• This sham of a Queen’s speech could prove the end for Boris Johnson

    Folderol, hokum and flapdoodle - the usual absurdities of the Queen’s speech rigmarole were reduced to their ultimate fatuity on Monday. As she named those 26 never-to-be-enacted bills engraved laboriously on goatskin vellum, they might as well have been scribbled in ballpoint pen, these electioneering geegaws and giveaways, embellished with thumbscrews on crime and migration. But nothing matters here except the evanescent promise of an EU withdrawal deal, always just beyond reach. “My government will …” she intoned as if sucking lemons, but she has no government capable of doing anything at all.What heavy lifting it would take to turn this country into Boris Johnson’s “greatest place on Earth”, in its present miserable state caused mainly by him. Leave aside Brexit devilment that hangs by a thread, look at the rest of his empty prospectus. If this was a hunting expedition designed to shoot Labour’s fox, it may have the opposite effect. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says his spending plans match those in Labour’s last manifestoBlack Rod summoned the Commons to hear the end of austerity, but that’s almost as much sham humbuggery as all the rest. There is indeed to be spending, enough to set both the last Tory chancellors gnashing their teeth at the loss of their ill-gotten austerity savings. But come an election, mere announcements of a bit of easing up won’t expunge the bitter era of cuts that will scar the public service landscape for years to come. Bungs may ease the worst, preventing deeper cuts, but Johnson’s “sacred” NHS, schools and police are as stretched and stricken as ever, the jam promised for next year only thinly spread. And there’s still the rawness of a million public sector jobs axed and 2,000 food banks serving those who lost working tax credits.But here’s the tripwire, Johnson’s catch-22. He will only win if he has pulled off Brexit - but his version, Britain out of both customs union and single market, will drastically shrink his own Treasury receipts. His Brexit will push the economy into near-recession just as the world teeters towards a Trump trade war slowdown. Already his Brexit referendum victory has made us £55bn poorer, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies says, pointing to three years of lost productivity on top of this decade of stagnant living standards. Johnson’s Brexit will push his government back into austerity, so in his victory would be his own defeat.Strip away his florid bluster on the NHS and schools, and the reality for public services will be continued belt-tightening. Next year the NHS gets a slight breather: not the 40 new hospitals emblazoned across his favourable press, but just six, the repairs problem acute in mental and community health units. The 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses missing due to George Osborne’s early cuts in training places will not be found: expect decades of shortages, as the Nuffield Trust says twice as many training places are needed.The pain of the cuts was never fairly distributed, so watch these small easements go to better-off places. Take schools: the 5% increase next year is what Johnson calls a “levelling up”, taking from the schools with most to give to those with less funding. Sounds fair? Not when that means giving to well-heeled Tory shires while taking from deprived areas in greater need. Analysts find 83% of schools will still be worse off next year than in 2015, with £245 less for each primary pupil, and £304 for secondary pupils. No Tory Queen’s speech is complete unless it commands “Boris blitz on crooks” front pages the following day. True, Labour often did it, ratcheting up punishment for one day’s headlines, each cheap gesture doubling the number of prison cells with inmates deprived of any means to prevent reoffending.Priti Patel’s hostile-environment Home Office ends free movement and vows to round up every EU unfortunate who failed to apply for settled status, chasing away migrants that the economy desperately needs. It’s easy to predict her “control with compassion” watchword will cause more Windrush abominations, with lifelong inhabitants wrongly removed. Popular? No longer, as migration has dropped in public concerns.Little surprise that there is no plan for social care - now “on its knees”, warns the Nuffield Trust. But as Theresa May found, that’s far too hot to handle; like climate change, which gets no mention as to how Johnson would ever get on track to reach net-zero carbon emissions.Little in his menu is what it seems, none frames a vision or idea: just focus-grouped pleasers. For political skulduggery, a bill forcing voters to turn up with passport or driving licence will exclude the poor and the young, with 9 million not registered, since David Cameron stopped colleges automatically signing up their over-18s.Shoot Labour’s fox? More likely Johnson has shot himself in the foot. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says his spending plans match those in Labour’s last manifesto, which were roundly condemned by May as unaffordable. With one bound, he has freed Labour from accusations of financial incontinence. Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto will offer far more, appealing to those the Tories forget, particularly women, with free childcare, social care and tuition fees.Though the IFS may accuse both parties of busting their budgets, as it always adds, that isn’t overspending if they raise taxes too. In this low-tax country that pays a lot less tax than it did, Labour will tax the rich and corporations, while Johnson gifts top earners a £9bn cut. “Tired of stasis, gridlock and waiting for change” was Johnson’s biting portrait of the country’s mood; but who should voters blame for that? His Brexit is the cause, and if he pushes it through it will be his downfall, too.• Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

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