Another week, another litany of policies and announcements from the Tory party as they ease us out of lockdown.
It’s not exactly going swimmingly thanks to confusing guidelines that seem to contradict each other (what is going on with face masks now?).
But that hasn’t stopped the Tories from getting on with their other important work: public blunders.
Here are seven of the top terrible Tory errors made this week.
1. The “worst ever cabinet minister” now oversees MI5
The announcement that Chris Grayling – labelled the “worst ever cabinet minister” – was almost certainly about to become head of one of the UK’s most important security bodies caused alarm everywhere.
Yes, it appears that a man who cost the UK an estimated £3.5bn over three years alone and once awarded a ferry contract to company that had no ships, may now be the chair of the Information and Security Committee, which oversees the likes of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the release of the long-delayed Russia report. What could possibly go wrong?
2. A Tory minister claimed parents were using meal vouchers for booze
Children’s minister Vicky Ford sparked anger when she tweeted this week about ‘incidents’ of parents using free school vouchers for ‘alcohol’ and ‘non food products’.
However, members of the public quickly pointed out that Ford’s own colleagues said they couldn’t be used to buy alcohol. Checkout supervisors also chimed in to say that tills simply wouldn't accept the vouchers if the wrong items were presented.
Ford was quickly accused of attempting to “undermine" the scheme (which the government only agreed to continue after a concerted campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford). In response, she failed to produce any evidence of widespread misuse of the vouchers. A great look!
3. When everyone thought they were getting £500 vouchers but instead got some money off Pizza Express
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled some more of the grand plan to rescue the UK’s economy post-coronavirus on Wednesday.
Rumours had been flying that every UK citizen would be receiving a £500 voucher to spend in local businesses.
The reality was a little different: a scheme called “Eat Out To Help Out” (urm…) that translated into a 50 per cent reduction on sit-down meals and non-alcoholic drinks. Through August. Only Monday to Wednesday. Oh and capped at £10 per head.
Immediately the scheme was hit by questions like “What about people who can’t afford to eat out?” and “Where’s the rent freeze we asked for?”
At least the tagline is funny.
4. When the government tried to take away free NHS parking and then immediately backtracked
On 3 July, health minister Edward Argar said free parking – which has been available to NHS staff since 25 March – “could not continue indefinitely”, a statement taken as a clear indicator that the Tories would imminently be moving to take away the subsidised service.
A front page on the inewspaper certainly suggested it was so. An immediate outcry followed.
And lo! Suddenly on Wednesday Boris Johnson was side-stepping the question of whether free parking would be removed.
Soon enough, Nicky Morgan had emerged to say there was “no foundation” to the reports that the government were planning to end it. For now, the plans have been shelved with a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care saying:
"When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course."
5. Opting out of another EU coronavirus scheme
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was fury when the UK refused to join a EU procurement scheme to get essential PPE and ventilators – while suffering from a PPE and ventilator shortage.
After opposition, Boris Johnson eventually announced we would join the scheme (although it is unclear if we ever officially did).
So reports this week that the UK is now once again turning down an invitation to join a joint EU attempt to develop and divvy out a vaccine for Covid-19 have touched an already sensitive nerve.
Politicians like Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran have criticised the decision, saying:
“The government walking away from this EU deal just smacks of ideological dogma. Working together would help drive down costs and make sure we get value for money. For this government, it’s Brexit over vaccines”.
Absolutely no way this decision can backfire.
6. Boris Johnson insulting care home workers
As if care home workers haven’t been through enough in this pandemic, on Monday the prime minister managed to belittle the efforts of staff to hold the devastating impact of Covid-19 at bay.
During an interview on Monday, Johnson said care homes “didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time”.
Of course, this remark was seen as highly insulting and disrespectful to the legions of workers who had received confused guidelines from a government that didn’t know what to do.
Johnson is now being called upon to apologise for what’s being seen as an attempt to shift blame. Will he? Don’t hold your breath.
It’s such an unpopular decision that this week major UK supermarkets including M&S, Co-Op and Sainsbury’s pledged never to sell the treated meat. Tesco, Aldi and Waitrose have also said they will not sell chicken in the future that doesn’t meet existing food standards in the country.
Imagine a policy so bad that businesses reject it even though it would increase their profit margin.
Guess Boris will be having chlorinated chicken for one... to go.