Conference comment: What the papers say (4)

Clegg VotingTHAT email, the one giving a briefing to MPs on how to address the media, was always going to delight the political gossips. And so it proved. Shorn of the drama of a full out Farron versus Clegg versus Cable bloodbath, the quidnuncs in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and at leapt on the email. The New Statesmen notes that MPs are told not to refer to the “bedroom tax”, it is a “spare room subsidy.” Regardless, as the Guardian and Inside Housing report, the conference condemned the bedroom tax for discriminating against the most vulnerable in society.

The economy debate made rather few headlines. The press were hoping for a Clegg defeat but that did not materialise. The Guardian covered the arguments in some detail and on Huffington Post, Social Liberal Forum co-chair Gareth Epps complained:

The Party leadership created a wholly unnecessary Manichean dust-up. It was predictably and entirely self-defeating. It will result in Liberal Democrat members doing less, which reduces our capacity to fight and win elections. For the party’s leadership, it truly was a Pyrrhic victory.

The media was much more interested in Vince Cable’s view on the future of the coalition. On Lib Dem Voice Stephen Tall provides a commentary and you can read the speech in full here. The New Statesman reports Danny Alexander’s contrary views on Sky News:

This coalition will continue until the end of this Parliament as we promised… Vince was asked at a fringe meeting to speculate on a range of options. What I’m saying is that we have always made clear our firm intention is to make sure this coalition continues until the end… We have big Lib Dem commitments to deliver.

Benedict Brogan continues his friendly commentary musing that the Tories are going into another period of self-harm while the Lib Dems manoeuvre for another period in government:

Just as the Lib Dems are calculating how to remain in power next time, many Tories appear to be girding themselves for a fight to keep Mr Cameron out, particularly if it increases their chances of getting rid of him. Yesterday afternoon, senior Lib Dems took to joking about how the Tories might look in sandals, such is their mystification – but also delight – at the way the Conservatives are settling into the bad habits that used to be a Lib Dem hallmark.

Those readers who think that Brogan is getting too Lib Dem friendly can always lap up the acidic commentary from the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire:

The Lib Dems yesterday contrived to make Planet Clegg feel utterly irrelevant. Inside the yellow bubble on the Clyde debates lacked energy, any sense of urgency. The G4S guards and security fences must be keeping people in rather than out.

The Express Leader is equally grumpy, accusing the Lib Dems of being “socialist” and adding:

There is absolutely nothing liberal about the state seizing more and more of the income of any group of hard-working people.

In the Guardian, pro-nuclear green Mark Lynas welcomes the conference decision to support nuclear power:

The Lib Dems have realised that in a world facing serious challenges like climate change and energy security we don’t have the luxury of saying ‘no’ to everything.

The BBC reports Jeremy Browne saying the Lib Dems are uncomfortable with wealth and business success:

I can’t recall the last time I saw a motion at conference that was critical of the party leadership for showing insufficient interest in enterprise, wealth creation, innovation.

The Mail has been struggling for days to get its anti-Lib Dem line up to speed. Norma Baker’s call for town centres to be freed of car traffic gave it the perfect opportunity. It dragged Tory MP Peter Bone out of obscurity to dismiss Mr Baker’s plans as “stupid” and “clueless”. Norman Baker also declared that the UK will continue to need a hub airport.

The BBC reports Andrew Stunell ruling out a regional immigration policy:

Perhaps we penalise employers who take on people who are only licensed to work in Yorkshire. You could do it. You could do it – of course the Germans did it in 1935 – but I don’t know that that’s exactly the route we want to go down.

The News Statesman derides the ugly comments by Tory MP Tim Loughton, who now seems to be denying saying that Sarah Teather “doesn’t really believe in family. She certainly didn’t produce one of her own.”

Finally, the Telegraph is publishing its list of the fifty most influential Lib Dems. As Caron Lindsay notes here on Lib Dem Voice, the first part of the list includes Helen Duffett, Stephen Tall and Mark Pack. Well done folks. The Telegraph publishes its top 25 tomorrow.

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  • How can charging people who have a spare room not be a bedroom tax. Look if you were still in opposition you would be calling it a bedroom tax and you know it. As for blaming someone else, come on get back in the real world. I really didn’t think my opinion of the Lib Dems could get any lower but it has over the last few days.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Sep '13 - 6:09pm

    Because, andy, it’s a reduction in Housing Benefit, not a tax. A council tenant who is working and not receiving any Housing Benefit (rent rebate) will pay the same rent, regardless of whether they have a “spare” room. The distinction is pretty meaningless to those who are caught by it, but the name “bedroom tax” is pure (and very successful) spin.

  • I know it’s ridiculous to argue that it shouldn’t be called the bedroom tax, but I just can’t help it…. IT’S NOT A BLOODY TAX!!!!!

  • daft ha'p'orth 17th Sep '13 - 6:46pm

    @Malcolm Todd
    As is this subsidy nomenclature, except that it is not successful. @Alex Marsh has it right.
    So does @andy. You would be calling it a bedroom tax if you were in opposition. Hoorah for cheat-sheet politics.

  • Andy Boddington 17th Sep '13 - 7:16pm

    Any payment that is unavoidable is a tax in my book.

    People have their benefits reduced because they have a so-called spare room. But they have nowhere else to go because there is a great shortage of smaller housing, especially in the social sector. They can’t work because they are medically retired or otherwise incapacitated. In this context, and it’s happening on my doorstep, the reduction in benefit is compulsory. That’s why I call it a tax. Fortunately, the food bank is only a couple of hundred yards away.

    There are many other inequities in this tax in my view. Its plain wrong and conference is quite right to call for an immediate review.

    Arguing whether it’s a tax or not gets us nowhere. Caring about the people affected however is at the core of liberal values.

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