The incumbent Tory government of David Cameron and co. seemed to be under the illusion that since it scraped a majority at last year's general election, it could do what it liked to the country and the (post-political) 'what works' ideology of Thatcherism Redux could be freely imposed at will. Fast forward to the last few weeks and it becomes very apparent that that is not at all the case.
The inflated sense of hubris of the past 9 months displayed by the Cameron government was punctured over the past few weeks by successive defeats as it wrongly expected to be able to further realign politics to its own right-wing class-based agenda. Wrongly and disarmingly, it suffered defeats on a number of different issues all weakening its own complacent and wholly imaginary 'mandate' that much more.
The reactionary nature of Cameron and co.'s project of 'Thatcherism Redux' expected to be able to 'reclassify' the 'definition' of child poverty by - absurdly - ignoring household income however the House of Lords comprehensively opposed and resisted such attempts by 290 Peers against 198. Meanwhile, the DWP's ongoing war on the poor suffered another setback after it was announced that the proposed benefit cap for carers was to be abandoned, following the High Court ruling late last year that it was both discriminatory and offensive. The Lords delivered another blow at the end of January by defeating the DWP's plan to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week, by 283 to 198 votes, besides Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers both Cross Bench and again Tory Peers voting against the government, and the "misery" such a cut would inflict.
Also at the end of January, the Court of Appeal upheld two legal challenges to the punitive Bedroom Tax, the first from the grandparents of a disabled teenager, who successfully argued that they needed a bedroom to accommodate overnight carers; the second from a woman who had suffered domestic violence and sexual violence including rape and had had a room converted into a 'panic room'. It should be clear that the 'Discipline and Punish' offensive of the DWP to inflict suffering on the most vulnerable has been slowed in its tracks by three very significant defeats.
Moving away from the Tory war on the poor, the apparent mistaken belief that the crudest weapons of class war from above could be used at will in legislative form was dealt its own no less significant blow by the House of Lords blocking the proposed imposition of the Trade Union Bill to limit party funding - very obviously funding to Labour, since Hedge Funds and 'Ultra High Net Worth Individuals' were not covered by the proposal - once again, Tory Peers and Crossbenchers making a total of 327 peers voting against the government proposal.
Cameron and his Tory government were not to escape with 'just' four major defeats in a week however, feeling the legal profession and judiciary's full force as plans to make justice contingent on the ability to pay court fees were frustrated and hamstrung. These plans were excoriated by the most senior civil judge of England and Wales the Master of the Rolls John Dyson, who noted the "lamentable" lack of research by the government before rushing to try to impose court fees. The Master of the Rolls added that the Ministry of Justice was attempting to shift the cost of its own £100 million budget shortfall onto users of the civil courts by imposing court fees charging more than the cost of using them so as to make a profit. The Master of the Rolls added that the proposal carried with it "the risk of denying access to justice for a lot of people."
The Conservative Party's considerable antagonism toward the legal profession at every level was felt by Justice Secretary Michael Gove when he attempted to cut by at least 2/3 the number of contract duty solicitors on call at magistrates' courts and police stations. Gove, who is neither a solicitor nor barrister and has no legal training at all, felt nonetheless qualified to remove legal representation from defendants whilst dealing a blow to those he so resents, lawyers. Gove was forced to drop his plans in late January however following no less than 99 legal challenges. That proposed further cuts to Legal Aid were explicitly aimed at making justice out of reach for anyone without the means to pay was glaringly apparent from the start of such ideological plans, and neither Gove nor Cameron nor the rest of the Tory government expected to meet any real resistance let alone actually face defeat.
No fewer than six major defeats in a week have reminded the incumbent Tory government that it is not only far from invulnerable, but that there are many opposed to its policies and its cynical attempts to force them on the UK: this is only the start.