07/08/2015 11:33 BST | Updated 07/08/2016 06:59 BST

One Hundred Days In, Unbridled Conservatism Is Already a Different Beast to Coalition


To mark 100 days of the first Conservative government in nearly 20 years, HuffPost UK is running 100 Days of Dave, a special series of blog posts from grassroots campaigners to government ministers, single parents to first-year students, reflecting on what's worked and what hasn't, whilst looking for solutions to the problems we still face.

The first 100 days of David Cameron's government have been coloured almost entirely by what happened on a single day, the 11 May, less than a week after his General Election victory.

Camped out on the Downing Street pavement, a knot of broadcasters and photographers were monitoring the comings and goings through the No 10 door. It was the new Prime Minister's chance to form a government. Unshackled by those pesky Lib Dems, freshly empowered by an unexpected election win - how would David Cameron shuffle the first majority Conservative government for nearly 20 years?

As the day wore on, so did the sense of deja-vu. The new Chancellor was the same as the old one. The Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary were all identical - along with the Work and Pensions Secretary, Education Secretary and Health Secretary. When the biggest change is the Culture Secretary moving to the Department of Business, you know this isn't a radical reshuffle.

The general election night was a political whirlwind - tearing down Westminster stalwarts from Vince Cable to Ed Balls, and propelling new forces to power with the rise of the SNP. But the first 100 days of David Cameron's government has been characterised by very familiar faces.

In reality, of course, appearances can be deceptive. One hundred days of unbridled Conservatism is already a different beast to Coalition, with legislation like the European Union Referendum Bill and the Scotland Bill to prove it.

But there's one policy that is giving me a sense of deja-vu - and it's hugely significant to millions of people.

In George Osborne's first budget of the new government, he announced that public sector employees will see their wages capped at one per cent until the next general election.

This policy didn't gather many headlines (perhaps unsurprisingly - because it feels like we've heard it all before.)

But it's worth thinking about what this wage cap really means.

In 2010 the Coalition government froze public sector pay for three years, before capping increases at one per cent for the next two. For teachers, nurses, police officers and civil servants, this means their wages will rise by no more than one per cent a year for an entire DECADE. For ten years of their working life - the whole of their twenties or thirties, for instance - they can wave a decent pay rise goodbye.

When George Osborne announced the policy, the one per cent rise was above inflation - in reality, of course, it may drift below that line and become a real terms cut.

The political reasoning behind this policy is easy to understand.

It's part of the government's "long term economic plan". Debt levels remain stubborn, and ministers are determined to take the difficult decisions to bring them down. Under current projections, the deficit won't be cleared until 2019/20 - a year later than planned.

In addition, public sector pay restraint means fewer job losses. The Budget endorsed the Office for Budget Responsibility projection of 800,000 fewer public sector jobs across the UK by 2018 compared to five years ago. Accept a one per cent wage increase or face losing your job? I know what most people would choose.

Still, though.

It's worth remembering that when George Osborne hailed a new "higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare" Britain in the Budget - not everyone is celebrating higher wages.

How do you think Britain has changed since 7 May? Join the @HuffPostUK conversation on Twitter with #100DaysOfDave