Why should I not vote Conservative? 24 nasty policies you shouldn't forget in the 2019 general election

Mirror Online Politics 0 month ago

Boris Johnson basically wants this election to be about Brexit.

According to our floppy haired PM, Brexit is the biggest issue going, and as soon as we all do whatever he wants us to do the quicker the country can head for sunlit uplands.

Except that isn't how elections work.

Rather than just being about one thing, it is the one chance we all get to express our judgement on the Government.

It has been nine years since the Tories first came to power.

They've been through three Prime Minsters - and the cost of the swingeing cuts they've chosen to make can be seen in every High St up and down this country.

So here are just some of the things they want you to forget they've done ahead of election day.


1. Promising to build 200,000 Starter Homes and building zero

In 2015, Conservative Party manifesto committed to “200,000 Starter Homes, which will be sold at a 20% discount and will be built exclusively for first-time buyers under the age of 40”.

The 2015 Spending Review subsequently provided £2.3 billion to support the delivery of 60,000 Starter Homes

So how many of the promised homes have been built I hear you ask?

This is not a Starter Home - you can tell because it exists

None, not one.

And according to the National Audit Office, the Tory government paid £174million for sites which it then didn't build any houses on.

John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, said the Conservative Party had wasted four years and spent millions of pounds.

2. They spent £225,000 to mislead people about Universal Credit

The DWP published a series of adverts they claimed outlined “myths” about Universal Credit alongside information they claimed was the truth.

And they spent £225,000 of taxpayer's cash to do it - taking out space in the Metro newspaper.

But an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority found the ads breached the advertising code 42 times.

In a scathing ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said a boast that UC “works” because claimants move into work faster was unsubstantiated, exaggerating and misleading.

The ASA had issues with the adverts - but the DWP claim they might appeal the decision

For their part the DWP say they considering whether to ask for a review of the decision.

A DWP spokesman said: "We are disappointed with this decision and have responded to the ASA.

“We consulted at length with the ASA as we created the adverts, which have explained to hundreds of thousands of people how Universal Credit is helping more than 2.5 million people across the country.

3. They botched privatising probation - and then had to pay to fix it

The government was forced to take the supervision of offenders in England and Wales back in-house after a five-year part-privatisation project ended in failure.

Low and medium-risk cases had been handled by private probation firms since 2014, but were handed back to the public National Probation Service (NPS) in 2019.

This was a Chris Grayling special

The reforms were found to have led to "skyrocketing" numbers of released offenders returning to prison for breaching their licence conditions after serving short sentences.

The Government was forced to spend £170 million to scrap contracts with a string of private probation firms in 2018.

Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO), said the government "set itself up to fail" in how it approached the reforms.

4. They failed to investigate Islamophobia in their own party

In May this year, the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to the Equality and Human Rights Commission demanding they investigate hostility to Muslims in the Tory Party.

They cited evidence of "Islamophobia amongst Members of Parliament, an atmosphere of hostility against Muslim Conservative Party member and the scale of Islamophobia in the party."

During the party's leadership contest Sajid Javid bounced the other leadership candidates into holding an inquiry into the issue.

But nothing has happened.

Michael Gove has said the party will start looking into the issue at the end of the year

Michael Gove , just days before the election said: "We will have an independent inquiry into Islamophobia and it will be established before the end of the year."

But Boris Johnson has been clear it won’t just be about Islamophobia, and will instead be a broader look at lots of differen prejudice. Critics say this waters it down.

Months after the scandal was brought to light the Tories haven't done much to investigate the allegations of systemic Islamophobia.

Party chiefs have also repeatedly refused to reveal how many members they had suspended over alleged Islamophobia, despite a string of cases being reported to the party.

6. Slashed police numbers by over 20,000

According to Home Office figures, the number of police officers dropped from just under 140,000 in 2010 to 117,000 in 2018.

Now Boris Johnson has said he'll recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales.

If that happens - which isn't guaranteed - all it would do is partially reverse cuts that the Tories are responsible for.

7. Tried to sign ferry contracts with a company that didn't own any ferries

The Tories signed a (now cancelled) contract for post-Brexit ferries, with a company that didn't own any ferries.

Seaborne Freight's £13.8m deal fell apart after the firm was mocked for lacking ships and apparently copying terms and conditions from a takeaway website.

Kent's Port of Ramsgate, where the services to Ostend were meant to depart, wasn't even ready for the non-existent ships.

Then Transport Secretary and all-around Ministerial failure Chris Grayling swung fully behind the firm, claiming the deal was "no problem" because "it's a new start-up business" and the contract was "tightly-drawn-up".

Weeks later, the Department for Transport admitted: "It became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Government".

Money was blown on government lawyers drawing up the contract.

8. Left grieving families without bereavement benefits

People who lose their partner before pension age can claim a Bereavement Support Payment - worth up to £3,500, plus £350 a month for 18 months.

But couples must be married or in a civil partnership to qualify - which deprives the benefit to 2,200 "cohabiting" couples with children each year.

They won a victory in August 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled the situation was incompatible with human rights law.

But 14 months later - the situation hasn't improved leaving thousands of people in desperate situations after the loss of a loved one.

Bereavement Support Payments launched in 2017 as a "fair" replacement for the old system but have been slammed for hitting thousands of families with cuts.

That is because while 52% were estimated to be better off than under the old system, 48% were worse off.

The DWP said MPs had already fully debated whether to allow unmarried couples to claim when the benefit was approved.

A DWP spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and with the introduction of Bereavement Support Payment in April 2017, have widened the support available. This is, in addition, to help provided for co-habiting couples through the wider welfare system.

9. Universal Credit led to people selling sex to survive

The Tories' flagship benefit change Universal Credit led to women selling sex in order to survive, according to MPs.

A number of women told the work and pensions committee they turned to sex work because their benefits payments did not cover their basic needs.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said problems with the system, including a five-week wait for the first payment, left some women to rely on sex work.

A DWP spokesperson said it was "committed to providing a safety net for the most vulnerable in society" and had made improvements to universal credit, including extending advance payments, removing waiting days and allowing claimants to continue to be paid housing benefit for two weeks after moving on to universal credit.

10. They abandoned women hit by rise in the state pension age

From November 6 women in the UK began to qualify for their state pensions at the same age as men - currently 65.

That threshold will go up to 66 by 2020, and to 67 by 2028.

But women born in the 1950s claim the rise is unfair because they were not given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a state pension.

The High Court disagreed and ruled in the government's favour.

Women against State Pension Injustice have campaigned against the policy for years

But in July, Mr Johnson had promised to "return to this issue with fresh vigour and new eyes and see what I can do to sort it out."

But since he was elected Tory leader he has not offered any new help to the women,

In fact, he has only said that "we are indeed looking at what more we can do to satisfy that issue

11. The benefit change that affected almost 600,000 children

The Tories' two-child limit on benefits pushed millions of children deeper into poverty and meant 592,000 children went unsupported according to experts.

Pioneered by welfare-slashing former Chancellor George Osborne, the limit prevents parents claiming Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit for "third or subsequent" children born after 6 April 2017 - a cut of up to £2,780 per child.

That forces families to share the same budget they had for two children among three, four or more.

Official figures show most families affected are already in work, making a mockery of Tory claims that the change is to encourage people into the job market.

The changes have pushed children into poverty according to experts

In June, a study by the Child Poverty Action Group found those affected felt strongly that the two-child limit unfairly punished hard-working low-income families at a time – the birth of a child – when they most needed support.

They claimed it would push an additional 300,000 children into poverty by 2024, while 1 million children already below the breadline will be pushed into deeper hardship.

Speaking at the time a government spokesman said: “This policy helps to ensure fairness by asking parents receiving benefits to face the same financial choices as those in work. Safeguards are in place and we’ve made changes this year to make the policy fairer.”

In its final report before the election, the Commons Work and Pensions select committee said it said the two-child cap should be scrapped.

12. Tried to make it harder to get justice in Employment tribunals

In 2013 the government introduced new fees of up to £1,200 for launching tribunals against rogue bosses - in a drive to resolve issues more quickly, outside the court system.

But an impact review showed there had been a 70% drop in the number of cases since they were introduced.

The changes were reversed by Judges at the Supreme Court

Low-paid women, especially those treated unfairly when they were pregnant or on maternity leave, were the biggest losers, an analysis by Unison found.

Finally, in July 2017 the Supreme Court ruled the fees were unlawful, forcing the government to repay £27million to around 100,000.

Top judges ridiculed the government’s misunderstanding of “elementary economics, and plain common sense”.

13. Massive hikes to tuition fees

University tuition fees were raised from a maximum of £3,000 a year to £9,000 under the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition.

Since then they have been raised again after universities won permission to lift the £9,000 cap with inflation.

And reports suggest the Tory manifesto does not include a pledge to cut fees

14. Failed to invest in public health - leading to a reported 130,000 preventable deaths

According to the IPPR 130,000 deaths intEngland since 2012 could have been prevented if public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of cuts.

The think tank claimed that had progress continued at pre 2013 levals that around 131,000 lives could have been saved.


IPPR's Dean Hochlaf said in June: “We have seen progress in reducing preventable disease flatline since 2012. At the same time, local authorities have seen significant cuts to their public health budgets, which has severely impacted the capacity of preventative services.

“Social conditions for many have failed to improve since the economic crisis, creating a perfect storm that encourages harmful health behaviours. This health challenge will only continue to worsen.”

15. Made rape victims prove their ordeal

A rule grimly nicknamed the rape clause was introduced in April 2017 as part of cuts to tax credits.

As we've mentioned, claimants can now only be paid tax credits for their first two children, with exceptions for twins or children born of rape.

So raped mums must fill out an 8-page government form in order to claim benefit for their child.

Earlier this year the Work and Pensions Secretary (who we're all supposed to pretend didn't play a part in all this stuff because she later was stripped of the Tory whip) Amber Rudd said: "I've been through the form myself and talked to the department about whether we've got it right. I believe we have.

"The form requires a third party, probably Women's Aid or Refuge, to join with the woman who is filling in the form.

"But otherwise apart from that it's almost a self-declaration.

16. Scrapped nurses' bursaries

In his 2015 spending review, George Osborne unveiled “disastrous” plans to scrap £6,000-a-year grants for student nurses and midwives.

It was supposedly done to allow more training places to open up.

But hours after the policy was announced, unions warned us it could prompt a recruitment crisis.

Figures from February 2019 showed that applications had dropped by 30%.

The RCN has warned that the NHS Long Term Plan won’t have a chance to succeed if the decline in student nurse applications isn’t reversed

The College urged the Government to invest at least £1bn a year in nurse higher education in England to overturn the trend.

17. Tried to bring back fox hunting

As one of his first acts after winning an outright majority in 2015, David Cameron tried to weaken the Hunting Act.

The law banning fox hunting was introduced under Labour and has huge public support, according to polls.

But ex-PM Mr Cameron wanted to weaken it so an unlimited number of dogs, not just two, could "flush" a fox from undergrowth.

Tories have repeatedly tried to weaken the Hunting Act

Activists said that would render the law almost useless, because if hounds rip apart a fox it can be called an accident.

In the end the vote was ditched after the SNP went against convention to oppose it (the law applies only to England).

18. Cracked down on trade unions standing up for things like not dying at work

Passed in summer 2016 after a bitter battle, the Trade Union Act was a wide-ranging crackdown on workers' rights.

It banned strikes unless 50% of all union members eligible to vote choose them - not 50% of those who vote, as before.

This meant the threshold to strike is now much higher than the threshold to run the country after a general election.

The law will also strangle funding to Labour by making union members 'opt-in' to political donations.

Slamming the changes to political funds, Jeremy Corbyn accused the Tories of trying to create a “Zombie democracy” built around a “one-party state”.

19. Slashed green subsidies

In 2015 the Tories slashed funding for small household solar panels by 64%.

A £500m drop in 'feed-in tariffs' was confirmed after critics said the scheme had benefited middle-class families.

But Labour's shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said the cuts would "cost jobs, hold back a growing industry and undermine progress on climate change."

New onshore wind farms were also excluded from a subsidy scheme from 2016.

And the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank was announced in April 2017, prompting fears from the Lib Dems and Green Party that its help for the environment could be weakened.

20. Tried to impose fees for court cases

More than 50 magistrates quit in disgust at court fees which led to accusations the Tories were trying to force poorer criminals to plead guilty.

They hit small-time criminals of flat fees of up to £1,000 - on top of any fines or compensation - which were five times lower if they pleaded guilty.

The fees were introduced in 2015 and were eventually scrapped just a few months later after outrage across the Justice system.

21. Cut inheritance tax for the rich

The Conservatives won the 2015 election promising to "fix the roof while the sun is shining".

But there was one way they were happy to loosen the purse strings - inheritance tax.

One of George Osborne's first acts when he returned as Chancellor was to let couples leave £350,000 more in property after they die .

That means a total of £1million can now be left inheritance-tax-free, benefiting just 22,000 families, according to estimates.

The move was set to cost nearly £1billion a year, cash Labour says should be spent on schools and hospitals.

22. Gutted school funding

Four out of five state schools will be worse off next year according to teaching unions.

The Tories claim they'll invest £7billion in schools over the next three years, but the unions in the School Cuts coalitions say there will still be a shortfall of £2.5billion compared to 2015 levels.

That means more schools closing early, cutting classes and reducing the number of teaching hours.

Kevin Courtney, the National Education Union general secretary said in Seprember: “Johnson has made lots of empty promises on school funding – but his numbers don’t add up.

"The latest funding announcement falls well short of settling the shortfall for every child. And crucially it fails to reverse the cuts schools have suffered since 2015.”

23. Introduced the Benefit Cap

As part of a bid to slash welfare spending, the Tories introduced the Benefit Cap, a cash limit on the amount of support a person could recieve,

Launched in 2013, the cap - £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside - has been blamed for "social cleansing" of inner-city areas.

The idea was that it would "always pay to work".

Except not everyone can go out to work - because of poor health or caring responsibilities.

MPs have begged the government to apply it only to those expected to look for work.

Some of the biggest Tory changes have been to how the DWP works

That would exempt 82% of claimants who the Commons Work and Pensions Committee warn have "no way to escape" the cap.

In November last year, some 73% of the 58,000 people who had housing benefit capped were single parents - and the majority had at least one child under five.

At the time of the MPs report the DWP said: “The benefit cap restores fairness so that it pays to work and still ensures there’s a safety net for the most vulnerable.

“We will carefully consider the report’s findings and respond in due course. People receiving certain disability benefits are already exempt from the cap.”

24. Implemented the Bedroom Tax

The Tories' hated Bedroom Tax is a cut in housing benefit or the universal credit if you're a council or housing association tenant of working age who is believed to have a spare room.

It reduces how much of your rent is covered by housing benefit or the universal credit housing element.

The problem is there aren't enough single bedroom flats for people who want them - resulting in people being punished for situation they can't change.

Bedroom Tax protest

But that is far from the only problem

Earlier this year Judges at the European Court of Human Rights ruled the benefit cut discriminated against a domestic violence victim who was forced to pay extra for her panic room.

The UK government was ordered to pay the woman, who suffered rape and assault, 10,000 Euros (£8,600) for the "damage she suffered".

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