny state tendencies of your ilk to kill off aspiration. Hardworking families might be trite, but it does mean something. People who don’t whinge, people not drying out the welfare state (but actually have to pay for the slobs in society) and those with some ambition in life.

    All you ever want to do is to hand out prizes for all and shake more money out of the taxpayer. It’s no wonder the Blairites are back in Labour. They realise that you don’t win elections by pandering to the bien pensant left by saying nice things about welfare scroungers and the unemployable.

  5. Cole

    What are you on about? Your views of the Left seem to be based on some drivel you’ve read in the Daily Mail. And do remember that 63% of voters cast their ballots against the Conservatives.

    As for the Greens, they must be reasonably pleased to have increased their vote from 1% to just under 4% and now have around 65,000 members.

  6. nodbod

    As you so rightly say, work for its own sake is just rubbish. I am lucky in that I enjoy my job but I have done work where the only reason that I attended was purely and simply for the paychech.

    If work was so inately important, worthy and valuable I honestly believe that the rich would keep it all for themselves.

  7. Nick Fourbanks

    David Cameron is just a modern alf garnet with the same type implying of people. In this case those that don’t work are lazy one nation is the same rhetoric as used by Hitler and you know where he ended up but that was same time after the horrific damage that he caused to the world and it’s people

  8. MO

    What a well thought out and, if I may say so, charmingly expressed opinion. I’d love to hear about how you personally fulfilled all your (I’m sure very interesting and impressive) life goals, and how the existence of the NHS, the state education system, unemployment benefit and other features of ‘the nanny state’ held you back in your personal quest to be the very best you could be.

  9. Paul Wiltshire

    What on earth are you drivelling on about. There were more people voting against the conservative than for it, if it were a 2 party race as originally designed then we would have a different outcome I suspect. But the fact that the more parties are involved the more diluted the vote. It was proven in the workhouse time about jobless slobs only existing to financialists. Yes their may be a few who don’t want to work, but on the whole people do and don’t forget that Cameron put a lot of people out of work. You can’t fix an economy by robbing & slandering the poor to feed the rich. Big corporate business owes the tax office billions, but they won’t go after it, the bankers caused the depression it has been proven, but conservative lies keep blaming the then conservative labour party. The way politics is going I hope that they do move the Scottish border down 200 miles ao we can be free. Everything is about face with this country it needs to be flipped over the right way as it is stuffed.

  10. Darren Brunning

    What do you mean by the unemployable? I hope you are not referring to the genuinely disabled people among us!!

  11. Darren Brunning

    He makes no comment about the countless people out there that are unable to work full time as we are full time carers for an elderly or disabled person on a pittance of £62.00 a week carers allowance whilst saving the government over £1000 per week in care home fees or social care. Are we not HARD WORKING???

  12. AlanGiles

    Always interesting to see how it is right wing rabid Conservatives who appreciate Blair and his brown-nosers more than anybody else. “Feckless” is one of their favourite words as well. To use one of the cliche’s, you “tick all the boxes”

    If you become unemployed when you are over 50 you could wait years to find another job. If you get one at all. Not every person on JSA is a drug user or alcoholic.

  13. Filip Bagno

    Seriously, doesn’t the queen read this stuff and think “wait a minute, what it this bs” ?

  14. Barnsider

    Is this ‘One Nation’ the next step from or toward David Cameron’s Big Society? Or did that little sound bite beauty bite the dust?

  15. LoneDeranger

    Y’know I realise you are a troll, and probably a government employed one too.

    You forget about those who worked very hard all their lives (see that ATM you were just using? Who wrote the software?) , but have been hit with ill health later on. I’ve had a stroke with complications. It affects me quite severely and my attempt to “work through it” nearly killed me.

    No you don’t get treated any better than someone willfully not working – in fact in some ways worse. I’d work if I could – I love my job, but the stark fact is that it would kill me in around 3 months. I’m trying to balance doing something with “not dying”. Thats a hard one.

    Remember we wrote the software that structures your life for good or ill – not this amateaur rubbish Drunken-Schitt is spending millions on. We know its strengths and weaknesses. Especially the weaknesses. Ever seen a crashed ATM? Think on.


  16. Keith M

    The nasty party got a whole lot nastier.

  17. Keith M

    Cod he doesn’t give a shit.

  18. Keith M

    Well said.

  19. Isaac Price-Sosner

    The left didn’t fail completely, Labour failed by trying to be Tory and our first past the post system gave the Tories power as a result, despite the fact they only got 24% of the electorate to vote for them! And that’s despite throwing so much money at the system it was painfully corrupt to watch for anyone who can see through the Torygraph/Sun/DailyMail bullshit lies. You quite clearly like swallowing that bs hook line and sinker though.

  20. Richeart

    Dave, I do want to understand your position better; can you explain what help you need that you are not getting?
    Nodbod, work is a transaction… one works, the other party pays. Is there a better way…otherwise some people are having to work for money whereas others get money without working and that doesn’t seem fair to me.

  21. Will Robley

    Thanks for questioning the ‘hard working families’ tripe. What about ‘hard working singles’ who spend most of their income on rent? And what about the formerly hard working 50 something’s dumped on the dole with no hope of getting another job. Not surprising that the suicide rate for middle-aged men is rocketing.

  22. Will Robley

    Didn’t Brown start it with his ‘Hard-working British families’v

  23. nodbod

    Lords turning up to the House of Lords, signing in and then not attending debate but claiming their expenses. That doesn’t seem fair to me. People receiving more money than I would know what to do with because of the family that they were born into. None of them are rushing out to get their hands dirty cleaning toilets to make up for it. Are they deserving rich because they have families or something?

    The other thing is that the deserving rich have multiple choices in what they do. Do nothing for months at a stretch then do a couple of high profile duties and be lauded for their work ethic and the boon that they are to the country.

    This is the sixth or seventh largest economy in the world, the top 1% of families have doubled their wealth during this period of austerity but what have they done for this increase in wealth? Have they worked harder or were they just in a position to take advantage. Yet there are many reliant on foodbanks and, in turn, many of these are in work yet not paid enough to sustain themselves.

    Many of these things do not seem fair to me. Letting people become destitute because they do not work (for whatever reason) or that work is not considered important enough to draw a living wage is not the mark of a civilised society.

  24. Patrick Nelson

    If CaMoron is only in favour of hard working families then what is his stance on greedy parasites, born with a silver spoons in their partridge filled mouths, who never did a days real work in their lives and who operate through a group of economic pirates called (without much basis) the “Conservative party”, which is their staging post to the various (immorally earned) corporate “advisory” positions they have lined up for after their time in Parliament?

  25. sean macduibhsith


  26. gw7ted

    What like fiddling Libor rates for instance or asking questions for big companies or how about getting it on expenses

  27. Dave Stewart

    On your first point I don’t feel there is any help that I need, what I was talking about was the way the constant rhetoric about hard working families makes me feel excluded. My personal situation (and I’m sure millions of other peoples to) is not one that is ever described as a family yet you never hear politicians making big commitments to support co-habbiting young couples. despite the fact myself and my partner are both hard working we are always excluded simply because we have no children. But it’s not just my personal situation that this rhetoric excludes either, what about young people in general single or otherwise, or elderly people whose children have left are they to be excluded as well? This point was not about specific measures but about the exclusionary nature of this facile rhetoric.

    On the other point I’ll start with a prediction by Keynes that by now people would work at maximum a 16 hour week and the additional free time could be spent doing charity, learning new skills, taking part in sport or cultural activities. He made this prediction because of the benefits of automation. If as a society we look at the work that is currently done that is genuinely essential for our society to carry on (ie. utilities, food production, manufacturing of useful goods, transportation) you will find that if we divided up that work amongst the population we would indeed (particularly if proper investment in automation is factored in) find that we would only need to work very short hours in comparison to now and would be more handsomely rewarded for our time as labour would have strong bargaining rights as the amount of labour to work would be high.

    Instead what happened was the capitalists captured all the benefits of automation increasing profit margins but not labours share of the income. In order to maintain the status quo in such a situation where many people were losing their jobs but instead of sharing the work more equally with better compensation we simply developed a consumerist culture whereby people would be encouraged to value their worth by the things they own and huge industries which effectively are not essential came into being which employed people on low wages so they could keep earning enough for all the useless shit. Effectively it was decided that new jobs needed to be found rather than effectively share the work that remained more equally. This spawned many non-jobs (I’m sure you can think of plenty) that kept people employed on low wages so they could keep consuming but consumed more and more of the populations time.

    Whether this happened by accident or on purpose I don’t know but the effect is the same. Hard work is only touted as a virtue because it keeps you consuming and quiet which is precisely what the establishment wants because it makes you easier to govern and manage and helps boost the all important GDP figures which ridiculously have become almost the sole factor by which our governments seem to measure their achievements regardless of whether this increasing statistic has any positive effect on society as a whole.

    How we get out of this situation short of a complete collapse of capitalism (which I don’t advocate, imagine the human cost!) I don’t know. Perhaps a steady and managed move towards such a more equal society. Measures such as increasing the minimum wage above inflation every year would certainly make the move towards a high labour cost society in which people have more free time to actually live rather than be wage slaves.

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