First published by The Independent, 27th May 2015
Today the Queen revealed the Conservative plan for Britain over the next five years. The usual pomp and ceremony was present, but the 26-bill package was severely lacking in any policy I’d like to see us adopt as a nation. Here’s what Her Majesty didn’t say, but I wish she had done:
1. There will be meaningful regulation of the press
I want to see greater regulation of Britain’s press, and no, I’m not talking about censorship. No one company should be able to own more than a certain percentage of our media.
2. More affordable housing will be built, and rogue landlords will be penalized
Landlords are part of the real conversation we need to be having about welfare in Britain. We waste billions on housing benefit, as those on low incomes are forced into the costly private rental sector. Rogue landlords are often able to operate with impunity, collecting huge rewards for vermin-infested living spaces. Research has found that landlords are responsible for 740,000 unsafe homes in England alone, and rake in £5.6 billion every year. Why are we letting this happen?
3. Energy prices and rail fares will be frozen
Or better still, renationalize them. We should be encouraged to use public transport, both to protect the environment and cut down on congestion on the roads. Steadily rising rail fares are not an encouragement, and they actually serve to penalize those without cars. In terms of energy costs, no one should have to choose between eating and heating their homes when the weather gets colder. Our country should not be held ransom to the big six energy suppliers, forced to accept rising tariffs on their whims.
4. The hunting ban will remain in place
There is absolutely no reason that the hunting ban should go anywhere. If your hobbies include riding around with your mates and a group of dogs so you can chase down and rip apart a defenceless animal, you need to have a long, hard look at yourself and your priorities. Fox hunting is cruel and unnecessary. It’s also a sport for toffs and should be consigned to the history books.
5. Sex and Relationships Education in schools will receive a radical overhaul
All children should receive unbiased and accurate sex and relationships education. Academies and faith schools should be forced to provide clear, truthful information on contraception, healthy relationships, consent, gender and identity, LGBT relationships, the impact of pornography, STIs and abortion. There should be no exceptions. Young people must be equipped with all the necessary tools to navigate their relationships, in order to make healthy, informed, consensual choices.
6. The bedroom and the tampon tax will both be scrapped
The bedroom tax was a cruel policy when it was first conceived, and its application has been even more heartless. It has caused immense suffering, and must be scrapped as a matter of urgency. If men’s razors are considered essential items and women’s sanitary products are taxed as a luxury, we’ve actually gone through the looking glass. The tampon tax is unfair and needs to be ended.
7. Women who have suffered sexual assault, forced marriage, FGM and domestic violence will not be detained in facilities like Yarl’s Wood
This practice is cruel and inhuman, and mostly hidden from the public eye. People who have suffered the most horrific treatment elsewhere in the world are being locked up indefinitely in Britain, while we very slowly decide whether their torture has been sufficiently awful. Places like Yarl’s Wood are prisons, where women are stripped of their privacy and routinely assaulted by male guards. Many become suicidal. I can’t be proud of a country where we sit back and allow this to happen.
8. We will lower tuition fees and ban unpaid internships
Call me a sandal-wearing idealist, but I believe that as long as you have the ability, you should be able to further your education and improve your chances of success. Tuition fees stand at an all-time high and the Tories have not ruled out a further rise. Soon, only the wealthy will be able to afford an education and the rest of us will have to choose between a qualification and a lifetime saddled with debt. Unpaid internships are a similar blight on the face of Britain, allowing the well-off to fund their offspring through months of work for no money, while those without financial advantages are shut out. This is no different to certain people being able to buy their foothold on the career ladder, and it makes a mockery of the idea that Britain rewards merit.