Lame duck Dave

by Daphne Liddle

WHEN DAVID Cameron narrowly won an overall majority the general election a year ago he was delighted to be free to wage his war of attrition against the working class without being hampered by coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

But that narrow majority has turned into a poisoned chalice, especially since the Labour opposition now has a leader who prepared to fight, and Cameron has notched up a total of 24 retreats and U-turns on policies he was trying to push through Parliament.

Some of these have been on major flagship policies like his latest U-turn on trying to force all schools to become private sector-controlled academies.

The controversial plans to require all schools to convert to academy status, or have plans to do so, by 2022 were announced in the Budget, but details followed in a White Paper, Lift standards.

The teaching unions unanimously opposed it from the start but they were quickly joined by MPs, including Tory backbenchers and councillors.

And last week Cameron and his Education Secretary Nicky Morgan were forced to backtrack or face losing a crucial vote in the House of Commons.

Morgan explained to the BBC’s education editor Branwen Jeffreys: “This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening secretary of state. Better to have reforms than have none at all.

“We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding — they can make the choice to convert.”

Other U-turns range from repealing the ban on fox-hunting to cuts to Personal Independence Payments for people with disabilities and planned cuts to tax credits that would have left three million families £1,300 out of pocket just before Christmas. This one was postponed but we have not heard it raised again yet. It is due to appear again when — and if — they finally get Universal Credits sorted.

Chancellor George Osborne was forced to drop planned changes to pensions tax relief before the Budget. An attempt to extend Sunday trading laws hit the deck and a plan to raise VAT on solar panels died before many people had even heard of it.

Amidst the fallout from the Budget the Tories announced they would accept Labour’s opposition amendment to block the planned increase in VAT on solar panels and energy saving materials.

A plan to “crack down” on journalists who “misuse” the Freedom of Information Act by charging journalists to use it was threatened but the changes were never made.

In April a plan to amend stamp duty tax was law for just a few days before they realised it would penalise people with “granny flats”.

Ian Duncan Smith’s plan to try to redefine child poverty was defeated by following pressure from Labour and the original criteria were restored.

An attempt to erase the history of feminism from the school curriculum failed and Ministers were pressured into announcing they would not oppose calls to scrap the “tampon tax”.

The Tories had planned to scrap the official code on farming chickens for meat and breeding and put the industry in charge of the guidance, but were forced to back down last month following outcry from Labour and animal charities.

The Tories had to abandon plans to abolish the Wildlife Crime Unit, which protects wild species from egg hunters among other things.

Regarding the Housing and Planning Bill, the Government has been forced to make a number of concessions. Following defeat in the Lords the Tory Government conceded that it will allow new fixed-term tenancies of up to 10 years rather than five, and with special concessions for families who have children of school age.

They have also had to make several concessions on their plans for legal aid and justice in general, including trying to force defendants to pay a fee towards court costs.

The Tories were forced to cancel a contract with the Saudi Arabian government to supply prison services to a country with an abominable human rights record.

And they failed in their election promise to abolish the Human Rights Act within a year. There are many more retreats and U-turns but there are more troubles ahead. The leaking of the Panama Papers has shown us that our government at its highest levels is totally corrupt and hypocritical when it comes to paying taxes of their own personal fortunes. They may claim they have broken no laws but it was they who framed those laws.

And there is the gigantic split over the European Union referendum looming. Just how long can this gang of greedy and incompetent upper class spivs get away with it? Not much longer we hope.