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November 16, 2006

An Alternative Queen's Speech

John McDonnell, the left-wing MP hoping to challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party, has issued an alternative Queen’s Speech, and it’s an interesting mix of the practical and the absurd. Here are some of the most interesting suggestions:

  • Allow non-Britons to work in the Civil Service
  • Faith schools would have to hire people of all faiths
  • Minimum wage would apply to people of all ages
  • Allow councils to invest in new council houses
  • Number of UK homes per person reduced to two
  • Local councils can set their own level of council tax
  • Abolish the Royal Prerogative (the Prime Minister’s ability to declare war)
  • Reduce the voting age to 16
  • Greater devolution to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • Regulation of national newspapers: Only one daily paper per proprietor, and compulsory Readers’ Editors
  • Readers will be permitted to buy stakes in their newspapers
  • Abolition of grammar schools and City Academies
  • Abolition of tuition fees and current student debt
  • Carbon emissions to be cut by 3% every year
  • Subsidies for organic farming
  • Abolition of most anti-terror measures, such as ID Cards and control orders
  • Restore the right to protest outside Parliament
  • Increase international aid budget to 1% of GDP
  • Ban on many weapons being manufactured in the UK
  • Workers’ representatives to be elected to all companies’ boards
  • An extra bank holiday per year
  • Tax on flight tickets and aviation fuel
  • Return railways to public ownership
  • A new freight railway running the length of the country
  • Restore link between pensions and average earnings

I suspect most people will be able to find one or two ideas they agree with. But who would vote for that entire agenda? I applaud Mr McDonnell for his bold attempt to be honest about what he believes in, but I wonder how he will pay for his ideas, and how many of them would actually work.

I wonder whether some of his ideas would have benefited from further advice from outside his very small circle, especially regulation of the newspaper industry, which sounds a lot like restricting freedom of speech.

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