This king’s speech will deliver the final blows from a Tory party facing oblivion | Polly Toynbee

The silk bag holds the government’s plans not just for a year but for “the next 70”, says the prime minister, whose sands of time are fast running out. Improbably he promises to “address the challenges this country faces” with no “short-term gimmicks”; yet we expect a king’s speech short on the long-term and scattered with infantile banana skins that Labour will skip over lightly.

Little that is announced on Tuesday or in the autumn statement will even touch the edges of what troubles everyone most: the cost of living, rising NHS waiting lists, the climate crisis, declining public services, deepening hardship, regional inequality and immigration. Watch out for announcements that ignore all that matters, or make things worse.

A country teetering in a permacrisis – part accidental, but mostly of the government’s own making – suffers from austerity, Brexit and maladministration. Four prime ministers and five chancellors in five years, with inadequate ministers in a fast-spin cycle, have brought us to this.

Paying bills tops public anxiety, but inflation won’t drop to the “normal level” of 2% until the end of 2025, says the Bank of England, which expects food price inflation to still be around 10% at Christmas, with the UK’s inflation the highest in the G7. Despite an almost identical growth rate, France is unhindered by a tax-to-GDP ratio of 48%, compared with the UK’s tax take of 33.5%.

And it shows. You get what you pay for, and the Institute for Government’s survey of UK public services reveals that almost all of them are declining, crippled by underinvestment since 2010. Councils’ services, such as social care, care of children, homeless accommodation, libraries and leisure centres are collapsing, as they tumble into bankruptcy. Spending plans for after 2025 make the outlook even worse for all services, yet Tories clamour to use the £13bn the Treasury gains from extra tax receipts owing to inflation for tax cuts. That’s a “fiscal illusion”, says the Resolution Foundation, since it’s needed to cover inflation in all departments; or else yet deeper spending cuts will have to be made.

Expect some sensible measures: reform of feudal leaseholds (watered down) and a renters bill to end no-fault evictions (but not until solving an impossible court case backlog). A for ever smoking ban, in which the legal age will be raised by a year, every year, is the one policy Sunak can genuinely call “long-term” for the next “70 years”.

Anti-terror security for venues may come with the draconian banning of speech that “undermines” British values, one of which is free speech. A crime and justice bill extending whole-life sentences and jailing shoplifters will add to overflowing prisons. The Mail on Sunday got a tasty morsel with a “new law to crack down on airlines’ sneaky add-on charges”, while the Sun got “cops to be handed powers to bust into phone thieves’ homes without a search warrant”.

The rest will be “traps” for Labour, notably increasing North Sea oil drilling. Is Rishi Sunak’s anti-green, anti-rail, anti-Ulez, pro-car, pro-oil posturing a winner? Planet-boiling indifference is not “long-termism”, while voters will see weaponising the climate as political cynicism: drivers also worry about fires and floods. A bill banning councils from boycotting other countries, actions often targeted at Israel, may taunt Labour, as may Michael Gove’s ban on four-day weeks for council workers regardless of staff retention. His threats to council CEOs earning £100,000 are a useless decoy to explain council bankruptcies. These aren’t even “sticking plaster” policies for any of the country’s critical injuries.

Sunak licenses Suella Braverman as his outrider from hell to propose random cruelties. But are there really enough people who want to rip the tents off homeless people to force them to change their “lifestyle choices”? Enough who want even harsher disability tests to drive people into jobs, when the UK has the longest working hours in Europe, according to a Fabian report this week? Or enough who want to cut benefits yet again, despite rising poverty?

Showing the “true Tory Rishi” is reportedly No 10’s plan. But that’s the true Tory chuckling along with Elon Musk about AI killing off everyone’s jobs. Focus groups discussing that event last week were shocked, say Labour researchers: people saw mega-rich Sunak on another planet from those struggling to pay bills, as he told Musk he wanted people to be risk-takers “unafraid to give up the security of a regular pay cheque”. Sunak has sunk too far for any revival, when everything he does only confirms a settled public opinion.

Watch Labour sidestep this ragbag of gestures as it enters its third stage on Keir Starmer’s long march. Stage one was remaking the party. Stage two confronted a flailing government with a trustworthy shadow cabinet. Now is the stage for laying out Labour’s own programme. His own and his frontbenchers’ conference speeches were policy-rich compared with the government’s thin offerings: doubters should peruse Labour’s growing menu. Housing and building, new towns and green investment are centrepieces, with insourcing public services and employment rights in the first 100 days to end the Dickensian gig era.

No 10’s “red meat” to entice undecideds looks pretty rancid. Everyone sees where the Tory party is heading, with 70% of its members telling Conservative Home they want Nigel Farage let in. It will be no surprise if those who elected Boris Johnson and Liz Truss choose Farage next. Nothing in Sunak’s leadership nor in his meagre prospectus leads his party away from this abyss; nothing to compare with Starmer leading his party out of its own electoral no man’s land.

  • Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

  • Hear more from Polly Toynbee as she discusses the legacy of Brexit with other Guardian journalists in a livestreamed Guardian Live event on 23 November. Tickets available here.

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