Nine Policies The Tories Have Stolen From Labour (And The Greens)

... and what the Government said they would do that they haven't.
Made a few notes, Prime Minister?
Made a few notes, Prime Minister?
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, so the saying goes.

Philip Hammond is set to confirm on Thursday the Conservative’s plan to raise taxes to boost NHS funding. But what taxes will he increase? Maybe the chancellor will steal Labour’s plan to hike corporation tax.

When Theresa May this week hinted her own party’s NHS reforms were “too bureaucratic” and she was minded to scrap them - something Jeremy Corbyn heavily campaigned on at last year’s general election - Labour could be forgiven for thinking they no longer have a monopoly on their own ideas.

And not for the first time.

Here are a few policies the Conservatives appear to have swiped from the Opposition benches in recent months:

1. Cutting The Fixed-Odds Betting Terminal Stake To £2

He's not bitter, no
He's not bitter, no
PA Archive/PA Images

Ed Miliband (remember him?) was the first to talk about cutting the maximum FOBTs stake, saying back in 2014 that the rapid loss of huge sums on the addictive machines was causing misery and hardship.

Labour even forced a vote in the House of Commons the same year to give local authorities powers to stop the spread of FOBTs, cut their number or ban them altogether. It was voted down.

Current Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson backed calls to cut the maximum stake to £2, following recommendations from a government-backed review into FOBTs.

Ministers have since announced a maximum £2 - albeit the pledge won’t become law until 2020.

2. Organ Donations Opt-Out

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
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Jeremy Corbyn announced that the Labour Party would support the introduction of an opt-out organ donation system (something already underway in SNP-run Scotland) in his party conference speech last September.

This followed a long-running campaign by the Daily Mirror, and others, which argued switching to an automatic scheme would boost the number of donors by 25% and save thousands of lives.

Just three months later, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt decided he would bring in the scheme.

3. Banning ivory trade

David Cameron, during his 'hug a husky' stage.
David Cameron, during his 'hug a husky' stage.
PA Archive/PA Images

The 2017 Labour Party manifesto included a total ban on ivory trade in the UK.

Bizarrely, it was dropped from the Conservatives’ 2017 offer in favour of a bland vow to “protect endangered species and the marine environment” despite David Cameron including a complete ban in the 2015 manifesto.

Theresa May has since faced pressure to switch position, and has done so, with the Ivory Trade Bill passing through the Commons this week.

4. Outlawing Bee-Killing Pesticides

May the truth now bee known, Caroline Lucas might have said.
May the truth now bee known, Caroline Lucas might have said.
PA Wire/PA Images

Environment Secretary Michael Gove took everyone by surprise and delighted environmental lobbyists when he declared his opposition to bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in November.

But the arch-Brexiteer was getting his ideas from none other than Labour’s allotment-holding leader, who insisted the pledge be included in last year’s manifesto - and Corbyn was getting his ideas from Green leader Caroline Lucas, whose party was calling for a ban on the nicotine-based pesticide as far back as 2013.

5. Boosting Maximum Sentences For Animal Cruelty

Look, Michael Gove loves animals.
Look, Michael Gove loves animals.
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Corbyn in fact backed a policy of increasing jail sentences for those who abuse animals tenfold to a maximum of five years as part of a series of animal welfare policies put forward in May 2017.

Fast-forward four months and one disastrous election campaign later and Gove announces the government will back the very same policy.

The maximum was previously a six-month sentence, but ministers agreed this did not serve as a deterrent.

Incidentally, Labour also got there first in backing bans on the use of shock collars for pets (outlawed in March), third-party puppy sales (Gove has launched a consultation on this) and wild animals in circuses (legal until 2020).

6. Plastic Bottle Return Schemes

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Labour and the Green Party made pledges on plastic bottle return schemes last May in their manifestos.

Announcing his own plan in March 2018, Michael Gove, said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go un-recycled.

“We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans.”

7. An Energy Price Cap

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When poor old Ed Miliband wanted to hand back more money to hard-pressed energy bill-payers by capping their bills, David Cameron accused him of living in a “Marxist universe”.

When Theresa May revealed in her conference speech in September (yes, that speech) that her party was planning to (sort of) copy Labour’s idea, the former Labour leader took it well.

But while Miliband called for a 20-month price freeze in the face of rising gas and electricity costs, May said her government would allow the market regulator, Ofgem, to impose a price ceiling for customers on standard variable tariffs.

Her policy has yet to be implemented, however, and may not be operational until this winter.

8. Cut The Wait For Universal Credit To 5 Weeks

Former Pensions Secretary David Gauke got there in the end.
Former Pensions Secretary David Gauke got there in the end.
PA Wire/PA Images

This policy was less a carbon copy of another party’s idea and more of a screeching U-turn.

The government did abolish the heavily-criticised six-week wait for Universal Credit - as demanded by Labour, the Lib Dems and, well, pretty much everyone - and reduced it to five weeks, but it took ministers years to admit the policy’s flaws.

Despite repeated calls from campaigners, they stuck steadfastly to the delayed payment system since the scheme began its rollout in 2013, under David Cameron.

This decision was kept to despite mounting evidence that the delay was seeing some families forced rely on foodbanks, face eviction and sink deeper into debt.

The lengthy wait was eventually scaled down in Philip Hammond’s November 2017 budget.

The government also relented on scrapping call charges for the Universal Credit helpline and reinstating housing benefit for under-21s.

9. A New Clean Air Act

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The first Clean Air Act was introduced by Winston Churchill in 1952 in response to the deaths of 12,000 people in the Great Smog of London.

A report in the Lancet in 2017 revealed the UK’s pollution levels were worse than those in the US and mainland Europe and estimated the toxicity was responsible for killing 50,000 people each year.

Labour and the Green Party vowed last year that, if elected, they would bring in new legislation to curb toxic air pollution levels.

Seeing as neither of those eventualities came to pass, ministers are taking up the cause all on their own with the introduction of a 2017 Clean Air Act - laws which will set, measure, enforce and report on air quality targets.

Bonus Round! What The Tories Said They Would Do And Haven’t ...Yet

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1. Curb Excessive Executive Pay

The Conservative Party manifesto said it would make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders and keep a public register to show companies that have significant shareholder opposition to executive wages.

Listed companies would also have to publish ratio of executive pay to broader UK workforce pay, the party said.

Ministers announced in June that big firms will have to justify their chief executives’ salaries and reveal the gap to their average worker - but no sign of that vote or register yet.

Paper Boat Creative via Getty Images

High-earning execs will merely be asked to “explain” why they’re paid so much to those who aren’t.

The Prime Minister did, however keep her promise to force companies to publish their gender pay gap data, a move which has been welcomed by women’s groups and sparked a wide debate on inequality.

2. Workers On Company Boards

Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, was among those angry that May dropped her pledge to put workers on company boards
Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, was among those angry that May dropped her pledge to put workers on company boards
PA Archive/PA Images

The inequality gap between rich and poor has led to intensifying calls for workers to be given a spot on company boards, so those at the bottom have a voice.

May was sympathetic to this idea when she ran for the leadership of her party in 2016, using a speech to attack non-executive directors who were “drawn from the same, narrow social and professional circles” as the execs they were meant to be holding to account.

She even added: “So if I’m Prime Minister, we’re going to change that system – and we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but employees as well.”

3. Reform Of The Gender Recognition Act

Prime Minister Theresa May pledges gender recognition reform at a speech at the Pink News Awards
Prime Minister Theresa May pledges gender recognition reform at a speech at the Pink News Awards
Empics Entertainment

During a speech in 2017, May pledged to press ahead with improving trans rights in the UK by allowing people to self-certify their gender.

The PM said she supported people officially switching gender without medical checks, telling those gathered “being trans is not an illness and it should not be treated as such”.

This speech came after a pre-election vow from May to reform the Gender Recognition Act was found to be absent from the Conservative manifesto.

The PM recently reaffirmed her commitment to an LGBT+ action plan and the government is supposed to be launching a consultation on gender recognition reform before the summer Parliament recess - but nothing has yet been brought forward.


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