The 15 Most Outlandish Ideas From The Tory Government - Yet To See Light Of Day

·11-min read
Campaigners wearing masks of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, take part in a Labour party stunt in Parliament Square, Westminster. (Photo: James Manning via PA Wire/PA Images)
Campaigners wearing masks of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, take part in a Labour party stunt in Parliament Square, Westminster. (Photo: James Manning via PA Wire/PA Images)

Campaigners wearing masks of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, take part in a Labour party stunt in Parliament Square, Westminster. (Photo: James Manning via PA Wire/PA Images)

It’s been a long 12 years for the Conservative Party which has steered the UK through historic moments of major upheaval.

David Cameron led the gruelling response to the aftermath of the Great Recession before the Brexit referendum finished him off.

Theresa May was left to deal with the intractable fallout of Brexit that left the nation divided and parliament at war.

Boris Johnson bulldozed his way into No.10, got Brexit “done” but faced a challenge like no other in living memory with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like so many Tory prime ministers before him, Johnson was finally brought down by his own MPs.

And just when you thought British politics had tipped the “unprecedented” scale, welcome Liz Truss who faces an in-tray like no other.

War in Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, sky rocketing bills, inflation, strikes and a whopping NHS backlog.

Despite all this British prime ministers and their top teams have found the time to come up with a range of outlandish policies.

Such “red meat” policies have been a major feature since Boris Johnson came to power in 2019.

Here, HuffPost UK talks you through the wildest pledges - many that will never see the light of day.

Bridge To Northern Ireland

The Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden was seen as the inspiration. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden was seen as the inspiration. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden was seen as the inspiration. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In September 2019 the then prime minister Johnson said his “very good” idea for a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland would “only cost about £15 billion”.

However, the idea was junked two years later after a feasibility study found it would cost up to £335 billion and was fraught with potential difficulties. The study alone cost taxpayers almost £900,000.

Royal Yacht

Image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist's impression of a new national flagship. (Photo: 10 Downing Street via PA Media)
Image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist's impression of a new national flagship. (Photo: 10 Downing Street via PA Media)

Image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist's impression of a new national flagship. (Photo: 10 Downing Street via PA Media)

Before he left office, Johnson launched a £200 million national flagship project to seek a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Truss has said she backs the idea but wants private-sector money to help bear the cost.

However a source close to the Royal Household said last year: “No one at the Palace wants this vessel...Charles doesn’t want it. William has no interest in it.”

And recent reports have suggested the Johnson brainwave is now on the back burner. A defence source told The Sunday Times: “No one wants to pay for the bloody yacht.”

888 Phone Line

Priti Patel and Philip Jansen (Photo: HuffPost UK)
Priti Patel and Philip Jansen (Photo: HuffPost UK)

Priti Patel and Philip Jansen (Photo: HuffPost UK)

The week after Wayne Couzens was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Sarah Everard, a new emergency phone line was announced.

Former home secretary Priti Patel backed a new 888 number developed in response to public outrage.

Women would be able to use a mobile app, potentially with the number 888, to summon police if they felt threatened.

BT CEO Philip Jansen said it might cost as little as £50 million and could be up and running by Christmas that year.

However, nearly a year since the initial announcement, next to nothing has been said about the scheme.

New Grammar Schools 

Children sitting exams. (Photo: David Jones via PA Wire/PA Images)
Children sitting exams. (Photo: David Jones via PA Wire/PA Images)

Children sitting exams.  (Photo: David Jones via PA Wire/PA Images)

Stories about Tory plans to lift the ban on new grammar schools seems to come around earlier every year.

The latest headline in The Telegraph suggested: “Liz Truss could lift the ban on new grammar schools in months.”

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said he believed the government may back a planned amendment to the Schools Bill to pave the way for new selective schools.

However, even if a vote gets through the Commons to lift the ban, it does not necessarily mean any new grammars would actually be built.

Former education secretary Michael Gove recently said there was no evidence grammar schools advance social mobility.

US Trade Deal

US President Joe Biden. (Photo: Pool via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden. (Photo: Pool via Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden. (Photo: Pool via Getty Images)

Still hanging in the balance is the government’s promise of a post-Brexit trade deal with the USA.

Liz Truss admitted this week that any such deal remains years away, putting her at odds with her predecessor Johnson who declared in 2019: “We hear that we’re first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States.”

When she was international trade secretary in 2019 Truss herself wrote in the Daily Telegraph that a US trade deal was her “main priority”.

However, three years later she told reporters: “There aren’t currently any negotiations taking place with the US and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term.”

Government NFT

Former chancellor Risih Sunak (Photo: HuffPost UK)
Former chancellor Risih Sunak (Photo: HuffPost UK)

Former chancellor Risih Sunak (Photo: HuffPost UK)

In April 2022 former chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures for the notoriously unregulated cryptocurrency sector - which features incredibly volatile currencies.

The statement piece of the announcement was that Sunak had instructed the 1,136-year-old Royal Mint to issue a trendy non-fungible token by the summer.

NFTs can be anything digital such as a drawing or music but each one is a unique “one of a kind” asset - rather like a famous painting.

Since the Treasury’s announcement there has been a major crash in cryptocurrencies, Sunak walked out of the government and lost the Tory leadership race to Truss.

The Treasury originally said the NFT would be issued this summer, but next to nothing has been said about the initiative.

Bring Back Imperial Measurements

Boris Johnson sips a pint of beer in Wolverhampton. (Photo: JACOB KING via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson sips a pint of beer in Wolverhampton. (Photo: JACOB KING via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson sips a pint of beer in Wolverhampton. (Photo: JACOB KING via Getty Images)

Johnson’s government also launched a post-Brexit review on how and where traders can sell produce using imperial measurements.

Currently they must use metric when selling packaged or loose goods - although Britain’s traditional weighing system can be shown alongside.

However, Truss is being urged to dump the idea because it will cost at least £2 million and bewilder shoppers.

A standards watchdog also warned that traders will have to fork out on new measuring devices and inspectors to pay for extra training.

Banish Tannoy Spam

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps (Photo: DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT)
Former transport secretary Grant Shapps (Photo: DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT)

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps (Photo: DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT)

In January, former transport secretary Grant Shapps called for a “bonfire of banalities” to reduce the amount of tannoy spam rail passengers are forced to endure.

He vowed to “bring down” the number of announcements to make journeys “more peaceful”.

The government said a review would take place over this year, with redundant messages removed within months.

However, when HuffPost UK asked the department for transport how the policy was coming along, they revealed that arguably the most annoying announcement of them all “See It. Say It. Sorted.” is here to stay.

Number Plates For Cyclists

Athletes cycling outside the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Athletes cycling outside the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Athletes cycling outside the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Another Grant Shapps classic was unveiled in the Daily Mail last month in which he suggested cyclists could be forced to have registration numbers, insurance and observe speed limits.

He told the paper that “obviously does then lead you into the question of: Well, how are you going to recognise the cyclist? Do you need registration plates and insurance?”

However, pressed on the comments on LBC, Shapps said: “No no no, no plans to introduce registration plates.

“The wider point that I was making, though, is that it’s got to be right to ensure that everybody who uses our roads does so responsibly.”

Housing Refugees In Oligarch Mansions

Gove and Abramovich (Photo: Getty)
Gove and Abramovich (Photo: Getty)

Gove and Abramovich (Photo: Getty)

In March, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a Mail on Sunday article declared that Michael Gove wanted to seize oligarch mansions to house Ukrainian refugees.

The then levelling up secretary wanted to put up families fleeing Vladimir Putin’s war in the multi-million pound homes of the president’s cronies in Britain.

Among those highlighted in the article included the sanctioned Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich who reportedly had a portfolio of at least 70 properties in the UK, worth around £500 million.

The Telegraph also reported that Gove was “drawing up plans” to confiscate oligarchs’ homes without paying compensation.

However, months on, very little is known about the plan and officials have been unable to say if any work has been done on its feasibility.

Ones To Watch...

Benefits To Bricks

Former prime minister Boris Johnson during a speech in Blackpool where he announced new housing measures. (Photo: Peter Byrne via PA Wire/PA Images)
Former prime minister Boris Johnson during a speech in Blackpool where he announced new housing measures. (Photo: Peter Byrne via PA Wire/PA Images)

Former prime minister Boris Johnson during a speech in Blackpool where he announced new housing measures. (Photo: Peter Byrne via PA Wire/PA Images)

Over the summer Johnson announced plans to enable people who are in work and on housing benefit to use welfare payments towards a mortgage.

However, critics quickly pointed out that welfare rules taper the amount of Universal Credit received when the claimant’s savings exceed £6,000, and it stops entirely when savings exceed £16,000 - a sum that would not go far in putting down a deposit in many parts of the UK.

Even the department for work and pensions has admitted “that it is likely most will not be in a position to take up the new policy”, according to Labour.

It also remains to be seen whether lenders will be willing to accept the proposals.

Deportation Flights To Rwanda

"Stop Rwanda" banner outside the Royal Courts Of Justice. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)

The controversial Rwanda policy was unveiled in April, with Johnson saying action was needed to stop “vile people smugglers”.

However, no-one has been sent to the African country and thousands have continued to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane in precarious dinghies.

The policy has stalled following a series of human rights challenges and the plan has been branded a “failed scheme”.

Truss has vowed to “support and extend” the deportation policy “to more countries”. Before then, she faces a battle to get the original scheme off the ground.

The government has so far refused to reveal how much its plans will cost. However, an initial £120 million payment has been made to Rwanda’s government.

Fracking

A ban on fracking in England has been lifted. (Photo: Peter Byrne - PA Images via Getty Images)
A ban on fracking in England has been lifted. (Photo: Peter Byrne - PA Images via Getty Images)

A ban on fracking in England has been lifted. (Photo: Peter Byrne - PA Images via Getty Images)

Prime minister Truss has promised to lift a three-year-old ban on fracking for shale gas, claiming it could “get gas flowing in as soon as six months”.

However, experts have warned that it will be costly and fail to provide a quick relief from the energy crisis.

The moratorium on fracking was imposed by Johnson in 2019 after tremors in Lancashire.

The move will also face strong opposition from campaigners and environmentalists, who say that fracking can cause water contamination, increase traffic and noise pollution and lead to minor earthquakes.

40 New Hospitals

Former prime minister Boris Johnson visits the South West London Orthopaedic Centre in Epsom. (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH via Getty Images)
Former prime minister Boris Johnson visits the South West London Orthopaedic Centre in Epsom. (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH via Getty Images)

Former prime minister Boris Johnson visits the South West London Orthopaedic Centre in Epsom. (Photo: KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH via Getty Images)

The pledge was in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto and has been repeated many times by ministers.

When the pledge was first made, many assumed it referred to brand new hospitals.

However, in December 2021, analysis by BBC Reality Check, found that of the 40 hospital projects announced by the government 22 were rebuilding projects, 12 were new wings within existing hospitals, three involved rebuilding non-urgent care hospitals and three were entirely new hospitals.

Obesity Strategy

Jamie Oliver takes part in a demonstration outside Downing Street calling for Boris Johnson to reconsider his U-turn on the anti-obesity strategy. (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)
Jamie Oliver takes part in a demonstration outside Downing Street calling for Boris Johnson to reconsider his U-turn on the anti-obesity strategy. (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Jamie Oliver takes part in a demonstration outside Downing Street calling for Boris Johnson to reconsider his U-turn on the anti-obesity strategy.  (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Johnson legislated to ban junk food ads on TV before 9pm and online, multibuy deals, and sweet treats at checkouts.

But, in May he delayed until up to 2024 all but the last measure, which is due to take effect on October 1. The move led Jamie Oliver to stage a protest at Downing Street.

Now Truss’s government could scrap its entire anti-obesity strategy after ministers ordered an official review of the measures designed to deter people from eating junk food.

Liz Truss’s Leadership Pledges

Prime minister Liz Truss. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)
Prime minister Liz Truss. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)

Prime minister Liz Truss. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)

During the leadership race, Truss unveiled a slate of eye-catching policies that might prove hard to implement.

They range from more Rwanda-style schemes to bringing doctors out of retirement.

She also vowed to combat a supposed civil service anti-Semitism problem - which sparked fury from government workers and unions.

Other promises to watch include the pledge to slash 91,000 Whitehall jobs and a demand that universities give refunds if they do not deliver.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

Related...