It’s been an even more humiliating week for the government than you might think

Steve Topple

In a week that has seen the government lurch from self-induced crisis to self-induced crisis (with Mr Hunt and Ms Morgan being at the epicentre of most of these crises), you do have to wonder who our elected representatives in Westminster actually are.

Because in what’s now becoming almost a tradition, the House of Lords has once again been holding this government to account and the Tory “short and curlies” are beginning to look somewhat strained. But you may have missed it.

On Monday the Lords dealt the government’s now scraggy-looking “Housing and Planning Bill” a triple whammy, by forcing three new amendments to be considered when the bill returns to the Commons. This takes the tally of defeats to 11 – quite unprecedented for one piece of legislation.

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The bill has been branded (FT paywall) a “dog’s breakfast” by Labour and analysis shows that the proposals will do little to solve the current housing crisis. Criticised by housing charities such as Shelter and battered by campaigners such as Focus E15, the bill has been the focus of numerous protests and marches. To say it’s looking dog-eared may be serving it too well.

Defeat number two came on Tuesday night over Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Bill. This proposal would’ve seen the UK accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children but was voted down on Monday night, leading to a storm of public outrage. Peers once again forced a rethink from the government by tabling a further amendment which would mean the UK has to accept at least some of these desperate children.

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The Immigration Bill is highly controversial and has already been watered-down by the Lords in two areas: the detention of pregnant women in immigration centres and holding people in these virtual prisons for more than 28 days. Campaign group Liberty has described this piece of legislation as “Dickensian and discriminatory” and others have criticised it for creating a “hostile environment” for migrants. Whether this regressive piece of legislation ever makes it through parliament remains to be seen.

Furthermore, peers landed another punch on the increasingly bruised Tory ego earlier on Tuesday by voting against government plans to scrap wind farm subsidies and zero carbon home standards in the Energy Bill. Cameron must have steam coming out of his ears. Best get some loft insulation fitted.

Also yesterday, ministers appeared to take a preemptive strike in another battle with the House of Lords – this time over the nightmarish Trade Union Bill. In what appears to be a cynical attempt by the snivelling government to halt another defeat, they have themselves watered-down some aspects of the bill. Electronic voting will now be trialled and the suspension of subscriptions automatically going to political organisations may well be delayed.

The trade union bill is a fundamental attack on one of the most basic rights we have in the UK – the right to strike. If the Conservatives get their way with this it will weaken the power of an already stifled movement. It will also further undermine the rights of ordinary people in the UK. As Mick Cash of the RMT Union brilliantly put it:

It is no surprise that the Tories are resorting to the policies of General Franco to try and tighten the noose of the anti-union laws around the necks of those workers in the front line of the fight against austerity.

So with slapping-downs from the Lords for the housing bill and its immigration counterpart and a weasely set of admissions on the trade union legislation what’s next in the government’s ‘Week of Shame’?

And it’s only Wednesday, so plenty of time left for the government to suffer even more humiliation.

But just how many more defeats, u-turns and red-faced climb downs can this Conservative administration endure? John McDonnell said, as he addressed the crowd at the People’s Assembly “4 Demands” march, “We’ve got to work to bring this government down at the first opportunity”.

The way the Conservatives are currently performing it is unlikely they’ll need any help with that one.

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Featured image via Flickr (With Associates) / Flickr (Number 10)

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