11 of the biggest Tory U-turns that will leave you dizzy

11 of the biggest Tory U-turns that will leave you dizzy
Kwasi Kwarteng defends sudden U-turn on scrapping 45p rate tax

Every prime minister doubtlessly remembers their first U-turn.

New prime minister Liz Truss has made her debut sooner than most, and after plunging the pound, causing economists and the public to despair, and generally Making A Mess, her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said the government would not go ahead with scrapping the 45p rate of tax, aimed at causing growth.

It is an embarrassing U-turn, not least because Truss defended the policy in impassioned interviews to the media just yesterday, but she is not the only Tory PM who's been forced to change their mind.

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Here are some of the biggest U-turns successive Tory governments have made in the last twelve(ish) years that they've been in power.

Liz Truss


45p tax

As mentioned, today the Tories confirmed they wouldn't go ahead with their planned change to tax. Kwarteng said the government had "listened" to people's concerns and had realised the policy was a "distraction" from their plans to grow the economy.

Boris Johnson



Before the Tories put their trust in Truss, Johnson was the PM, and during his premiership, he turned round and round a number of times and left the public with whiplash. His initial response to Covid was a doozy of a U-turn. After appearing to downplay the dangers of the virus, he ended up enacting a national lockdown in March 2020.

As the pandemic continued running riot, Johnson flip-flopped on a number of occasions, most notably for the more festive among us, by saying Christmas 2020 could go ahead and then decided households could not mix with very short notice.


As well as being unsure about the lockdown, the government insisted face coverings should not be mandatory in shops because people would not be in close proximity for long. Weeks later, they became mandatory in England.

The government also rethought policies about wearing masks in schools, vaccine passports and whether to accept Matt Hancock's resignation for... you know what.

A-Level grades

Remember the A-Level fiasco in 2020? When a rubbish algorithm ruined teenager's exam results?

Then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted allowing pupils to use their teachers' predictions instead would be unfair as it could have created grade inflation. Within two days, the government U-turned.

Marcus Rashford's free school meals campaign

When the England footballer campaigned for the government to feed hungry children outside school term time in Summer 2020, Johnson disagreed.

Grant Shapps: "It is usually the case that over the summer holidays, free school meals are not available, schools are not there."

But what happened? A U-turn that's what.

In November 2020, the government-backed down again and announced a £170m winter grant scheme for families struggling due to Covid thanks in part to Rashford's campaign.

Windfall tax

More topical, given we are still in the midst of the cost of living crisis, was when Labour proposed a tax on big oil and gas firms and Johnson ridiculed it. Around a week later, his government introduced the tax and engaged in some wordplay in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid it being associated with the Labour policy.

Energy loan

Then, when the government gave people £200 to deal with the rising costs of their energy bills, told them to pay it back, then said it wasn't a loan.

After eyebrows were raised, the then chancellor agreed it would not need to be repaid after all and doubled it to £400.

With all that, when Johnson eventually appeared to U-turn on thinking he was good enough to run the country and resigned, the country breathed a sigh of relief.

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa MayPrime Minister Theresa May Getty

'Dementia tax'

The Tories decided that wealthy people requiring care in their homes would be obliged to pay for it. Days later, May announced that care payments would be capped given the backlash.

General election

“There isn’t going to be one. It isn’t going to happen. There is not going to be a general election,” May’s spokesman said in March 2017. A month later, with the Tory poll lead in double figures, she announced that she had “reluctantly” decided a vote was necessary to strengthen her hand before Brexit negotiations which we now know went just swimmingly didn't they?

British bill of rights

During the Brexit referendum campaign, May advocated leaving the European Convention of Human Rights and called instead for a British bill of rights.

The Tories are still debating whether this is a sensible policy or not.

David Cameron

David Cameron sought to tackle lobbying during his time as prime ministerDavid Cameron sought to tackle lobbying during his time as prime minister Getty Images

Pasty tax

In the years that he was prime minister, Cameron U-turned a fair few times. Most memorably for those who like to chow down on a pasty, in 2012, then chancellor George Osborne announced plans to charge VAT on food designed to cool down, such as sausage rolls and pasties.

Protests erupted in Cornwall amid claims that ministers were "out of touch". The plan, dubbed by the press as the "pasty tax" was scrapped two months later.

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