Liblink: Simon Hughes is no rebel

Our very own Stephen Tall writes on The Guardian’s Comment is Free:

Simon is neither a stooge nor a destructive malcontent. Not only is he a loyal supporter of Nick Clegg personally – he was one of Nick’s key backers in the contest with Chris Huhne to be leader, and the two meet regularly – but he is a steadfast advocate of the coalition itself – in general, if not always in every particular. The last thing he is, or wants to be seen as, is the Lib Dems’ very own leader of the opposition. So why are his public statements sometimes written up as if that’s the role he occupies?

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34 Comments

  • “We are failing to make the distinction between coalition policy and Lib Dem policy”

    Okay, but I now have to ask is there any difference between Tory policy and Coalition policy and are they making a distinction between policies, I can’t see it myself, maybe they don’t need to make a distinction as they are one and the same, mind you I’ve heard the same thing about the Lib Dems and the Tories recently.
    Besides what’s the point of having policies and not following them? or worse actively supporting policies opposed to your own?

    nige (ex LD)

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Oct '10 - 12:11pm

    “Besides what’s the point of having policies and not following them? or worse actively supporting policies opposed to your own?”

    I must say I have been wondering about this as well. The party is in as influential a position as it can realistically hope to be in for the foreseeable future. Faced with a statement that the _real_ Lib Dem policy is something different from the coalition’s policy, an elector might reasonably ask what that means. Because if that policy isn’t being implemented now, it’s difficult to imagine the circumstances in which it would be (apart from a coalition with Labour, of course).

  • I don’t think it’s “the distinction between coalition policy and Lib Dem policy” that matters. Our website continues to declare that we have a Lib Dem policy of phasing out tuition fees. Insofar as we have tried to continue boasting that proud policy in the media, we have merely encouraged derision.

    What would restore some belief that the Lib Dems might be doing anything useful in government would be a hard-fought battle between Lib Dems and Conservatives, followed by a settlement in which both sides had clearly given some ground. Can anyone point me to an example of when that has happened, other than the coalition agreement itself?

    In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. Take tuition fees again as an example. Now, it does look as if the Government will turn down the worst of Browne’s proposals, that fees should be completely uncapped. Was that an important concession which the Lib Dems fought for and won? Was it even a joint development for which our partners were willing to give us some of the publicity and credit? No, it was David Willettts who announced it.

    Clegg doesn’t merely make too little effort to present us as distinctive from the Tories. He actively wants to present us as wholly united with the Tories. We should ask him why.

  • ” he (Simon Hughes) was one of Nick’s key backers in the contest with Chris Huhne to be leader,”

    What appalling judgment.

  • LeftLeaning 26th Oct '10 - 1:05pm

    I am really terrified of Nick Clegg. At the pre-election debates he argued oh so eloquently and passionately for cutting the deficit slowly. After the election-at the LibDem conference- he argues just as eloquently and passionately for cutting quickly. Both times, he derided the group that took the opposing view to his.

    He’s either a compulsive liar and should not be trusted or he’s a politician of the worst worst kind. Either way, he’s dangerous and very unlikeable.

  • “Clegg doesn’t merely make too little effort to present us as distinctive from the Tories. He actively wants to present us as wholly united with the Tories. We should ask him why”

    Somehow I don’t think you’ll like the answer, Clegg seems to have his own agenda and it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the Party’s future electoral prospects let alone the Party’s own policies.

  • There is no justification whatsoever for the 10% ‘punishment’ cut in HB for claimants after one year, that is just spiteful.

    nige (exLD)

  • With regards to Social housing and changes to Housing Benefit.
    in response to last night’s shocking BBC Panorama Investigation into “The Great Housing Rip Off”

    “With a shortage of social housing, and the private rented market booming, reporter John Sweeney investigates the so-called ‘rogue landlords”

    I think it would be great, if someone could write an article, where these serious issues can be debated.

    I was appalled to see the Squaller some landlords where forcing vulnerable tenants to live in.
    These unscrupulous landlords are not only taking advantage of the poor, but are also ripping of the welfare, as it is from Housing Benefit, that these Landlords are lining their pockets.

    The Investigation highlighted great concerns by exposing the already awful conditions some Housing Benefit claimants are forced to live in, and with housing benefit’s set for cuts, it is deeply worrying the measures some landlords will go to, too increase their profits.

    This needs debating urgently

  • @Andrew Tennant

    I agree; the whole thing is a swindle with tax-payers money simply flowing into the pockets of spiv landlords, helping to keep property prices out of the reach of those on low to middle incomes and hence removing the incentive to work. I can see how the changes are beneficial in the long term as it will lead to lower property prices in those areas as the rent-seekers/land-hoarders get squeezed, but the short-term consequences for those tenants affected look fairly grim.

    I watched last night’s Panorama, “The Great Housing Rip Off?” and felt quite annoyed at how subsidies are given to landlords to improve properties with poor maintenance – effectively they’re being rewarded for providing a bad service and the conditions of some of the houses and the behaviour of the landlords were absolutely disgusting. Personally, I’d like all landlords that let to housing benefit tenants to prove their properties are fit for purpose at their own cost. The cost of proper maintenance and the survey would make their business less economic and bring down their yields as they would, economically, be unable to pass the cost to the tenant. This would help bring down house prices across the board and prevent slums being let. It would also help if large numbers of council houses were built; Britain’s not exactly short of land for this purpose. However, all of this goes against the home-ownerist, house-price-inflation-is-good-for-me, attitude of the public that politicians dare not address.

    House price inflation and the way politicians have not just avoided the issue, but profited from it, is a cause of great injustice and has created enormous anger amongst a good proportion of the population. It was also the cause of the economic meltdown. However, I do believe that further significant house price falls are inevitable and that they will mostly in nominal terms, given the reckless spending cuts. This will be good news for first-time-buyers and landlords that base their business on yields; providing a competitive service rather than expecting windfall capital gains, but will probably cause a recession, large scale unemployment and cause huge problems to those that took out mortgages during the boom years.

    A replacement of other taxes with a land value tax would help prevent these problems from occurring again, but no party advocating a land value tax is likely to get many seats.

  • The problem is, with repossessions about to soar and the amount of supply that will become available in the property market, we are about to return to the same mistakes that the Tories made in the 90’s with the property crash.

    House Prices will fall, and the only people who will benefit are the property developers, who snap up cheap properties and then rent them out at extortionate prices.
    The property developers line their pockets with rents that are mostly paid for by the Tax Payer, due to the increase in claimants claiming housing benefit as 500’000 people have been made unemployed by the Public Sector.

  • The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that regulating maintenance and better security of tenure would help improve the situation. The reason that the private rented sector is letting poorly maintained properties is because of 1. bad, greedy landlords and because 2. buy-to-let at today’s prices isn’t economic, so corners have to be cut to make a profit/stay in business. If the landlords are forced to do maintenance and the surveys then many won’t survive and will have to sell at a reduced price (I can think of no moral objection to this – if they can’t stay in business by maintaining the property properly then they shouldn’t be in business). This would be no problem for the tenant if they had rights to stay there, with the new owner being obliged to honour their tenancy. The new owner would be able to afford to pay the maintenance given that the yield would be higher (whilst making a marginal amount of money for the labour involved in the business of providing a well maintained property).

    Of course, the tories hate security of tenure – they introduced the assured-short hold tenancy and they hate any form of regulation – it interferes with the efficieny of the free-market according to their Friedman drivel. Grant Shapps threw out the previous government’s plans (I can’t remember what they were exactly) for increased regulation of the rental sector. But again, why do the Lib Dems just go along with accepting Tory nonsense?

  • Grant Shapps

    Also seems to have abandoned his own plans for social housing, that he was promoting in 2009

    http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2009/04/Shapps_launches_radical_new_housing_policies.aspx

    We have gone from his plans to

    Rewards for good behaviour – tenants with a record of five years’ good tenant behaviour will be offered a 10% equity share in their social rented property, giving them a direct financial stake in the state of their neighbourhood

    To

    No more life time tenancies and social housing tenancies only lasting for 10 years.

    what a difference a year makes

  • @Matt
    I guess It just goes to show what ‘some’ people will say to get votes uh? and once they have them they’ll do the exact opposite.

    nige (exLD)

  • @nige

    Exactly

    It is a complete disgrace.
    The conservatives can not say they where not aware of the depth of the problems with social housing before the election.

    They have no justification for making this complete U-Turn on housing.
    Especially Grant Shapps, from 2007 he was Shadow housing minister whilst in opposition. And he is now Housing & Local Government Minister

    Liberal Democrats should study the 2009 housing policy paper, written by Shapps, And then question his total change of direction, before supporting his new proposals.

  • I am beginning to wonder who is more nasty.

    The Conservatives, who are famed for always being the nasty party? Or Nick Clegg?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11633163

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said people living in areas that many working families could not afford should not expect to be subsidised.

    So Mr Clegg, I take it you are of the view, that when some of the 500’000 Public Sector workers, some of whom may be living in London at the moment,when they lose their jobs and are then forced to claim JSA, and Housing Benefit, They should be forced to take their children out of school, move out of London, and find cheaper property up North where the country is prepared to subsidise?

    What are you turning your party into?

    Simon Hughes, has spoken out, Ian Duncan Smith say’s he is listening, but the Deputy Prime minister continues to stand by policies and keep shtum.

    It shines a bad light on the party

    Liberal Democrats Voice, I think Simon Hughes has given the party the go ahead to debate this issue publicly, by criticising the policy himself. It is most unfortunate that their seems to be such a lack of enthusiasm to take up the debate

  • “The conservatives can not say they where not aware of the depth of the problems with social housing before the election”

    I can’t disagree with you, the thing with the Tories is that they believe everything can be solved by a business plan, they seem to view problem with social housing as an economic one therefore totally ignoring the social aspect, they fail to take into account the impact of these proposals on community cohesion, It’s all very well to talk about ‘social mobility’ when when you are talking about aspiration but I fear that social mobility to the Tories only means cover to get the working class moving from area to area to better serve big business (not to mention saving money) with a persons well being coming a sad last on the list of priorities (if at all)

  • When all of these people have been pushed out of london, who is going to drive your buses?
    Who will empty your bins?
    Who will serve your grocceries,
    Who will look after your children, so you can go to work?
    Who will provide nursing care
    And who will work as fundraisers for charities that are going to see demand soar for their services?

    It’s easy to say, they will have to commute.

    But what Binman on £20k a year with a family to support and rent to pay, could afford travel costs from London to Ipswich (for example) because housing benefit will no longer subsidise people to live in the city?

    I wonder how much Tories & Libdems will love these policies, when there streets are filled with rubbish and their drains are blocked with the same nastiness they keep talking

  • Sorry missed a bit off the last post lol.

    Who Earns what

    £10-25K Bracket

    Manual workers, sewer cleaners, nursery and care workers
    bus drivers, checkout staff, charity fundraisers, NHS nurses, binmen,

    Some of these people are reliant on housing benefit, in order to help pay the high rents charged to live in London.

    When all of these people have been pushed out of london, who is going to drive your buses?
    Who will empty your bins?
    Who will serve your grocceries,
    Who will look after your children, so you can go to work?
    Who will provide nursing care
    And who will work as fundraisers for charities that are going to see demand soar for their services?

    It’s easy to say, they will have to commute.

    But what Binman on £20k a year with a family to support and rent to pay, could afford travel costs from London to Ipswich (for example) because housing benefit will no longer subsidise people to live in the city?

    I wonder how much Tories & Libdems will love these policies, when there streets are filled with rubbish and their drains are blocked with the same nastiness they keep talking

  • @George Kendall
    “The issue that worries me more is the newly unemployed. I think it might be possible to get the government to compromise, and offer the newly unemployed, say, six months without the cap, to find another job or to find cheaper accommodation.”

    I share your concerns.
    imagine, one of the public sector workers who is married with 2 children, currently paying rent of £400 a week Rent in London (which is not unusual for a 3 bedroom property in London), who is about to lose his job and maybe forced to claim JSA and Housing Benefit, and the Housing Benefit will not cover his Entire costs, Then you factor in that, he takes more than 12 months to find another job and so his HB is reduced by a further 10%. allowing him only £306.00 a week in Benefit, forcing him to pay the shortfall of £94.00 a week

    A couple with 2 children would be entitled to
    £102.75 JSA
    £54.67 Tac credits
    £20.30 CB
    Total £177.72 a week in benefit

    And out of that £177.72 a week they would need to contribute £94.00 towards rent.

    Leaving £83.72 a week for a family of four, too feed,clothe, travel and pay for utilities.

    (or the alternative, to uproot his family and move out of London)

    you said ” I think it might be possible to get the government to compromise”

    You can’t blame people for not having any faith in this, when you have Nick Clegg, standing Firm saying he fully supports the Cap and the PM and the conservative Housing Ministers taking the same stance.

  • @George Kendall
    “But you’re right to challenge us. This is an important issue. And I do feel uncomfortable that I know relatively little about it. This, and incapacity benefit, are areas that I need to read up on.”

    Again George I respect your willingness to at least engage with people on these issues.
    I am not clued up either on these issues.
    It’s just seems though that every policy that is being announced lately, is directed at the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
    And unless Government, see’s that there is public backlash at these cuts, and that coalition partners will fight for fairer alternatives, The Government will push draconian measures through.

    I keep having flash backs to when the cuts to Child Benefit where 1st announced, which where going to hit “high rate tax payers”
    People feared that this cut was going to be nothing, compared to the cuts that would be hitting the low paid,unemployed, sick and disabled.
    And guess what. They where right!

    Losing £20 a week Child Benefit, comes no where close to comparing to someone who now faces losing their home, uprooting their children from their schools and breaking up family communities.

    When there was an outcry over the “Child Benefit Cut”, the Prime minister panicked and Government where quick to announce that they where introducing a marriage tax allowance, in hope to quieten down shouts from Middle Britain.

    I see no Panic from the Prime Minister or Government when it comes to the cuts to “low paid,unemployed, sick and disabled.” in fact Cameron and Clegg have become increasingly arrogant in their stances towards cuts and caps that are targeted at these parts of society.

    These people are unable to shout loudly for themselves, they require the assistance from Middle Britain and any other decent, compassionate person to fight their corner.

    Isn’t this exactly what the Liberal Party stood for and was the core of their beliefs?

  • I have to agree that the 10% cut to housing benefit if you are on JSA after a year is the worst of the proposals (although most of them sound pretty damaging). What I just don’t understand, and I wish someone would explain, is the justification for this. As I understand it, there are already fairly strict conditions for receiving JSA. e.g. you have to go to a certain number of job interviews every month, etc.

    So if those conditions are being enforced (and if they’re not, obviously that’s a different matter), surely those on JSA are ‘deserving’, for lack of a better word, because they are doing what they can to find work. So why would you then arbitrarily cut their housing benefit if they’ve been looking for a job for a year but haven’t managed to find one? How is that fair?

  • John Fraser 28th Oct '10 - 8:18am

    @ George
    The issue that worries me more is the newly unemployed. I think it might be possible to get the government to compromise, and offer the newly unemployed, say, six months without the cap, to find another job or to find cheaper accommodation.
    ….
    Ah still always looking for compromises george .After 6 months unemployment people have spent their savings have no mney for a deposit . they are likely to be in a ffar worse state and yet your compromise involves kicking them hard when they really are down. I know the style of your arguments now and sometimes indeed you make good points …. i also guess that your sentiments lie with social justice and fairness . I hope you are not hinting that anyone who cant find a job afte 6 months just isn’t trying ? So surely you would agree though that there are some things that can’t be compromised on ?

  • John Fraser 28th Oct '10 - 8:24am

    @ George again
    – it only applies to those who repeatedly refuse jobs which they are able to travel to, and able to perform (so not requiring someone with a bad back to do heavy lifting)
    …………….
    Did you realise that your compromises have been part of the system since the 1960s(and rightly so with regards to refusing reasonable work) indeed the penalties you suggest are far less harsh than those that now exist I believe.

    I fully believe that most of those who call for benefit cuts have an image of a benafit paradise and wil change their mind when the thinking press give out the details of the suffereing that will be caused.

    Well based on your compromises your far more of a soft touch than even me . Trouble is George your fair and well meaning compromises would cut not ice with Nick and Dave.

  • policy changes that will affect more than 750,000 households are being scrutinised for fairness.

    A cap of £400 a week on a four bedroom house, will affect , a total of 21,060 who will lose on average £74 per week. (Thats before the 500’000 extra public sector workers are made unemployed)
    That’s 21’060 people who are living in 4 bedroom properties, That does not include the thousands more who live in 2 and 3 bedroom properties.
    The percentage of privately rented properties available to housing benefit claimants in central London will fall from more than 50% to just 7% being affordable under housing Benefit.
    There are 680,000 WORKING households claiming housing benefit, 14% of the total housing benefit caseload

    Are you scared yet?

    Food for thought, Nobody’s job is 100% safe, nobody’s buisness is 100% foolproof.
    How are you going to feel, if you end up unemployed or your business goes bankrupt?
    How will you feel, when your told that the state will not subsidise YOUR rent and you have to move your family out of the community you have lived in for years.

    Don’t think for one second that this only effects people who rent either.

    How many thousands of you in so called “middle britain” who have £250k + Mortgages at 5 or 6 % interest?
    How many of you realise that the Government dropped its support for “Mortgage Interest” Payments to just 3%
    So if you are unlucky enough to lose your job, the Government will only pay towards 1/2 of your mortgage interest payments, And don’t think for one second that the Mortgage companies are being sympathetic to those who find themselves in this situation.

    Don’t be so naive to think, these cuts won’t effect me, these cuts only effect the welfare dependant. Anyone can become reliant on welfare at some point in their lives, how you going to feel when it is you and your home?

  • please note the figures above are households on people

  • sorry figures on households not on individual people, so when you factor into those figures, spouses and children.

    The figures become more and alarming

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