We have had a lot of talk about LibDem policy u-turns, but it is rather interesting that once in government and the Tories actually listen to intellectual advice – they themselves have u-turned on many of their key policies. What is even more interesting is that these u-turns are over policies that they actually secured in the coalition deal.
Two of the controversial u-turns have taken place at the Home Office (that department has to be cursed). Take yesterday’s news that Theresa May is going to extend the 28 days detention for 6 months, pending a review. That didn’t please David Davis much (potential future leader?) who resigned over civil rights issues. Can’t see him resigning over this though. Rightly, Liberty are running a campaign to encourage MPs to vote against the extension, as if it is voted against the pre charge detention limit would go down to 14 days. This would be ample enough of time – consider the graph to the right, the UKs detention rates are disproportionately higher than all the other countries listed – illustrating clearly our often damaging attitude towards civil rights.
Consider another controversial decision by the Home Office, regarding the immigration cap. Unlike the u-turn above, I welcome the recognition that this cap is unworkable. However, as the FT report, this doesn’t mean they are dropping it, instead there will be investigations into how to modify the proposal. What this u-turn specifically shows is that the Tories play on the ‘fear’ card when they need to – the general election was a classic example of this. They disregarded evidence that shows, as the evidence they are finally considering now does, the immigration cap is unworkable and will undermine businesses who need the extra labour. Another point I would add is that it is also illiberal. The cap was part of the scaremongering around immigration that took place during the election campaign – even the LibDems tried to act tough with their illiberal immigration regional caps – no wonder they so easily adapted to the Tories’ cap.
Another example of a Tory u-turn regarding a policy that arguably helped win the election by playing up to popular prejudice is the so-called ‘job tax’. The Tories’ answered most charges laid at their door by their national insurance policy. Importantly however, the national insurance rise for employees was still introduced in this weeks budget – only employers were protected from the rise. So once again, the Tories’ played up to popular fear to help win the election, but once in and actually having to make tough decisions they realised that the previous government’s plans regarding NI weren’t that bad after all.
It is rather ironic that the Tories campaigned on a pledge that they would stop Labour undermining job’s with their ‘job tax’ and then introduce wide-ranging cups resulting in thousands of job cuts. The electorate seems to have adapted to the current “its Labour’s fault” ConDem line – again, a useful scaremongering tactic. There needs to be a more coherent way for the opposition to expose this – there is already enough musings around the failure of Labour to have a coherent message/answer to the budget. This further illustrates the need for pluralism of the left to counteract the regressive government proposals.