Lib Dem MPs were right not to play Labour’s silly games over the Bedroom Tax

Twitter has been full of Labour types slating Liberal Democrat MPs for voting against Labour’s parliamentary motion on the Bedroom Tax. When longstanding critics of the measure like Tim Farron and Julian Huppert vote with the Government, then there has to be a good reason. In fact, there are three.

1. This was just a Labour stunt

It was a parliamentary game to go along with a data gathering exercise Labour have been doing over the past few days. Social media has lit up with a link to a site in Liberal Democrat colours asking people to sign up to stand against the Bedroom Tax. All they wanted was the excuse to put on a leaflet that the Liberal Democrats had voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. Of course, it won’t mention that they voted in favour of Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill which made proper, actual sensible changes.

This is not a new tactic. I dare say we’ve used it ourselves plenty times in the past when in opposition. The SNP used to do it all the time when Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in power in Scotland. This may be a good moment to remind people that they (that’s most SNP MPs) never turned up to support Andrew George’s Bill. That’s an aside, though. What happens is that the opposition puts up a motion that even opponents of the measure in the Government couldn’t possibly vote for so that they can make political hay.

2. Labour’s motion did nothing for private sector tenants affected by similar measure introduced by…Labour

Yesterday’s motion was not about actually making anyone’s life better. It had no chance of helping those who are struggling with the Bedroom Tax. Nor did it to anything for those who are stuck in overcrowded accommodation. Even if their motion had passed, it would not have been binding on the Government, nor would it have tackled the hardship faced by people renting in the private sector. We forget that Labour brought something very similar to the Bedroom Tax in for private sector tenants in 2008. Yes, it’s slightly different in that it didn’t apply to existing tenancies, but there is much greater turnover in private sector tenancies, so it’s been causing real difficulties too. We shouldn’t ignore that. Funnily enough, Labour’s motion did ignore the problems they had caused.

3. The amendment that was passed made specific reference to Liberal Democrat policy

Even if you have, like me, seen the flaws in the Bedroom Tax from the start, the Government amendment has space in it for our policy.

That this House regrets that the Government took over a housing benefit bill which was out of control, and without reform would have been more than £26 billion in 2014-15; notes that the reforms the Government has implemented have brought housing benefit spending under control and helped to tackle over-crowding and better manage housing stock; further notes that the Coalition has protected vulnerable groups through £165 million of discretionary housing payments in 2014; notes that, following the interim evaluation of the policy, the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister has proposed reforms to introduce other formal exemptions to the policy, including where claimants have not been made a reasonable alternative offer of accommodation; and believes that the Opposition’s failure to support the Government’s wider welfare reforms, including the wholesale abolition of this policy, is financially unsustainable, and would put at risk savings of nearly £50 billion over the present Parliament, as well as leaving people languishing in over-crowded accommodation.

If anyone is in any doubt that Liberal Democrats are looking to see major reform of this measure, they should read Andrew George’s speech:

It is not the fault of those who are in housing need that successive Governments have failed to build enough homes of the right size, and they should not be made to pay the penalty for that. It would be nonsense to move disabled people from homes that have been converted, often expensively at taxpayers’ expense, only to have to do it all over again in another property. It is rare in my constituency, and I know in many others, to find a suitable alternative home within 20 or 30 miles. It is wrong that people who have a settled life in a local community should have to uproot themselves from their social and family, and other supportive, connections to meet the requirement of this unacceptable policy.

The fundamental moral point is that the poor are just as entitled to a stable family home as the better off. There are many circumstances where apparent under-occupancy is for a good reason: the visiting carer; the young nest returner coming back to a family home—something that middle-class people expect to offer to their younger people—after perhaps not getting on in life as they anticipated; and those who provide shared care. We should be encouraging housing associations and other social housing providers to build larger homes. When I worked in this sector, I always sought to ensure that social housing providers had some flexibility. Having larger homes provided flexibility in the management of their estate. This policy drives them in the opposite direction. I fear there is also a sinister agenda to create an environment in which poor families will ultimately turn on their poor neighbours and blame them if they are living in overcrowded accommodation, rather than looking further afield to find the real culprit.

But he couldn’t support Labour’s motion

I have a problem with the Labour party’s motion, partly because it deals only with the social sector, which is odd. If Labour had applied it to the private rented sector, I might have considered voting for it. Above all, I am concerned to deal with this issue seriously. We can either play party politics and come up with the kind of motion the Labour party has come up with today, or we can use the vehicle that is available, the Affordable Homes Bill. Although my amendment has not been accepted for debate, we should still be working together to seek political consensus to help the victims of this policy, instead of using them to score party political points, and that could be done with the money resolution necessary to advance my Bill. The Minister asked how we would pay for it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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60 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '14 - 1:04pm

    Can anyone point me to a source for the actual text of last night’s motion?

  • “Yes, it’s slightly different in that it didn’t apply to existing tenancies,”

    Sorry Caron but that is not a slight difference. That is the key difference and the major reason people have found themselves in hardship. I agree that Labour are playing games, and like you I know all opposition parties do it and no one would have to look too far back from 2010 to find examples of the Lib Dems doing the same. But please don’t under egg the difference, it is not slight…

  • Cry all you want, it’s clear that the bedroom tax – unfair and cruel policy that it is – is Lib Dem policy as much as it is Tory policy.

    Labour will make hay over this but they’re only able to do so because of the Lib Dems shameful record in government. The Lib Dems should have blocked this legislation when it first came up and failing to deal with it now just shows they haven’t learn from their mistakes.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Dec '14 - 1:20pm

    Malcolm, the text voted for is in the piece. Labour’s original motion was short and sweet:

    That this House believes that the housing benefit social sector size criteria, otherwise known as the bedroom tax, should be abolished with immediate effect.

  • We will rue this, people understand the bald headline, from Labour and the Greens that will be Lib Dems vote for Bedroom Tax.

  • David Evans 18th Dec '14 - 1:34pm

    The thing that worries me in all this is the comment “This may be a good moment to remind people that they never turned up to support Andrew George’s Bill. That’s an aside, though.” Actually that is not an aside – It’s the key point, and it is the only moment to start reminding people.

    Labour are turning the screws and building their campaign on the trust issue – building on Nick not sticking to the pledge on tuition fees and trying to link in our voting on bedroom tax with us saying we would sort it. They are doing this massively on social media and will reinforce it every way they can up to the General Election. If the message sticks we will be stuffed in May.

    We need to fight back, but if people within the party believe it is an aside and just inevitable, we will not respond robustly and will be stuffed in May. I worry that the party is really clueless in all this and doesn’t know what to do.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '14 - 1:44pm

    Thanks, Caron – the original motion was indeed what I meant.
    It seems to me that LD MPs could honourably have abstained, on the grounds that “with immediate effect” is just grandstanding. But voting for the government “amendment”, which doesn’t provide any support for the Lib Dems’ desired amendments (merely “notes” that they have been proposed) and implies otherwise wholesale support for the welfare “reforms” to date, won’t win many over (or back, in my case). Yes, Labour were playing silly games. The Lib Dems, as usual, fell for it and ended up voting to defend Tory policy against what was virtually their own declared position.

  • I haven’t given up on the Lib Dems yet, but if I’m honest I think political games cut all ways. Labour’s motion could be seen as grandstanding as could the Lib Dem voting it down. However I just want to see the bedroom tax removed ASAP so I don’t really care if Labour were playing games or not, To me the Lib Dem response looks like another own goal conceded in a pointless defence of a Tory policy.

  • I thought the Bedroom Tax was called “officially” the Spare Room Subsidy? To what does this Size Criteria nonsense apply? Is it a wider designation? And why do the leadership Lib Dems think that dealing with the social housing sector is “playing games”? Surely we should seek to be reducing the private rented sector drastically, and regulating the rest? Build more homes for social rent. Another example of the modern Lib Dems kowtowing to Thatcherism. Things will not change till Thatcherism is renounced.

  • Rob Gershon 18th Dec '14 - 3:30pm

    I’m really disappointed in this take on it.

    Bedroom Tax has become a punchy headline issue because, as the DWP Interim report from earlier this year shows, 7 in 10 households affected contain a disabled person, amounting to something like 330,000 households, and 60,000 carers are affected.

    I’m tired of restating the differences betweeh the private rented sector Local Housing Allowance (cut by coalition parties by 40% in 2011) and the bedroom tax. As Steve Way mentions in his comment, the retrospective nature of bedroom tax is not a small difference. Neither is the fact that LHA is calculated based on local rent values, and bedroom tax is a blanket cut for all social housing tenants affected, whatever the (relatively cheap) cost of that rent.

    Labour supported Andrew George’s Private Members Bill – there would have been no majority over the government without them, although of course many Conservative MPs did not show up for that debate. The concession in amendment a) to mention the LD amendments is without any form of power or compulsion – the policy has not been changed, and will not be changed by Andrew’s bill, which has been stopped dead by there being no money order forthcoming from the treasury.

    For me, a full time carer for my wife who has Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and somebody whose had to alter care arrangements to fit the incredibly narrow exemptions to the policy, the politics of this – which is all you talk about in your article, are outweighed by the misery it’s caused vulnerable, poor groups of tenants, who the Lib Dems are now publicly not supporting.

    Yesterday’s vote, which many LD MPs today claimed “wouldn’t have made any difference”, was a clear way to show whether you support disabled people and carers affected, or not.

    Your MPs made their views clearly known.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '14 - 4:13pm

    I think “spare room subsidy” was only ever a propaganda term (just like “bedroom tax”, of course!) — given there never was a “spare room subsidy” as such it couldn’t truly be withdrawn…

  • “This may be a good moment to remind people that they never turned up to support Andrew George’s Bill. ”

    Oh Caron, sorry but that is an outrageous fat porky !!!

    Andrew George’s backbench bill on 5th Sept was voted for by all Labour & LD MP’s whilst every Con MP voted against ! You can see the results of this vote on the Public Whip website:

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2014-09-05&number=47&mpn=Andrew_George&mpc=St_Ives&house=commons

    Labour types ? Always the accusation from LDs against your party is that anybody criticising the LDs must automatically be Labour voters – could you be any more insulting to those that aren’t Labour voters but who want rid of this pernicious bedroom tax ?

    @Jack – well said. For others not quite knowing the difference between Labour’s LHA & the govts Bedroom Tax, a really good blog identifying the difference can be found at:

    http://notpaying.tumblr.com/post/55537295011/how-the-bedroom-tax-differs-from-the-local-housing

    @Tim – the official term is “Under-Occupancy Penalty” therefore one can see exactly what the aim was. A penalty is always a punishment.

  • @Rob

    I hadn’t seen your post when I wrote mine but if it was your blog I posted in my previous comment, I’d like to thank you for covering the differences so comprehensively. I link to it whenever anybody tries to claim the bedroom tax is the same as the LHA so as you can imagine, it’s had lots of use 🙂

  • Disappointed to say the least.

    We keep hearing from some people how the Liberal Democrats could not go into coalition because Labour supposedly hate the Lib Dems, to me it seems very much the other way round.

    For the life of me I do not understand why Liberal Democrats would not support a Labour Motion on a policy that they supposedly support and will be party policy.

    The Liberal Democrats had an opportunity to show the country that they are different to the Tories, they are not tribal and they could work with ANY party,
    After yesterday, I think most people in the country will realize that this is not the case.
    The Liberal Democrats are pinning their hopes on a 2nd coalition with the Tories,

    This is no way to revive the party.

    It is clear that the Liberal Democrats are going to have to spend the next 5 years trying to repair the party after the next election, however, if they continue to alienate left of center voters like this, it will be more like 10-15 years before they are ever forgiven and possibly listened to again.

  • Above should have read
    We keep hearing from some people how the Liberal Democrats could not go into coalition with Labour because Labour supposedly hate the Lib Dems

  • @MartinB — Caron may not have phrased it well, but I think she was referring to the SNP, not to Labour. The reference you gave shows that two out of six SNP MPs voted for the bill.

  • “notes that the reforms the Government has implemented have brought housing benefit spending under control ”

    In which case Lib Dem MPs voted for a motion which just isn’t true.

    “Despite announced cuts of over £2 billion, real terms housing benefit spending will be nearly £1 billion higher in 2014­–15 than 2010–11. This was unanticipated”
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7447

    But I apply my usual metric – the degree to which the Commons party votes the “wrong” way can be calculated by how quickly an article appears on Lib Dem Voice saying they actually did the right thing!

  • Enjoyed your post I feel strongly if the electorate are going to pay for spare space all should qualify not only social tenants

  • Am confused are the lib-dems for or against the bedroom tax Clegg & others seem to say they are,then vote to keep it,i know this is a hard principle for thislib-dem party but it is either right or wrong & by voting for it you are saying it is a just & rightous tax on these people

  • @Tim – the original legislation is titled: The Under-Occupation Penalty.

    “Spare room subsidy” is something made up by Grant Shapps/Sebastian Fox/Michael Green and co-opted by the rest of te Tories and Lib Dems to try and make this pernicious legislation more palatable.

  • paul barker 18th Dec '14 - 5:44pm

    On Matts comment, the point is not that everybody in Labour hates us, obviously thats not true. There are 2 big difficulties about Coalition with Labour, 1st there is a group of about 40 Labour MPs , from both Left & Right, who dislike us so intensely they would keep rebelling against anything we asked for. 2nd, Unite, Labours largest donor have made statement to the effect that if a Coalition was formed they would withold funding. They might be bluffing of course but given the state of Labour finances thats a big risk to take.

  • Chris Manners 18th Dec '14 - 5:58pm

    ” Labour’s motion did nothing for private sector tenants affected by similar measure introduced by…Labour”

    You don’t really believe they were similar measures, do you?

    You’ve been told, dozens of times. Those measures weren’t retrospective. Nobody had to move. Nobody.

    You honestly can’t see the difference of people being in effect forced to move when there’s nowhere to move to?

  • Martin Hunt 18th Dec '14 - 6:11pm

    That’s done it for me. I have a good MP so I won’t rock the boat, but the day after the election I’m cancelling my membership.

  • Rob Gershon 18th Dec '14 - 6:24pm

    Yes, @MartinB – that’s my blog. I’m always happy for it to be updated or improved, but I’ve spent the last year elbow-deep in the Housing and Housing Law implications of the bedroom tax, and as far as I know it’s largely accepted as accurate.

    The two policies aren’t comparable, other than in the slightest terms, and hearing every government MP who stood up and said it yesterday was quietly infuriating. It’s…. well, I don’t want to hysterically call anyone names, but it’s simply not accurate.

    Also, as you say, the “Labour-Types” label is a bit insulting. I’ve never been a Labour voter, and I don’t particularly want to vote Labour at the General Election. I’ve been a lifelong Liberal Democrat voter, and until the coalition, a proud one. I flatter myself that it’s not the fact that this policy affects me personally that has made me turn away, but perhaps I shouldn’t make that judgement.

    At this stage, I can’t help but feel that it would be easier for LD MPs to vote to abolish the bedroom tax, however much of a short-term embarrassment that would be, and design a new policy based on who *should* be charged for their ‘spare’ rooms. My concern with the policy has always been that there is no way of looking at each individual case of those affected – tenants are left with the choice of the postcode lottery of Discretionary Housing Payments, which even for people in receipt of DLA or in adapted properties is uncertain, or the choice of legal action.

    Begging for short-term discretionary payments, or having to engage with going to court, for disabled people and carers. That’s the end result of this policy ,and it’s the reason that yesterday’s vote is… and deserves to be… so damaging for all the MPS that supported keeping it.

    I would just like my home, to feel like my home again. My wife’s condition is progressive, and so deteriorates over time. Recently she’s started to have issues remembering things, and the most difficult thing I had to do last week was explain to her, all over again, that ostensibly the bedroom tax affects us…. affects the security of our home, and the security and consistency of her care.

    As Tessa Munt so eloquently argued in her Mirror piece in July, it isn’t fair http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-obviously-unfair-lord-3855884

  • [email protected]

    Do you really not understand that Labour’s policy for private sector rentals did not mean that people already occupying a home would have to find extra cash or be forced to downsize ?

    That is a fundamental difference between Labour’s private rental changes introduced when they were in power and the bedroom tax which penalises people who are already occupying properties now deemed too big for them.
    The Lib Dems, with very few exceptions, voted with the Tories to punish many vulnerable people who have suffered stress and financial loss as a result.

    No amount of Lib Dem spin will change that. Roll on May 2015.

  • Rick Victory 18th Dec '14 - 6:37pm

    Can anyone from the LD explain to me why pensioners were excluded from the under occupancy penalty? It seems to me that the only rational reason is a purely political one, which demonstrates that the bill was never about reclaiming underoccupied properties, but rather about targeting the “others” that this government and the Tories always direct the countries dissatisfaction at: the poor and the powerless.

    After all, pensioners vote don’t they …

  • Paul Barker.
    There have been six full blown coalitions in the last 120 years all of them between The Liberals and The Conservatives.

  • Dave Orbison 18th Dec '14 - 6:59pm

    The Bedroom tax is a dreadful and disgraceful piece of legislation. It has caused much hardship and stress for very many people. The LibDems should apologise for their part in this. To blame Labour or cry foul because your political opponents seek to embarrass you for your part in this wretched affair really is quite rich. To suggest that because it is not binding then it is not worth voting for is ridiculous. For the LibDems, the party of protest, to trot out such nonsense beggar’s belief. Until the LibDem MP’s wake up and own up to supporting some really dreadful policies dreamed up by a horrid right-wing Government, they will never command the respect that they once had with supporters and at least a section of the electorate.

  • jayson carmichael 18th Dec '14 - 7:33pm

    The Tories are the ones who have scuppered any possible changes to polict in Andrew George Bill. Why is he now campaigning against policy with a petition against Tory sabotage of his bill???????

  • Brian Powell 18th Dec '14 - 7:44pm

    I believe the Labour motion only mentioned social tenants because they are the ones who have no way out of this pernicious tax. Social tenants have very little alternative to the size of dwelling they inhabit, whereas private sector tenants do have lots of alternatives.
    It actually says a lot about the party as a whole, when the leader can say, with a straight face, that the party are against the bedroom tax, as it is commonly known, while then going on to vote against a motion calling for it’s immediate removal.
    This makes every elected member of the party look like they have no moral convictions and will sell out any thing, no matter how dear they claim it is to them.
    The electorate will remember this, added to the absolute sell out of a manifesto plank, tuition fee’s, making the party pay at the next election.

  • Shenanigans, yes. But, honestly, at this point? Do we care if the coalition collapses now, or in a few months time when Parliament is dissolved? We should have been able to handle this better, and it should be another serious blow to any confidence we might have in the current leadership’s ability to handle any negotiations that might be necessary next May. Maybe set up a negotiation team around the new Party President to handle that?

    @Martin Hunt

    To stay inside the party for the closing episode of the coalition and then walk off when the opportunity to change its direction of travel is at its most attainable, seems masochistic. After next May, I honestly doubt that the parliamentary party will have anyone left in it who isn’t as you say a good local MP.

    @matt

    10-15 years to rebuild? Sounds about right. Unless the next leader is somehow incredibly charismatic and strikes a chord with people in some unforeseen manner, of course.

    @Brian Powell

    Although on paper private tenants have the most options, in practise the ones most affected by underoccupancy charges and penalties still have few. It is my experience that trying to find rents low enough to reliably afford on a zero-hours contract job leaves you with few options at all. And it is the experience of my current co-tenants that finding a property that meets the requirements of disability leaves you with practically none.

    I can certainly understand the party not wanting to just wave through a Labour policy aimed at the social housing sector alone, but I do agree that it would have been better to make a start on the whole problem by reversing the charge, perhaps temporarily, tied to some measure of the availability of suitably sized social housing.

  • Going back to my comment at 1.33pm re the Greens ability to attack us on the issue. I see IPSOS Mori has them at 9% today the same as ourselves!. The latest Ashcroft poll in Con Lab marginals is awful for us, but Greens holding Brighton Pavillion by 12%.

  • ErnstRemarx 18th Dec '14 - 8:49pm

    Nice one Caron, nothing like putting lipstick on a pig to make it look, er, like a pig wearing lipstck.

    If you’ve read – and actually understood – the preceding comments prior to mine, you might get a bit of an understanding why people no longer trust the LibDems, and why you trail both UKIP and the Greens. You are not credible, and apologia for yet more twisting and turning will not do. The party had an opportunity to distance themselves from a wretchedly bad piece of legislation, but, as usual, and never the party to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, they failed yet again and back the Tories.

    So we now know where you stand: solidly behind the Tories, presumably in the hope of being a (very minor) coalition partner in 2015.

    Nope. You’re screwed.

  • Thanks, refitman, I understand now. Certainly Michael Green’s inventions and porkies are pretty legendary these days!

    Caron – you have not returned to answer virtually every poster here who has laid into your article aimed at “the politics” of the Bedroom Tax, the Labour LHA and the recent voting pattern. I sometimes hear similar at Council level. We really have to lift our sights from this approach to politics. It is this that gets us a bad name among people generally. I hope you re-read your article, and understand why I made the accusation all those months ago that you were essentially Cleggite. While I recognise you have fought vigorously over some human rights issues (Clegg is unsound in almost every policy area, as far as I can see), you have been relentlessly loyal on the approach to the economy, public spending and benefits, which is one of the areas we should be fighting for the “new politics”, not endorsing the same old, same old.

  • Peter Black may have misread this piece Caron. He has tweeted (and it has been re-tweeted by Joe Otten) that Labour didn’t turn up to the Andrew George Bill when according to the link above 95% of Labour MP’s voted for it. Hopefully they will apologise and correct…

  • Christopher Curd 18th Dec '14 - 9:43pm

    Good Evening, how’s u? I’m a Trade Unionist, Labour Supporter & Left Winger etc myself.
    I voted yes for the A. V & I’ve vote for the Lib Dems in the past before @ the Local Election in Folkestone, Kent. Because sadly Labour was not there! If I’m not mistaken Labour & Lib Dems have a lot of pros in common & have work very well
    together in the past etc! I was hoping that The Labour Party & The Lib Dems would work together again & for some reason I still do?! Anyway to the point I hate the Bedroom Tax etc & think it should be scraped! Yes I have more to say & write etc but I’ll some else have a comment/say now! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Thanx & Good Night xx

  • Peter Watson 18th Dec '14 - 9:52pm

    I’m sorry if it’s terrible netiquette to quote oneself or repeat a post from another thread, but in the context of Lib Dem MPs and the bedroom tax, “Voting for things they oppose and against things they support, simultaneously owning and disowning the Autumn Statement, … There are so many things about the Lib Dem performance in this coalition that gives me the impression it was inspired by Lewis Carroll.”

  • This is example of us are MPs over thinking a problem rather then take a so mple option. Absetion would been the best route. Not supporting Labour motion but, not support the status quo. Tories would been pissed off but Labour would have won and then had to explain to all people they took up mountin promising it be abolished last night why it wasn’t.

  • Andrew Kennett 18th Dec '14 - 10:19pm

    @ErnstRemarx pretty much summed up my thoughts on the issue. Furthermore, I resigned my membership of the LibDems after I felt that they no longer represented my interests; I’m one of the aforementioned centre-left folk who felt alienated from the party after they essentially cosied up to the Tories. As a result of this government’s policies, I’ve been essentially screwed over, so I really don’t trust the LibDems as much as I used to, and therefore they have lost my vote to the Greens!

    Ultimately though, you can defend your position if you like, but for people like me who expected far more from the LibDems than they delivered, it’s basically a slap in the face of the above people who are current members, and a confirmation that those who left the party membership have done the right thing. The most tragic thing about this is that the LibDems were in a position to deliver everything important that they promised, but instead capitulated in favour of being given “small crumbs” by the Tores, which were then paraded as major victories by your party! The worst thing is that some of these crumbs were basically swept away, due to other Tory policies, so ultimately you have accomplished the political version of a Pyrrhic victory.

    Because, let’s face it, for all that the LibDems have ” won”, was the victory really worth the lasting damage to the party? As people have said before, it’ll take you a good 10-15 years to recover from the damage this coalition has inflicted upon you; I probably won’t trust the LibDems for at least 10 years as a result of what you have done. Even though I was on the brink of leaving the party, I gave you a donation, because I promised that I would, and where possible, I always try to keep my promises. In a way, it was a farewell gift, but it was also acknowledgement that the LibDems used to be a good party, until the coalition pretty much corrupted them. I do hope that your party leadership will learn from this experience, and in the future will actually do the right then when it needs to be done, rather than grandstanding about it later, AFTER the damage has been inflicted.

    For me though, I’m going to stick with the Greens, for the foreseeable future until (that is if they ever do) my interests and theirs are no longer enough in sync. Again, I would make sure that your party doesn’t make the same mistakes that it did in this Parliament, because not only would it wipe out all the goodwill you built up, it could just as easily destroy the party, or at least put them so far back, that they will lose their status as the 3rd-biggest party in Parliament!

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '14 - 10:54pm

    Glenn
    I don’t know how you’re counting, but I’m damn sure 1940–45 was a “full-blown coalition” and Clement Attlee was no Liberal.

  • Andrew George’s speech does seem rather out of kilter with current party policy:
    “Existing tenants who are ‘under-occupying’ and signed leases prior to April 2013 will not have their housing benefit cut unless they have been made at least one reasonable offer to alternative social rented accommodation with the correct number of bedrooms.”

    I don’t see why the Commons parliamentary party couldn’t have voted against both motion and amendment

  • Malcolm Todd,
    I simply forgot about WW2! I’m a scatterbrain, I was once forgot it was Christmas! But the point I was trying to make is that there’s more involved than animosity from or towards Labour involved. I think it’s partly to do with history and the old parties working together in the National interests, but it usually backfired on the Liberals.

  • “Liberal Democrats scotch bid to vote down bedroom tax ”

    That was a headline from todays Independent and it’s hard to say the headline is in anyway inaccurate,

  • Malcolm Todd/Glenn And Ramsay MacDonald’s first government. And his third!

  • The Liberal Democrats, a few weeks ago, managed to look principled when they, along with many other MPs voted in favour of Andrew George’s bill. Had they backed Andrew George to the hilt they would still have looked principled and they might have set either reform, or complete abolition, of the bedroom tax in motion.

    Nick Clegg, instead of backing Andrew George’s amendment , which called for funding to be made available to implement the proposed reforms signed up to a rival amendment. The amendment, which you print in your article, applauds the welfare policies of the government and commits it to no action whatsoever. It says nothing about reform of the bedroom tax, beyond “noting” Andrew George’s a “proposal”. For the benefit of anyone who does not understand English, noting a proposal means neither that the proposal has been implemented, nor that it ever will be.

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone who was serious about reforming the Bedroom Tax could vote FOR this amendment. Andrew George did not. Nick Clegg did not either, despite having seconded it. But 35 Liberal Democrat MPs did. To suggest that they were entrapped into voting this way by Labour is ludicrous. Labour would far rather have hammered a nail into the coffin of the bedroom tax than indulged in the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel with Liberal Democrats as targets.

    What is really annoying is that the Liberal Democrats went into this debate with a winning hand because they truly did hold the balance of power. Had they used any intelligence they would have taken a tough line with their coalition partners and insisted on an amendment which committed the government to significant reform of the bedroom tax. Either they got their amendment and side-lined Labour, or they could vote with Labour without changing their policy, as their coalition partners has left them to choose the lesser evil between an unreformed bedroom tax and abolition. In either case they would have gained political advantage, and the bedroom tax would either have been made less onerous or abolished.

    The only method by which they can redeem themselves is get Andrew George’s reforms implemented. I doubt if their coalition partners will allow this.

  • It’s all so confusing, they voted for the Bedroom Tax as part of the Coalition, then they said they didn’t like it, but when given an opportunity to vote against it they didn’t because of Labour.

    Are the Liberal Democrats for the bedroom tax, or against it?

  • Andrew George could have saved himself a lot of trouble and just said —
    ” I know all Liberal Democrats should be voting with the Labour Party on this — as we should be voting with the Labour Party on many issues where we actually think the same.
    Unfortunately we have a Mickey Mouse Parliament where playing public school debating games is what matters and the two public school boys who are leaders of the Coalition say we have to pretend that anything from Labour will end civilisation as we know it”
    He could have concluded by saying —
    ” Over the last four years and eight months we Liberal Democrat MPs have jumped through hoops, turned ourselves snide out and voted for the most outrageously stupid Conservative Party policies. We have done this because we have a Mickey Mouse Parliament etc etc”

  • Even if that was right John and the world as we know it would stop if the government lost a non-binding vote (which some people do seem to think), that could be avoid by the LIb Dems voting against both motion and amendment.

    Both would (probably) then be defeated – and that would be consistent with the position of not agreeing with either party.

  • This is another nail because the perception is, and I think rightly so, that if Conference voted to provide the poor with free Apples to eat, and Labour presented a bill suggesting free Pears, while the Tories tried with a bill letting the poor eat air, the parliamentary party would vote against the Labour bill on the basis of its imperfection, and with the Tories on the basis that obviously without the presence of the party in the coalition then clearly the Tories would have presented a bill for the poor to eat nails. And that this is the evidence of the net gain achieved by the Lib Dems being in coalition. And the polls say…

  • Hywel 19th Dec ’14 – 5:15pm

    Yes you are quite right Hywel.

    But you display a grip on reality apparently missing amongst our MPs, or is it just the leadership?

  • Malcolm Blount,
    I never said the Libs have never given support to Labour governments , I said they have only ever been in full blown coalition with Conservative governments. Some of this is undoubtedly down to Labour’s reluctance to share power. but if I’m wrong I accept that I made an error.

  • John – in my view the MPs have both gone native and lost any sort of spine. See the Judicial review votes and reports of the belief that that issue would cost 3-5 seats.

  • On the subject of housing benefit the coalition have not got it under control. It is now £24.6 billion per year, and an ever increasing amount into the pocket of private landlords to pay their buy to let mortgages, or overseas investors. both of which pay less tax than owner occupiers. £3 billion more than expected in 2010. Housing benefit is projected to reach £30 billion per year by 2020.

    If the government was interested in cutting the deficit it would cut the amount going to private landlords by actually building some social homes. It would cost much less to build 100k a year than we are spending putting taxpayers money into private landlords pockets.

  • What is Carons response to these comments?

  • Neil Sandison 21st Dec '14 - 12:14pm

    What we are missing is be it Labour or Tory policy was that it was a cunning wheeze to cut the husing benfit budget not meet housing need .Andrew George is right it should not matter if the tenure is LA,HA or private sector .There should be eqaulity in housing support based on actual need not who the landlord happens to be.
    The tories used the wrong end of the telescope which was London centric.The most significant under occupation in most regions beyond Watford is from the over 65s rattling around in 3 bedroom houses despite the fact that a considerable number of retirement schemes remained under occupied.indeed we are now offering non retire people those tenures to fill the empties .We should be helping people not penalising them to move into the right sized accomedation. My comments are based on 20 years experience of working in the sector.

  • Alan Johnson 21st Dec '14 - 6:57pm

    Actually the LHA legislation introduced by Labour aimed at the private rented sector, was nothing at all like the Tory “spare room crime legislation” there are several reasons why, and I am sure you are well aware of them, and if not you should be,
    but many prefer to ignore the differences between the LHA and the under occupancy PENALTY, preferring the lazy option in order to justify their support for the Tory anti poor legislation with the tried and tested ‘excuse’ that has the strange ‘logic’ that goes, “because Labour did it first” (even though they didn’t) then that makes what the Tories are doing OK?
    As I said there are several reasons why they are not the same, but the main one being that the legislation introduced by Labour wasn’t retrospective, the Tories spare room punishment IS,
    to put it into perspective, it’s like making tobacco use illegal tomorrow, and then punishing any and everyone who has ever smoked a cigarette.

    As a “hard working” victim of this Tory hate law, it quite possibly means that I know more about it than some politician, as I am directly affected by it.
    Oh yes, it applies to “those who work hard and try to do the right thing” too, you know?, the very people that Cameron claims to “support”? I know the the Tories and the media don’t like to talk about the tens of thousands of “hard working people” being hammered by this ideologically motivated punishment, preferring instead to go along with the myth that it is only those “scroungers” who are being hit by it.
    incidentally I would really like someone to find the “spare room subsidy” part of the housing benefit application form or payment award regulations, because I can’t seem to locate it anywhere, indeed it was only since April 1st last year when you and your Tory masters decided to invent such a thing, that I realised one’s housing benefit was paid ‘by the room’ we have an upstairs and a downstairs toilet in our home, I am certain we only ‘need’ one, can we expect a spare toilet tax if the Tories win in May?
    ( if this is Tory support, I would sure hate to annoy them) I am often astonished at the utter lack of understanding both of the effects of this vile legislation on hundreds of thousands of innocent people, as well as the difference between it and the LHA changes introduced by Labour which are offten used as an ‘excuse’ to justify it by those who support the Tories.

    I actually voted for your party in 2010, fore the first, and most certainly the last, time in my life (I am 61 years old, self employed with a disabled part time working partner)
    But as ever totally out of touch politicians make up excuses and play around with semantics while some of the poorest and weakest members of society continue to suffer and be the scapegoats,

    We knew what to expect from the Tories, and they certainly haven’t let us down in that respect, but then, they are just Tories doing what Tories do, the Lib Dems on the other hand…….
    I will leave it there as you asked us to be polite, and from this point onwards I really can’t see how that’s possible.

    I am sorry if I sound angry, but that’s probably because I am.

  • Derick fae Yell 23rd Dec '14 - 3:33pm

    Peter Watson18th Dec ’14 – 9:52pm, … There are so many things about the Lib Dem performance in this coalition that gives me the impression it was inspired by Lewis Carroll.”

    Having had the misfortune to have the benefit of a Lib eral or Lib Dem MP for a good chunck of my adult life, the Lib Dems do seem to be able to sit on the fence with their ears to the ground on both sides simultaneously listening for which way the wind is blowing.

    But for people who genuinely thought they were voting

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