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Explained: All Those Evil-Sounding Tory Policies and How They'll Affect You

They want to scrap the Human Rights Act, spy on civilians, reduce employment rights, slash subsidies for clean energy and make it harder for Labour to win elections. Surely the intentions aren't all as bad as they sound?

by Adam Forrest
12 May 2015, 9:28am

"C ya l8r, haters" - David Cameron (Photo by Gobierno de Chile via)

It's never pretty when the shock wears off. Britain's left-wing has been plunged into the usual Big Dipper of emotion – denial, anger, despair, more anger – that follows a Conservative Party general election victory.

While anguished speculation about Where the Left Goes Now continues unabated, the Right isn't going anywhere. It doesn't have to – it has stuff to do. David Cameron now has a majority in the Commons and is hoping to push some controversial measures through while his political opponents are either resigning, un-resigning or polishing their CVs for leadership contests.

So let us leave the hand-wringing and hysterics aside for a second, calmly appraise the measures the Tories have pledged to introduce and consider how they might affect ordinary people across the UK.

The Tory pledge: To scrap the Human Rights Act.

What's their justification?
It's all about Europe. Michael Gove, the new Justice Secretary, wants to scrap Labour's Human Rights Act, the 1998 act that incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic British law. The Tories want to replace it with a "British Bill of Rights". It's a long-standing Tory gripe that judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg act as the ultimate arbiter on things British judges could rule on instead. They would very much like to persuade the Europe-hating chunk of the electorate that the Tories can "bring powers back" from the continent.

How will this affect you?
It won't be the end of legally-enshrined human rights in the UK. Hopefully. Presumably the Tories' British Bill of Rights would still protect against torture and arbitrary detention, and still protect free speech, your right to a fair trial and all that other good stuff.

But in practice – somewhat ironically – severing the formal link with Strasbourg could mean anyone seeking to bring a case under the European Convention of Human Rights would have to go all the way to Strasbourg to be heard (rather than having a go through the British court system first). Sean Humber, head of human rights at law firm Leigh Day, has said the Tory proposals could "make it harder, slower and more expensive" for people to assert their human rights. Which doesn't sound great.

Theresa May (Photo courtesy of the DFID via)

The Tory pledge: To push through the "snoopers' charter".

What's their justification?
Keeping up with the bad guys. Home Secretary Theresa May is pressing ahead with the "snoopers' charter" – officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill – which would force internet service providers to store customers' data for 12 months. The idea is that providers will make users' communications and web history available to government and the security services, should they wish to take a peep. May told the BBC it's all about making sure intelligence and law enforcement are "keeping up to date" with online communication.

How will this affect you?
Theresa May probably doesn't want to know what kind of porn you watch, or trawl through a private Facebook chat about those weird red bumps on your inner thigh. The impact, however, would be a serious encroachment on already flimsy online privacy. Civil liberties can seem abstract and high-flown, until you realise every move you make online could be monitored without your knowledge. As campaigners have argued, the snoopers' charter treats us all as suspects, and would effectively mean no part of your digital life is entirely private.

WATCH: The New Wave - Conservatives

The Tory pledge: To reduce union and employment rights.

What's their justification?
Curbing unwelcome strikes is in the Tory manifesto. They want to make sure at least 50 percent of trade union members take part in any strike ballot. At the moment a strike can be called on a majority vote, even if the ballot turnout is very small. Any strike affecting essential public services – health, transport, fire services or schools – would need the backing of 40 percent of all eligible union members.

Funnily enough, the Tories did listen to all the complaints about zero-hour contracts; they've promised to ban exclusivity clauses – clauses in zero-hours contracts which prevent people from finding other jobs to boost their hours.

How will this affect you?
If you're a union member, it could make withholding your labour more difficult. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis has said the measures would make it "virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike", since those unions don't typically see large ballot turnouts. As for zero-hours contracts, it just means you'll have the right to take on two or three shitty jobs, rather than be stuck with just the one.

(Photo by Olivier via)

The Tory pledge: To slash subsidies for wind farms and other clean energy projects.

What's their justification?
It's not entirely clear, other than a vague feeling there's enough green stuff now. Cameron – a man who hugged a husky to prove his green credentials – has promised that his party will end subsidies for onshore wind. He told the Commons last year that the public are "frankly fed up" with so many wind turbines. The right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange has warned of a black hole in the government's budget for clean energy subsidies, which could mean a crisis in offshore wind farm investment, still in its infancy.

How will this affect you?
If you work in the renewables industry, it looks like there will be a lot less government support, and planning permission could become more difficult. And if you're not a fan of fracking, it could mean more days spent protesting in fields in the Home Counties, as the Tory manifesto made a clear commitment to support England's fledging shale gas industry.

Long-term: accelerated climate change, melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, wildfires, plague and pestilence, the end of humanity as we know it.

(Photo by secretlondon123 via)

The Tory pledge: To re-draw electoral boundaries.

What's their justification?
The Tories claim constituency boundaries unfairly favour Labour because urban seats, where Labour traditionally does best, tend to be smaller (in voter numbers) than the leafy suburban and shire seats where Conservatives thrive. Back in 2010 the Tories drew up plans to redraw the map to make all constituencies the same size. The attempted changes were blocked by Labour and the Lib Dems in 2013. Now Cameron has a majority, they can push it through. Expect to hear the phrase: "A simple matter of fairness."

How will this affect you?
If you live in a city in the midlands or north of England and you're a Labour voter, it's likely your vote will be worth less than before. Labour will now need more votes to win enlarged seats in those cities. Polling experts have suggested that if the changes had already been in place, Labour could have lost out on somewhere between 20 to 30 seats last week.

Some very worried people say boundary reform could keep the Tories in power for decades. But on it's own, it won't have that kind of impact. People generally get pissed off with one party being in government too long. Even the Tories, though formidably good at winning elections, can't go on forever.

@adamtomforrest

More about the election on VICE:

Nigel Farage, a Bottle of Matey Shampoo Floating in a Bath of Real Ale, Is Leader of UKIP Again

A Pessimist's Guide to the New Tory Cabinet

We Watched Anti-Tory Protesters Battle with Police Outside Downing Street