10 terrible things the Tories have done since they waltzed into Downing Street a decade ago today

10 terrible things the Tories have done since they waltzed into Downing Street a decade ago today

By Joanna Taylor

It’s official: the United Kingdom has been under Tory rule for 10 years.

And if the last five hadn’t been so utterly weird, we might now be welcoming a new prime minister to the country’s helm, because it was just five years ago that David Cameron secured a surprise majority in 2015.

Cameron was first elected on 7 May 2010 and again on 8 May 2015, albeit without his coalition buddy Nick Clegg the second time.

But rather than the electoral cycle playing out in its usual way, we’ve instead had four years of Brexit, two snap elections and now five more guaranteed years of Tory rule.

To mark this milestone, we’ve rounded up the most defining moments of the last decade of Tory prime ministers.

2010: Raised tuition fees to £9,000 a year

Immediately after his election, David Cameron began making decisive changes to Britain’s economy. Chancellor George Osborne announced dramatic cuts to public services and introduced a cap on pay rises for public sector workers, ushering in what would become a decade of austerity.

The government also famously tripled university fees to £9,000 a year. University graduates now typically enter the workforce tens of thousands of pounds in debt.

2011: Spent 'up to £1bn' bombing Libya

Whilst public sector workers and students felt the squeeze of government spending cuts, Cameron embarked on an expensive foreign policy, spending millions bombing Libya. While the Ministry of Defence says the military intervention cost £200m, analysts have suggested that the price tag could be closer to £1bn.

Foreign intervention ultimately contributed to increased destabilation of the African country, with Isis taking over the east.

2012: Senior Tory resigns for offering access to the prime minister for cash

Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after The Sunday Times revealed that he was offering access to the prime minister and chancellor for sums of £100,000 to £250,000.

2012 was also the year of "plebgate", when Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign after allegedly calling a police officer outside Downing Street a “pleb”.

2013: Cut benefits by introducing Universal Credit

Championed by Ian Duncan-Smith, Universal Credit replaced the old benefits system in which claimants would receive their tax credits, unemployment benefits, housing benefits and so forth separately.

It has proven to be roundly unpopular, resulting in an estimated loss of £1,000 a year for 1.9 million of the UK’s most deprived adults. Food banks have also reported that when Universal Credit is introduced to a new area, demand for their services goes up.

2014: Tried to stop an expenses scandal

Culture Secretary Maria Miller resigned after it was revealed by The Telegraph that she claimed over £90,000 in parliamentary expenses between 2005 and 2009 for the upkeep of a house in south London where her parents lived.

But before this information went public, The Telegraph allege that both Miller’s special advisor and Cameron’s own spokesperson phoned them because the story was "badly timed" for the government and they didn't want it to run.

2015: Got into a fight with junior doctors.

A new contract for junior doctors sparked widespread protests as it redefined that constituted “unsociable hours”. Under the plans proposed by Jeremy Hunt, weekends and late evenings were considered “normal working hours”.

Changes in how part-time work was paid was also determined to disproportionately affect women. The dispute, which lead to walk outs and strikes, wasn’t resolved until 2019.

2016: Brexit

Although 2016 was a rocky year for the Conservatives generally, with David Cameron's name appearing in the Panama Papers scandal and the "Snoopers' Charter" being introduced, nothing has quite had an impact on his legacy like the Brexit vote.

Brexit didn’t go the way Cameron wanted – or expected – and caused deep rifts in British society. It would also lead to years of parliamentary deadlock and triggered multiple snap elections.

2017: Cut disability benefits

Theresa May became the UK’s elected prime minister in 2017 after calling an election that shrunk her majority.

She oversaw several changes to the British economy, including a weekly reduction for disability claimants if they were deemed fit for work. May also pushed for the creation of new grammar schools whilst threatening a three per cent cut to state school funding.

2018: Wrongly deported British citizens as part of the “hostile environment” policy

In 2018 it was revealed that at least 83 British citizens were wrongly deported from the country, and more were wrongly detained or denied legal rights.

The majority of those affected were people invited to live and work in the UK during the post-war labour shortage from the Caribbean, who were named the "Windrush generation".

2019: Unlawfully prorogued parliament

Boris Johnson became prime minister in 2019, and one of the first things he did was unlawfully suspended parliament for five weeks.

Johnson’s antics were no less erratic in his subsequent election campaign and included grabbing a reporter’s phone out of his hand and hiding in a fridge. All in all, it was a scandalous first few months on the job.

2020: Acted slowly to respond to the threat of coronavirus

Britain has the second highest death toll from coronavirus in the world behind the USA. Johnson has been accused of being too slow to recognise and act on the threat the pandemic posed, according to a report by The Sunday Times.

In spite of this, Johnson is teasing an easing up of lockdown rules, which is confusing people seeing as Germany's infection rate shot up when Angela Merkel relaxed lockdown rules.

... So there we have it: a decade of Tories in Downing Street, bad decision by bad decision.

The UK is set for at least another five years of Conservative governments, and likely more according to precedent: no opposition party has won an election immediately after a win the size of Boris Johnson’s, meaning that if Labour doesn’t successfully appeal to voters by the mid-2020s Britain could be looking at two decades of Tory rule.

The worst hit by the Conservative Party’s economic reforms and funding cuts tend to be the most deprived and marginalised. People on lower incomes, BAME people and women suffer most from cuts to public services. And with the UK potentially looking at another recession after the coronavirus lockdown, it’s important to remember that.

But for now, let's "stay alert" and wait for the next scandal to come along... because judging from the last decade, it won't take too long.

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