This week marks the first anniversary of David Cameron’s re-election as Prime Minister, this time with a Conservative majority government. It has been a year characterised by unprecedented parliamentary about-turns.
In my last newsletter I wrote about my opposition to Government plans to force all primary and secondary schools to become academies by 2020. Since then, the Education Secretary has watered down these plans, which is welcome news to many parents, teachers and governors. Academy status is right for some schools and not others, but in Tameside, where local authority maintained schools currently outperform academies, forcing all schools into multi-academy trusts overnight could have jeopardised children’s attainment, schools’ accountability and local government finances.
Last week also saw the Government climb down from their opposition to rehoming our share of child refugees from the Syrian war in Britain, just days after they had voted against it in the Commons. These are children who have seen unimaginable horrors far too early in life, and who are now without their parents. I was stunned by the cold-hearted approach from the Government when we debated this, and am gladdened that they have had conceded they were wrong.
These U-turns follow earlier flip-flopping on proposed cuts to disability support benefit and family tax credits, both of which could have forced people into poverty. I think it is right that we re-examine our welfare system, but by going after working parents and vulnerable adults, the Government has revealed its desire to pinch pennies whatever the human cost.
Mrs Thatcher may have been a lady “not for turning”, but it seems Cameron and Osborne find themselves in a spin at every junction. As we approach the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, I hope the Government will give greater forethought to their policies. A second year of handbrake turns could be very damaging for our country.