The same policy can be good or evil – depends who thought of it

In May 2010, the Labour Party pledged to cap Housing Benefit. In their manifesto [pdf], they argued that the State shouldn’t be subsidising people to live in private rented properties that “ordinary working families” couldn’t afford.

Over 600 Labour parliamentary candidates happily stood on the pledge, not a whisper of opposition to the idea was heard from their ranks.

Fast forward to October 2010, five months later, and the Coalition Government come up with the same plan.

Not only was the Coalition scheme denounced by Labour in the strongest terms, with talk of “social cleansing” echoing the horrific Kosovan experiences, but the fact that Lib Dem ministers were supporting it was seen as proof positive of the Lib Dems turning into Tories.

Now, the policy itself could turn out to be a good or a bad one – personally I don’t know, and that’s not the point I’m addressing here.  The question I’m interested in is why we (any of us) might support and then oppose the same policy even when the facts don’t appear to have changed.

Labour supporters may have fallen foul of a well-known psychological phenomenon, and one I wrote about back in August: that our assessment of whether a policy is good or bad is far more reliant on where it comes from than we’d like to admit to ourselves.

Research in the US shows people – across the political spectrum – will happily find reasons to support a policy they see as coming from their party*.

Our natural tendency as humans is to like or dislike a policy first, then to retro-fit our reasons. (There’s a growing body of evidence that this is pretty much our approach to most conscious decisions we take).

It’s one reason why we get entrenched views – so many of our opinions are down to what we like or dislike. You may be able to persuade me that chocolate is unhealthy and that there are all sorts of reasons for me to eat less, but good luck persuading me I no longer like it – that’s getting into brainwashing territory , it’s much harder and takes a lot longer.

We can avoid that some of the time, if we’re willing to put in the effort. Most of us manage it on occasion and most of us are quite convinced that we’re much better at it than other people – especially those across the political divide (just one reason why science is often hard – it goes against our natural way of reaching conclusions about the world).

In the online world where opinions flow freely and vicious arguments flare at the click of a mouse, and where we’re all sometimes too quick not only to condemn a policy or idea, but to leap to our very own perfectly-formed conclusions about the motivations of others in proposing, or opposing it, perhaps this should cause us to pause for thought.

* For those party members who pride themselves on taking a more oppositional approach to their party’s policy, this will be the grouping or faction they perceive themselves to be a part of.

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70 Comments

  • Sunder Katwala 1st Nov '10 - 10:37am

    Whatever the merits of the psychological arguments, the piece simply has a mistaken premise, because it repeats the myth that the housing debate is about the HB ceiling/cap.

    In principle, a cap is a legitimate idea, though there are issues about how to implement it.

    But that is one of the smallest of the nine different HB changes being proposed – and being introduced separately across a two year period. The cap is estimated to save £65 million, 3% of the total savings from cuts to housing benefit. I recommend the links in the Don Paskino post, including a link to what the 30th percentile would be worth in LHA
    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/10/29/housing-benefit-the-facts/

    Much more important in its impact – especially outside London – is the shift of LHA local ceilings from the 50th percentile to the 30th percentile everywhere. Adrian Sanders argued that these proposals are very poorly designed and will cause much misery on LibDemVoice at the weekend
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/adrian-sanders-writes-the-cap-that-doesnt-fit-21839.html

    Surely the least defensible proposal is to cut housing benefit (the very definition of a top down, one size fits all, personal circumstances ignored policy surely) for anyone on JSA for 12 months. Given that conditionality applies to JSA, can anybody explain the principle behind this proposal? It is intended to get a “give them a kick up the backside” headline in the Daily Express, but has no other merit. I would imagine LibDems ought to oppose that, whoever proposed it. (To his credit, Steve Webb has signalled that he does not think it is a good policy, though he is bound by collective responsibility).

    So it ought to be perfectly possible for Labour – and for LD backbenchers – to consistently scrutinise and indeed oppose several of these policies consistently.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 1st Nov '10 - 11:03am

    Yes, it isn’t *a* cap that’s the problem. It’s *the* cap.

    Anyway, from the headline I rushed in here thinking there would be some kind of self-knowledge in this thread. Early cuts from the Tories were evil until they became our salvation with the Lib Dems (coincidentally at the moment when your leadership no longer had to worry about appealing to the electorate and had secure employment in the Tory government).

    Nuclear was a tried, tested and failed technology when Chris Huhne said it was. Now it isn’t.

    So many examples.

  • Sunder Katwala
    “Whatever the merits of the psychological arguments, the piece simply has a mistaken premise, because it repeats the myth that the housing debate is about the HB ceiling/cap.”

    I’d agree with you, Sunder, that the debate isn’t just about the overriding ceiling. However a very senior Labour Party spokesman (Ed Milliband’s right hand man, Sadiq Khan) stated publicly yesterday on the Politics Show that even on the overriding ceiling issue the Labour Manifesto doesn’t mean what we all think it means.

    The key section can be found at 29’ 17” in on:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00vp0qc/The_Politics_Show_London_31_10_2010/

    29’ 17” Sadiq Khan: “Would we have a cap of £400 for those receiving HB in 4 bedroom properties (who, it would mean would have to move out of inner cities – London, and other cities – and move to outer suburbs, with huge turmoil to those families) would we take away, the answer again is no.”

    It seems to me there are only limited possibilities:
    1. Labour would have had a cap, but it would have been (say) £425 per week.
    2. Labour seriously think that £21,000 to £25,000 pa is a rent that “other ordinary working families could afford.”
    3. Labour have a cunning plan which would “ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector” at rents which are excessive, but they are just not going to tell anyone.

    I’m not really sure that there are any other alternatives.

  • Norfolk Boy 1st Nov '10 - 11:42am

    Maybe the cod psychologists want to look into their desires to justify and reconcile their consciences with policies that a few months ago they would never have remotely contemplated and would have labelled as socially divisive or actually even wicked.

    Sunder Katwala is quite correct to put the focus on the totality of the reforms. I am a neutral George, although I did vote Lib Dem last time around (to keep out the Tories as Norman Lamb put it to me!) I find the policy on housing to be almost vindictive in its character.

    Perhaps a look at reducing tax relief on the pensions of the very rich might have been a more popular (and a morally fairer) way to raise funds. Or the ridiculously high rents charged in Kensington for the very modest properties some families are living in.

  • Norfolk Boy
    “Perhaps a look at reducing tax relief on the pensions of the very rich might have been a more popular (and a morally fairer) way to raise funds.”

    Good suggestion – and the Coalition Government have done it!

    See e.g. London Eveving Standard 15.10.10:
    The tax breaks high earners get on pension savings are to be cut dramatically to save £4 billion a year, it has been announced.

    The amount people can save tax-free into a pension each year is being slashed from £255,000 to £50,000 from next April.

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23887731-pension-tax-relief-cut-to-save-cash.do

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Nov '10 - 12:01pm

    George:
    “Sunder makes some valid points, but I think he misses the main point of the piece.”

    No, I think he’s hit the nail on the head. The government would rather people discussed the cap and ignored the other changes.

    I can only echo his request for someone to explain the merits of the 10% reduction in housing benefit after a year on Jobseekers Allowance. I asked on another thread and was told that most people would expect that “after 12 months the claimant should have found a job or moved someplace cheaper.” Is that really the Lib Dem party line these days? If not, what is?

  • “Surely the least defensible proposal is to cut housing benefit (the very definition of a top down, one size fits all, personal circumstances ignored policy surely) for anyone on JSA for 12 months.”

    Absolutely, My opposition to this isn’t based on some psychological condition, it is based purely on the fact that it is just plain wrong and no justification can be given to persuade me (nor any other liberal I hope) otherwise.

    nige (ex LD)

  • Iain, the term we used when I was studying psychology a lot of years ago was “source credibility” – if someone (or even a political party, say) you don’t trust says something, it is much more likely we will dismiss it – and the reverse is the case if we do trust them. In tribal political parties, of course, there is always “presentation” and “spin”, by which is often meant an attempt to distinguish little tiny fine points, as against major policy. “We would do it like this” rather than like (the hated party B solution) that!

  • Anthony Aloysius St
    “No, I think he’s hit the nail on the head. The government would rather people discussed the cap and ignored the other changes.”

    But it isn’t just the Government, is it?

    How else do you explain that when Ed Milliband’s right hand man, Sadiq Khan), spoke on the subject to the Politics Show it was one of the only two aspects he spoke about?

    On the cap issue, would you concede that the Coalition Government is introducing a policy which the Labour Manifesto itself proposed?

  • In May 2010, the Labour Party pledged to cap Housing Benefit. In their manifesto [pdf], they argued that the State shouldn’t be subsidising people to live in private rented properties that “ordinary working families” couldn’t afford.

    Where does the word cap appear as i cant see it ,stop trying to put the blame on Labour ,the Lib Dems have become Tories in stealth ,we will see how people judge you at next Mays election .
    andy edinburgh

  • Sunder Katwala 1st Nov '10 - 12:55pm

    George

    Yes, I agree with that general point of the piece, though the housing benefit changes aren’t a particularly good example. This cuts in all directions. The question ‘would I take this position if we weren’t in power/opposition’ is a good one to try to check this a bit.

    Yes, Labour would have had to cut public spending, though somewhat less than the CSR overall, and so ought to to reflect this (and signpost at the least the direction of the spending cuts/tax rises) in its advocacy in opposition.

    It is self-evidently the case that many Liberal Democrats will now support as reasonable and achievable compromises policies with which many would have decried in very strong terms had their party not become part of the government (most obviously tuition fees, including by LibDem politicians who no longer thought their earlier position credible well before the last election).

    But, for me, the least politically honest campaigns of the last Parliament were Tories using the “stop Brown’s NHS cuts” slogan.

  • @andrew
    You say you cannot see where the Labour Manifesto said they would cap HB.

    It was here:
    Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

  • Well said Iain Roberts. Only slightly undermined by the obligatory shoehorning in of a tribal attack on Labour into what was otherwise a perfectly good illustration of the argument that followed.

    There is a well worn phrase that, when asked, most people would define socialism as being “whatever the Labour Party does.” Experience so far of reading your website and coalition pronouncements shows the same is apparently true for liberalism and conservatism. Otherwise we would not have Lib Dems arguing that the NHS is not being privatised, that arbitrary caps on housing benefit are fair, as are tenure limits on social housing and that the structural deficit is sufficient reason to abandon any hope of egalitarianism. Nor would we have ordinary Conservatives arguing that crime could be alleviated with something other than mass imprisonment and that the armed forces and police should bear some of the cuts.

    IAs for the tribal attack: In purely political terms it does not behove you well to make this apparent hypocrisy such an issue. Firstly, whilst it superficially appears that the statement in the labour manifesto does entail a cap on housing benefit, it could in a more sympathetic reading be taken to mean a cap on rents. I don’t actually believe that to be the intention of the policy, I think it was a populist response to tabloid scare stories, but, so is the coalition policy. The difference is that the experience of the Labour Party taught them to insert sufficient ambiguity into such a statement to gain the populist vote whilst not necessarily being committed to the populist policy. A similar approach to that used for raising “stealth” taxes in order to try and square the circle formed by our nations hypocritical duality of wanting first class services supplied by the state and to expect the state to provide all of the bases of social justice whilst refusing to pay for them to do so through direct taxation. Second; the problem with this incessant attack on how ‘the Labour party would have done the same’, is that it is an implicit admission of guilt, ‘we know it’s wrong but you would have been just as bad’.

    The tone of the housing benefit debate and the security of tenure for council housing is one built upon the same emotive posturing as the wider benefits debate and is designed to undermine support for the welfare state. Ironically given his history, Ian Duncan Smith is the only government spokesman who speaks in terms that do not support that dogma and thus opens the door to a fairer settlement.
    The Labour party in government fell for the same propagandist tone set by the media and never stood up for the good that they did. Ultimately the last government followed a liberal agenda on most things but failed to on civil liberties and law & order and the glaring “mistake” of Iraq. By dismissing the whole record the last thirteen years as authoritarian and socialist then the Lib Dems are undermining their own cause of liberal egalitarianism by claiming that many of the tools to achieve it were discredited by their association with Labour. On the other side of the coin by accepting the cuts process in full you are implicitly accepting that liberal egalitarianism is only affordable in times of affluence and is nothing more than a desire of your members rather than a principle of philosophical truth. Cutting off your nose to spite your face could be said to apply.

    So you end up arguing that the cuts to social services are justified by having been similar to proposals by the Labour Party and that they are also justified by a Conservative analysis of the economy as being caused by Labour profligacy. By arguing thus you are effectively setting the Labour Party up as the arbiters of social justice and the Conservatives of economic competence. In both cases you are implicitly accepting that adherence to liberal principles would be wrong in the current circumstances.

    Although you frame your article primarily as a chastisement of the Labour Party i would hope that it gives Lib Dems sufficient reason for self reflection in a way that, as much as you refuse to acknowledge it, Labour members and supporters are already engaged, albeit too late.

  • andrew
    “we will see how people judge you at next Mays election”

    Why wait until next May? There are council by-elections every week.

    In 145 elections held in the 6 months to the end of October voters have judged Lib Dems to the extent that we have made 3 net gains (21 successful defences and 10 gains more than compensating for 7 losses).

    Full details here:
    http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2010/10/lib-dem-by-election-results-continue_31.html

  • matt
    “To be fair Simon you are substituting the word “reform” for the word “Cap” “

    No I am not.

    The key word(s) there is not “reform” – which is one of those weasel-words which can mean anything you want it to mean.

    The key words are “to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.” And that means a cap.

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 2:05pm

    I think there is a lot of truth in Iain’s post – there are certainly a fair few people whose approach to issues seems to be: ‘The Tories are the spawn of the devil; the Tories support policy X; therefore policy X must be the work of the devil.”

    This approach, and particularly argumnet based on guessing at another party’s motivation behind a particular policy, tends to lead to very noisy but often not very enlighteing debate.

    Personally I prefer to judge policies on their merits. There were policies of the last Government I agreed with and there are Tory policies I agree with, even though I generally disagreed with the Labour Government and generally diagree with the Tories.

    I wonder if the best way forward for the Coaltion is to appoint former Labour ministers to lead reviews on the contraversial things, as they did with John Hutton on public sector pensions?

    It is also important that the Coalition ministers don’t fall into the mindset of ignoring everything the opposition say, just because they are the opposition.

    So in the discussion about Housing Benefit reform, which I broadly support, some very important issue shave been raised about how difficult it may be for families on low incomes to move from one property to another, and on the reasons for the 10% cut for people on JSA after one year. I hope that the Coalition’s ‘new politics’ will include giving reasoned responses on some of these issues.

    Saying that, it then behoves the opposition to shut up about ‘U-turns’ when what the Government has actually done is listen and act.

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 2:09pm

    @Sunder

    Thanks for the links. Having looked at the list of new LHA figures, and knowing the sort of rent levels in the area where I live (south Abingdon) I am reassured that the amounts being suggested are adequate for people to find housing. I also note that they allow a level of expenditure on housing that is well above what many working families in this area spend on their housing costs.

    I agree with you that the 10% cut for those on JSA for over a year requires more explanation and thought.

  • @ simon

    We will have to wait till the next election to see what LABOUR does about hb ,as the way you and your palls are going Labour will walk the next election ,when an oap or a disabled person ask you on the doorstep “Why you were all for no cuts,no vat rise ,no tuition fees ,and letting the guy who pays less tax than his cleaner away scottt free”

    what will you say ,as we all know you had the books and borrowing was lower than expected ,how can any Lib Dem policy or manifesto ever be looked at seriously again ,you changed your mind over cuts in a weekend ,you will get lambasted for the way Nick sucked up to CAMERON ,CLEGG WAS RIPPING HIM DURING THE ELECTION THEN DONE EVERYTHING HE ASKED ,

    Vince Cable bottled it to go to the university yesterday as he was going to get it tight for his double dealing

    ,We are heading for a “FUC###G CAR CRASH ON TERROR LAWS” Camerons words wait till you start ripping into each other over that (cant wait) its great in opposition but now you are in power and are not dooing to good
    andy edinburgh

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Nov '10 - 3:14pm

    “Regarding the 10% cut in housing benefit for the long-term unemployed, I’ve repeatedly said I oppose it. But I’m beginning to think it shouldn’t be the focus of this debate.”

    As it’s not remotely near to being the focus of the debate, I wonder why you should say that.

    Perhaps it’s another manifestation of the “loyalty” you spoke of previously, which means that party members keep as quiet as possible about aspects of coalition policy they disagree with? On the contrary, I suggest if people really want this policy dropped, they’d be well advised to say so very loudly, very clearly and as often as possible. And I’m sure that would be more beneficial for the party than giving the appearance of acquiescence in such indefensible policies.

  • @matt
    You do say some bizarre things at times.

    “I would also be intrigued to see by how much Liberal Democrats “held” their seats by”</i If you want to see how well Lib Dems did in the 21 seats that we held and the 10 seats that we won, full details are on the ALDC website: http://www.aldc.org/elections/by-election-results/

    “The results would suggest that the Gap is being closed between Liberals and Labour “ That we should be so lucky! Unfortunately, the results do not show that.

    “if their was a general election, Labour would probably walk away with a Majority.” No, what the results do suggest is that Labour have improved on the poor position they were in last May.

    “these results are showing that the “majority” of people, do not support this Conservative led, coalition government.” A singularly bizarre thing to say at a time when the Conservatives and Lib Dems between them enjoy the support of over 50% of voters.

  • matt
    ” I have gone through the Liberal Democrats 2010 Manifesto and nowhere in there can I see any proposals which would support the Governments announcements to Cap Housing Benefits.”

    Sorry, did you miss the bit where is says:
    We will oppose any reforms in Housing Benefit so as to ensure that we carry on subsidising people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families cannot afford.

  • The 10% cut for those on JSA for over a year requires to be rejected and scorned for the wicked spiteful attack on the poor that Osborne and Cameron dreamed up. So Simon Hughes is absolutely correct in threatening a backbench rebellion over these planned cuts to housing benefit proposals he correctly identifies as “harsh and draconian”.

  • @matt
    Look at the bottom of page 19:

    We will oppose any reforms in Housing Benefit so as to ensure that we carry on subsidising people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families cannot afford.

  • Richard Morris 1st Nov '10 - 4:18pm

    @ Matt, @ Simon Shaw.

    Taking current polling averages (40% Tory, 37% Lab, 14% LibDem, 9% other), and plugging them into the BBC polling predictor (which works on FPTP), if there were an election tomorrow, the seat split would go Labour 313, Con 286, LibDem24, others 27; we would presumably be supporting a minority Labour government.

    Its guesswork of course. But it’s as good an illustration of where the country’s head is at vs. the analysis of by-election results. And it is fun. If rather worrying.

  • andrew
    “We will have to wait till the next election to see what LABOUR does about hb”

    Although I couldn’t follow most of your posting, that raises an interesting point, Andrew.

    Does anyone (even you, Andrew) seriously think that Labour would go into the next election with a Manifesto that committed themselves to repealing all (or even some) of the changes which the Coalition Government make to Housing Benefit?

    Doesn’t that really say it all?

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 4:32pm

    @ LDV Bob “The 10% cut for those on JSA for over a year requires to be rejected and scorned for the wicked spiteful attack on the poor that Osborne and Cameron dreamed up.”

    Under which definition of poverty do you beleive everyone on JSA is poor?

  • Yeah what exactly is so wrong about forcing people into destitution anyway?

  • David Allen 1st Nov '10 - 5:31pm

    Simon Shaw,

    “matt
    ” I have gone through the Liberal Democrats 2010 Manifesto and nowhere in there can I see any proposals which would support the Governments announcements to Cap Housing Benefits.”

    Sorry, did you miss the bit where is says:
    We will oppose any reforms in Housing Benefit so as to ensure that we carry on subsidising people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families cannot afford.”

    What you’ve done, you clever fellow you, is to take the quote from the Labour manifesto, turn it through 180 degress to make it say the opposite, and then tease us all with the suggestion that you can find the reversed version “at the bottom of page 19” in the Lib Dem manifesto. What a hoot! What a jolly jape! You joined your mates in the Bullingdon or something?

  • @David Allen
    I was going to say “Well spotted, David”, but as it was so completely obvious, I won’t!

    matt would have been perfectly reasonable in attacking Lib Dems if our Manifesto had said that – but it didn’t. And that is my point.

    It would just be really pleasant, for once, if one of our “Labour friends” were to acknowledge that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto.

  • “Under which definition of poverty do you beleive everyone on JSA is poor?”

    I’m sorry Mr Tebbit but are you being serious or have I stumbled into the Daily Mail by mistake ?

    Lets not pretend the vast majority of those out of work don’t have to survive on a weekly sum which an MP, or indeed city councillor, would struggle to survive on for five minutes.

    JSA
    Aged 16 – 24 £51.85
    Aged 25 or over £65.45

    You actually believe this is vast riches from which 10% of a persons housing benefit can be plucked with Thatcherite impunity ? Thank God Simon Hughes and other Liberal Demorat MPs aren’t so ludicrously out of touch.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 1st Nov '10 - 6:47pm

    Not to mention the Lib Dems doing best in places where the Tory vote has fallen dramatically. Tactical voters, Conservatives who see the local Lib Dem as better, whatever. It isn’t the Liberal Democrats winning so much as it is the Coalition winning.

  • @matt
    Why can’t you acknowledge it?

    The fact that I refer specifically to one aspect (“that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto”), and you then refer to two others is a bit of a giveaway.

  • Mr Simon Shaw, you saw my comment in the other thread ( https://www.libdemvoice.org/labours-manifesto-pledge-to-cap-housing-benefit-21858.html#comment-149615 ) clarifying that Labour proposed a cap on Local Housing Allowance of £1100 per week in the March Budget (links in my comment) and you responded to it: https://www.libdemvoice.org/labours-manifesto-pledge-to-cap-housing-benefit-21858.html#comment-149627

    So for you to claim that “if one of our “Labour friends” were to acknowledge that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto” you are being thoroughly, shamefully disingenuous (or you just have a very bad memory). How is an £1100 per week cap the same as a £400 per week cap?

    And by the way, I am not a “Labour friend” at the moment, I am still a member of the Liberal Democrats, but with each new policy announcement I have to ask myself what am I sticking around for?

  • Mike(The Labour one)
    “Not to mention the Lib Dems doing best in places where the Tory vote has fallen dramatically. Tactical voters, Conservatives who see the local Lib Dem as better, whatever. It isn’t the Liberal Democrats winning so much as it is the Coalition winning.”

    There’s a lot of truth in that, which is why, in my own area, we are targetting Conservative seats to make gains next May.

    I also think the “Coalition winning” point is why many opinion polls (YouGov in particular) are so clearly out of line with what is happening on the ground (e.g. in council by-elections). In actual elections a sizeable part of the electorate is what might be termed “pro-Coalition Government” and where Lib Dems are in with a chance we do well at harvesting that vote.

    What this means is that in the two thirds or so of the country which are not especially Labour-inclined, Lib Dems are doing quite well in local council by-elections. Stronger Labour areas are more difficult than before.

  • @AndrewM
    Firstly, please don’t (from your position of anonymity) accuse me of being “thoroughly, shamefully disingenuous.”

    Secondly, would you please carefully reread what I posted, in reply to you, on the other thread. If you are being fair, you may then wish to come back and apologise to me.

  • @matt
    Have you read the full article (which I wrote) at:
    http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2010/10/lib-dem-by-election-results-continue_31.html

    It included the following comment:
    “Labour continue to do well, normally winning a few seats off the Conservatives each month, although it is interesting to note that no Lib Dem seats have been lost to Labour for the last 3½ months.

    Over the 6 months May – October 2010 Lib Dems are net 3 seats up: 21 successful defences and 10 gains more than compensating for 7 losses. Labour are net 15 seats up; Conservatives net 13 seats down and Others are net 5 seats down.”

    So, just to be clear, it was I who wrote: “Labour continue to do well”

    I think it is clear to most readers whether it is you or I who is doing the spinning here.

  • @AndrewM
    On the matter where you accused me of being “thoroughly, shamefully disingenuous”, I trust you have read what George Kendall has said (more eloquently than I) this evening on the other thread you referred to.

    He said this:
    “Agreed. From the Times article, they implemented a cap of £1100/wk in March, which would come into force in October next year.

    They also had a manifesto commitment to “ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford”.

    Surely, the two are entirely separate. I can’t see how a maximum rent of £57200 per year could remotely be described as a rent that “ordinary working families could afford”. Can you?

    The article says: “Until now, the Government has shied away from tackling this benefit, fearing that there may be too many losers.” Governments of all persuasions always put difficult decisions off until after an election. Surely, this was just another example.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Nov '10 - 12:04am

    @LDV Bob

    “Under which definition of poverty do you beleive everyone on JSA is poor?”

    I’m sorry Mr Tebbit but are you being serious or have I stumbled into the Daily Mail by mistake ?

    Lets not pretend the vast majority of those out of work don’t have to survive on a weekly sum which an MP, or indeed city councillor, would struggle to survive on for five minutes.

    JSA
    Aged 16 – 24 £51.85
    Aged 25 or over £65.45

    You actually believe this is vast riches from which 10% of a persons housing benefit can be plucked with Thatcherite impunity ? Thank God Simon Hughes and other Liberal Demorat MPs aren’t so ludicrously out of touch.”

    No, I asked you a straightforward question.

    On what definition of poverty do you believe everyone on JSA is poor?

    I asked this because your previous comment implied that you thought being on JSA was the same thing of being poor, and I just wondered what definition of ‘poor’ you used to come to this conclusion.

    I note that you haven’t answered the question.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Nov '10 - 12:41am

    “I note that you haven’t answered the question.”

    And I note that the only person here who has attempted to defend this 10% reduction – assuming you weren’t trying to defend it – is still the one who said that most people would expect that “after 12 months the claimant should have found a job or moved someplace cheaper.”

    But by all means carry on trying to score debating points rather than addressing the substantive ones.

  • Barry George 2nd Nov '10 - 12:47am

    Neil

    On what definition of poverty do you believe everyone on JSA is poor?

    The widely accepted definition of poverty is having an income which is less than 60% of the national average (excluding the wealthiest members of society). On this measure, the proportion of the UK population defined as in poverty is roughly one in five.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4070112.stm

    That would include 100 percent of people on JSA

    You can of course argue about relative poverty, absolute poverty and social exclusion but to try and make the point that a person on JSA isn’t poor just doesn’t match up to facts.

    You aren’t allowed to have much savings or another income if you get JSA.

    I am sure you (or the daily Mail) can find a few exceptions, where someone has milked the system somehow, but it is safe to say that if you are on JSA (and you need to provide your own housing) then you are by that very fact, poor.

  • Barry George 2nd Nov '10 - 1:07am

    Neil

    Another source for the defintion of poverty…

    Just under 1 in 4 people in the UK – or nearly 13 million people – live in poverty, according to the latest figures. This includes nearly 1 in 3 children, almost 4 million

    What is the UK definition of poverty?

    Poverty is measured here as below 60 per cent of contemporary median net disposable income in 2000/01. This is the ‘poverty line’ which has been accepted recently across the European Union to measure the extent of poverty in member states; it is not the same as a comprehensive definition of poverty, which includes many other dimensions. These figures look at incomes in Great Britain, after housing costs have been paid, and include the self-employed.

    http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=68016

    JSA + housing = poverty

  • @Simon Shaw

    You claimed:

    “It would just be really pleasant, for once, if one of our “Labour friends” were to acknowledge that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto.”

    And the policy in the Labour manifesto that you claim the Coalition are implementing is:

    “Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.”

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference said that the cap on benefits that he announced for those out of work would be “set at the level that the average working family earns.”[1] I think it is reasonable to assume that George Osborne’s “average working family” can be equated to the Labour manifesto’s “ordinary working family”. So how much does an ordinary working family earn? In the press release accompanying the Chancellor’s speech, HM Treasury tells us that according to the Family Resources Survey: “Median income earnings after tax for working households is currently £479 per week”.[2]

    Can you honestly claim that an ordinary working family with £480 a week can afford to spend up to £400 a week on rent (more than £1,700 a month and more than £20,000 a year)? They would be spending 83% of their income on the rent alone, not even including utilities. To me, that just doesn’t sound very likely, although I’m happy to be proven wrong if you can show me an example of a family that somehow manages to make it work. I’d be quite interested to get some money-saving tips from them, actually.

    By the way, Iain Roberts, the author of this article and the one on Saturday, seems to agree on this point: “Perhaps Labour genuinely believe that “ordinary working families” in London can afford to spend £20,000 a year on their rent or mortgage.”[3] Just replace ‘Labour’ with ‘the Coalition’ and yes, that’s a very good question to ask.

    If the Coalition (or Labour for that matter) really were implementing that manifesto policy to the letter and making sure that Local Housing Allowance was only paid up to a level that ordinary working families (by George Osborne’s definition) earning £480 per week could actually, realistically afford, the cap would be set substantially lower and tens of thousands more families would be harmed by these “harsh and draconian” (© Simon Hughes) cuts.[4]

    The fact is, Labour was spinning when it made that pledge in its manifesto and George Osborne was spinning when he announced the Coalition policy of the total cap on benefits.

    Therefore, I will apologise for calling you “thoroughly, shamefully disingenuous”; that was an overreaction on my part and I’m sorry. On further reflection, you were merely being disingenuous and misleading, and I will not apologise for calling you out on that.

    [1] http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2010/10/George_Osborne_Our_tough_but_fair_approach_to_welfare.aspx
    [2] http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/press_48_10.htm
    [3] https://www.libdemvoice.org/labours-manifesto-pledge-to-cap-housing-benefit-21858.html
    [4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11616741

  • Liberal Neil wrote –
    “On what definition of poverty do you believe everyone on JSA is poor? ”

    This question has already been answered in a serious manner but I just can’t believe it was posed as such so I’m replying in the spirit it was asked.

    ROFLMAO 🙂

  • I remember when Labour got hammered at the polls in the last metro/unitary elections and 2 Labour spokespeople went onto the BBC and put forward 2 completely different views.

    One said they’d had a shocking night, a response to government ‘not listening’ to people and that they needed to change to win back votes.

    Another tried to spin her way out of the situation by saying low turnout helps the Lib Dems and Tories win, how Labour didn’t put as much work in as the other parties because it was busy ‘getting on with the job’ of governing, how some seats were won with tiny majorities showing most people (had they voted) would’ve voted Labour……….and various other nonsense phrases.

    Let’s not be like that second spokesman and try and conceal all bad news. Our vote in many anti-tory areas has gone down rapidly. Unsurprising. People who hate tories rather than like labour (there are lots of them) won’t vote for us over Labour anymore, unless our candidates are well known and hard working.

    Being in Coalition was a pyrrhic victory, being in government allows us to do things I never thought would happen, like raising the threshold and not replacing trident this parliament. as well as blunting the right of the tory party. But I was convinced we’d be wiped out across the north, the cities and London. The wipeout isn’t happening. But the results show that we need to seriously look at the shires, market towns, coastal areas and even true-blue rural heartlands to make gains. We’re nicking seats off the Tories at the moment. As people get tired of Ed Miliband (they will, he’s boring) I remain convinced we’ll take seats off Labour, especially if the economy grows well.

    So yes, there’s been some bad news hidden amongst the good news, but it is, based on the circumstances, good news and the trolls on here trying to make out that every result, even a win, is a bad one should be ignored. Where it’s bad, acknowledge it’s bad, but where it’s good, build on it. Where we work, we win.

    Mike

  • @Liberal Neil

    And I note that when it comes right down to it you don’t seem to care about the definition of poverty when you can pretend that I haven’t already answered your ‘crucially important’ semantic trivia.

    ‘Vast majority’ means what it says, though overwhelming majority would actually have been closer to the mark. So what you chose to imply is frankly amateurish sophistry and cheap deflection tactics.

    The current annual salary for an MP is £65,738. (excluding allowances and expenses)
    The annual income for the vast majority of those on JSA is around £3000.
    So would it also upset you if someone described MPs as NOT POOR considering it’s almost TRIPLE the average UK salary which is about £23,000 ? And more than TWENTY times the annual income of someone on JSA ?

    Or would the fact that a few multi-millionaires MPs (like say…. Cameron and Osborne) fall outside even that income based scale outrage your sensitive semantic soul again ?

  • @AndrewM
    You “claim” to be a Liberal Democrat member. You repeat your accusation that I am “being disingenuous and misleading” apparently on the basis that the Coalition Government’s overriding HB cap of £21,000 is too high to be what the Labour Manifesto meant.

    That is beyond bizarre!

    So if I had asked my question slightly differently, as follows:
    “It would just be really pleasant, for once, if one of our “Labour friends” were to acknowledge that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are working towards implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto.”
    are you saying that would not have been “disingenuous and misleading”?

    In that case I rephrase the question and would ask that you withdraw your accusation.

  • @Simon Shaw: I am indeed a member of the Liberal Democrats; I joined shortly before the election (and I even sent a tenner as a donation before I actually joined), both because I thought I genuinely believed in what the Liberal Democrats stood for and I thought they believed it too. Do you remember all that nonsense that Nick Clegg talked about during the election campaign, a “new politics”, “we have a fantastic opportunity to do things differently for once”, etc.? Well I’m one of the suckers who actually believed him. Unfortunately, with each passing week, the “new politics” looks very much like the old politics.

    Do you remember also the election broadcast where Nick Clegg walks through the streets of London, strewn with the broken promises of previous Governments?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTLR8R9JXz4

    As one of the commenters so accurately notes: “Oh what a sick joke this is now”. So yes, I am a member of the Liberal Democrats. For the moment. Will I still be a member after next May? Right now, it’s not looking very likely at all.

    On the subject of Housing Benefit, if you had indeed said: “It would just be really pleasant, for once, if one of our “Labour friends” were to acknowledge that on the £21,000 (etc) overriding limit, the Coalition Government are working towards implementing a policy contained in the Labour Manifesto.” I would agree that is partially true, though still somewhat misleading, as Labour had already announced the figure for their cap in the March Budget, and the Coalition policy goes much further than that (to say nothing of all the other changes such as cutting it by 10% for those on JSA for more than a year). Your statement also implies that reducing the cap even further in the future is a goal of the Coalition. I certainly hope that is not the case; do you have any evidence to suggest that implication? If you changed the wording as you suggested your statement would still be, in a word: spin. Which I am not a fan of, whichever party it comes from.

    So yes, if you withdraw your previous statement I will withdraw my previous comment that you were being “disingenuous and misleading”, I would say that your new, revised statement would fall into the category of common spin, and would therefore not really be worth commenting on in the first place. And what a sad indictment of our politics that is.

  • Saying “Labour would have done it anyway” is hardly a defence.

    It amounts to nothing more than “we’re just as crap as them”.

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