A busy Conservative summer

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at the opening of the GAVI Alliance immunisations pledging conference in London, June 13 2011

When polling stations opened on May 7th, nobody expected a Conservative majority government would be with us for the summer, and the next five years. It’s been a busy five months for David Cameron, leading his Conservative cabinet in implementing the first blue manifesto for 18 years. In fairness, they’ve done what they were elected to do, with a bit extra.

Their promise of an In/Out European Union referendum is being implemented, with the debate set to be the biggest political decision of the decade. The growing migration and refugee issue the EU has been facing over the summer has made this topic even more inflamed.

During the election campaign the Conservatives stated £12 billion of savings from welfare needed to be made, yet failed to outline where these would fall. In June we found out that tax credits and child benefit would be cut, hitting working families hard when they are implemented. This welfare bill was passed with a large majority, as temporary Labour leader Harriet Harman voiced the party would also support the bill. Despite this, many members abstained and some, including local MP Jo Stevens went against the party whip, voting against.

The budget however hit young people hard, getting rid of housing benefit for anyone aged between 18-25 as well as the maintenance grant for the poorest students in England. Meanwhile, the new so-called living wage will only apply to over 25’s. The party also took a few popular policies out of Labour’s manifesto, including a move to permanently get rid of the non-dom tax status (a tax loophole).

The media heavily criticized Cameron’s decision to appoint 45 new Lords at the end of last month, including 26 former Tory minsters or aides. Among them is Douglas Hogg, who claimed £2,000 in expenses to maintain his moat, and 11 Liberal Democrats, which means that Tim Farron’s party now has more new peers than current MPs.

Another headline was the cut to the BBCs budget, equivalent to their whole radio division budget. This has sparked debate over what the BBC is and who it should serve, potentially scaling down dramatically on entertainment programs.

There have also been a couple of embarrassing moments for the government, especially on the relaxing of fox hunting laws, where the SNP showed off their parliamentary influence forcing the government to delay the vote.

Labour, having been in the middle of an internal crisis regarding its future, has failed to lead an appropriate opposition as of yet. Having voted for the Conservatives welfare cuts in June, their purpose has been challenged. The new leader (not announced at the time of writing) can now try and unite the party once more to build a progressive opposition to challenge the government and hold them to account more. One thing is clear; we’re missing the Liberal Democrats and can now see the influence they had on the coalition government.

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