Oppose the Bedroom Tax? The Lib Dems have had at least 6 chances to oppose it – and failed

2nd April, 2014 4:19 pm

Lib Dem President Tim Farron was briefing the press overnight that he’s ‘withdrawing’ the party’s support for the Bedroom Tax. The Guardian reported Farron as saying:

“The bedroom tax causes huge social problems and distorts the market – we as a party cannot support this.”

But this is duplicitous at best from Farron, because both he and his party leader have had at least six chances to oppose the Bedroom Tax, and failed on each of these occasions:

  1. 2nd reading- 9th March 2011 – Welfare Reform Act 2012 Division 219: Clegg didn’t vote, Tim Farron voted with government
  2. 2nd reading- 9th March 2011 – Welfare Reform Act 2012 Division 220: Clegg didn’t vote, Tim Farron voted with government
  3. Report stage- 13th June 2011 – Welfare Reform Act 2012 Division 288: Clegg and Farron didn’t vote
  4. Report stage second- 15th June 2011 – Welfare Reform Act 2012: Clegg and Farron didn’t vote
  5. Third reading- 15th June 2011 – Welfare Reform Act 2012: Clegg and Farron didn’t vote
  6. Ian Lavery’s 10 min rule bill – 12th February 2014: Clegg and Farron didn’t vote

Farron did vote against the Bedroom Tax once – in November 2013 – but went back to abstaining/not voting three months later. Hardly the actions of someone who truly believe it “causes huge social problems”.

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Labour will be testing the Lib Dems conversion to opposing the Bedroom Tax in the Lords this week, and in the Commons ASAP. Lets see if their actions match Farron’s belated words.

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  • treborc1

    That’s OK I’d not worry about it, after all how many labour MP abstained or did not even bother voting against it. ah yes 46 labour MP’s and blaming the Liberals for something you may have been able to end your selves.

    • Pete

      Oh for God’s sake this is nonsense and you know it – 80 odd Tories didn’t vote either; do you really think those 80+ abstained because they were against the bedroom tax? Really?

      Labour did not have enough votes to win the division and it was obvious. The Government has a huge working majority – bigger than Labour’s in the last Parliament – and nowhere near enough Coalition MPs signaled that they would rebel against it. For this reason, MPs far from London at the time – as most were, if you look at the list of abstentions for the vote you’re talking about – did not return to the Commons when they could be more productive in their constituencies, and the whips made pairing arrangements (for those who don’t know, pairing is when an MP from one side of the House abstains because someone on the other side can’t make it to the vote, so the division reflects the real distribution of support in the Commons). If Ed had recalled every Labour MP for the vote, the Tories would have just recalled more of their MPs, too, and won the vote anyway.

      Stop being so paranoid. There is no grand conspiracy to make the Labour Party into some kind of Tory trade union pressure group. If Labour had the numbers to win the vote, we would have taken the bedroom tax down – we didn’t and we couldn’t. The Lib Dems did. They were the ones who chose to let it happen, not us.

      • Paul Adams

        Pete, that argument is all very well in theory ( and I agree that ultimately the Lib Dems are the main culprits in this – I have utter contempt for Tim Farron ) but treborc1 has a point – Labour MPs should turn up to vote, unless they have some overwhelmingly good personal reason not to and if that meant more Tories had to turn up to vote, so be it! ( I hope this would cause inconvenience for them and meant they couldn’t frequent whatever sordid alternative engagement they would otherwise be attending.)
        Dennis Skinner is the best one on this issue – listen to his classic Desert Island Discs interview with Sue Lawley on the BBC iplayer for his brilliant demolition of the corrupt pairing system at Westminster.

        • Pete

          The main reason wasn’t to convenience the Tories; Labour simply did not have the numbers to pass the motion. As a result, Labour MPs far away from London doing a constituency work had no reason to come down. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what you mean – on a matter of such strong principle for our party our MPs should be there to make a point.

          But most of those who abstained were more than three hours away by train from Westminster, so for those MPs to come down, they effectively lose an entire working day, which might mean missing a surgery or pushing some of the case work they’re dealing with personally back a week, and so on and so forth. In that case, I don’t think you can really blame them for not turning up. They could have taken all that time to go to London and back, or they could have done something productive to help their constituents instead. It’s just a consequence of the way Parliament sits in this country: most MPs out of London have to miss some votes and debates because the traveling time makes it harder to balance it against constituency commitments. And being an MP isn’t just voting in Parliament – they do have real, time-consuming things to do in their constituencies as well, even when Parliament is sitting.

          As for pairing, I agree it’s a bad practice. After-all, if you’re representing a constituency, your constituents aren’t being represented if you don’t vote. But again, that’s a consequence of the way Parliament works here – it’s a bad solution to an awkward problem. It is just inevitable that, without a major restructuring of how Parliament sits, there will be occasions when significant number of MPs can’t attend votes. New Zealand abolished pairing in 1996 in favour of proxy voting, whereby one MP, instead of pairing off with another, but more than 75% of the parliamentary party has to be present for their proxy votes to count. It’s not a perfect system either, but it’s arguably better than pairing, especially when you have an MP who is absent on personal leave for a long time.

          But my point was that it is absolutely wrong and nothing short of a malicious distortion of the facts to claim, as treborc1 did, that Labour somehow is morally responsible for the bedroom tax by virtue of not having all of its MPs turn up.

          • treborc1

            I will stick with it if labour MP’s who mostly live in London full time, but end up back in Scotland cannot catch a train to vote then sadly I cannot walk to my voting booth.

            When so many disabled and poor people are being attacked , to many of our MP’s are now careerist who have never worked never had to fight for wages or condition have no idea at all of life at the bottom. Labour is now the party of the hard working and are closer to the Tories then the labour party of the 1945’s

          • Pete

            “then sadly I cannot walk to my voting booth.”

            What delightful hypocrisy. So you are in favour of continuing the bedroom tax then? You see, you think Labour MPs not voting against it makes them morally responsible for it. So I would say that by that logic, you failing to go and vote for Labour – the only party capable of winning a majority committed to repealing the tax – means you must be in favour of it too, because you won’t go and vote to repeal it either.

            You aren’t interested in listening to reason or facts. it is one thing to complain that Labour no longer matches what you think should be its core values, but to make such ridiculous claims is wholly unreasonable. You are so determined to despise the Labour Party, so caught up in this fantastical delusion that its some kind of fringe group for a Tory hedge fun, that you will selectively and relentlessly ignore any evidence that contradicts that view. More than 80% of Labour MPs vote against the bedroom tax and none vote for it, and you say what? That it means the Labour Party is full of corrupt self-serving people hate the disabled. Some Labour MPs didn’t make it to the same-sex marriage vote – I take it this means Ed Miliband blans to outlaw homosexuality if he wins a majority government?

            “When so many disabled and poor people are being attacked”

            My parents have been on disability and housing benefit for nearly twenty years. They’ll be voting for a Labour majority government in 2015, and so will a hell a lot of other disabled people.

            “Labour is now the party of the hard working and are closer to the Tories then the labour party of the 1945’s”

            The Labour Party has always been the party of the hard working. Being poor and disabled doesn’t mean you’re not hard working, and I can think of several million people who should take issue with the fact you think that.

      • BillFrancisOConnor

        You are of course completely right Pete in every respect on this.

  • RWP

    I think Labour is in danger of over-playing its hand on criticising the “bedroom tax” – it’s starting to come across as Labour being the party of defending welfare claimants rather than contributing workers. The swing voters in the election may well prefer to vote for the parties that removed subsidy for people with state-provided homes who have been given extra space than they need, rather than side with the welfare claimants / Labour arguments.

    Calling it a “tax” makes it look like Labour that social housing is something that its occupants have an alienable claim to; it makes Labour sound like preaching an argument of universal benefits entitlement.

    I work in London and pay private rent of ridiculous proportions – and yet people on welfare / social housing who contribute less to the exchequer than me get given housing for free AND kick up a stick when some of the funding for this is removed. For me, social justice implies that as a contributor I should be getting support from the state too. This is how the middle swing voters will think – Labour can’t keep obsessing about the disadvantaged all the time, it takes away from the “one nation, Britain;s party” theme.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Many dyed-in-the-wool high Tories would beg to disagree with you. (Including the “Chingford Skinhead” Norman Tebbit himself.) As far as I am concerned Labour’s pledge to abolish the Bedroom Tax strongly inclines me to vote for them (which I failed to do in 2010). I always try to support whichever political party seems most committed to enlightened and progressive social policies which look likely reduce suffering and poverty: it goes without saying that voting for a party which introduced a policy which increased poverty, misery and suffering conspicuously and led to mass evictions of the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens in society would be very near the bottom of my “things to do” list.

      If I were you I’d vote Conservative and try to take advantage of Help-to-Buy.

      Eeek.

      • BillFrancisOConnor

        Thank God a bit of sense for a change Monkey.
        Farron like someone else we know (ST) is indulging in absolute bogus bulls**t. Got a feeling you don’t believe this particular example of bogus recanting.

        • Monkey_Bach

          The Liberal Democrats have finished themselves. End of.

          Eeek.

      • RWP

        You can’t just focus on what you consider to be “enlightened and progressive social policies” – government isn’t all about helping the poor, it is a balance also involving helping business so that there’s an economy that people want to invest in and create jobs and general prosperity. In a global marketplace Britain’s high rate of taxation to pay for social benefits makes many of our sectors unviably uncompetitive. You can only distribute the benefits that you can afford to take in tax – take too much in tax and you destroy the economy.

        The overall point is that too often Labour feels like it is trying to convince Labour supporters and sympathisers to vote for it, the “core vote” strategy. In fact, it’s wobbly Tories and middle of the road types that Labour really needs to appeal to.

        • Monkey_Bach

          Personally I’ve done a lot better than many over the last few years, based on the way that the coalition have tipped the balance, even though I haven’t worked one jot harder or increased my wealth, such as it is, by investing money in commerce, businesses or enterprise. Despite this I absolutely won’t be voting for the Liberal Democrats again or for the Conservative Party ever. Why? Because I do not want to live, or see my family forced to live, in a society where life ends up unparalleled for a few, tolerable for a majority, and spirals down into a precarious existence full of poverty, drudgery, inconsideration and exploitation for a significant minority of completely innocent men, women, children and families, not out of necessity but by design.

          If Miliband’s “One Nation” schtick means anything it has to mean that as a society the fortunes of its citizens rise and fall together or not at all. The thought that increasing prosperity for some must be brought about by increasing poverty amongst the least fortunate, poorest and already most put upon citizens than me makes me sick to my stomach. The idea that the deficit should be reduced by driving sick and disabled people, or families with children who formerly were allowed to have separate bedrooms but now have been ordained to share a single room, or a widow when an adult child moves out, or whatever, from their homes, or forced to subsidise reduced Housing Benefit because of the Bedroom Tax is cruel and repellent, should never have happened in this way and should have an end put to it as soon as humanly possible.

          I always vote for the least Tory party possible which is precisely why I DIDN’T vote Labour in 2010 but will probably vote for the party again in 2015, even though I still disagree with several of its policies.

          Eeek.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            I absolutely won’t be voting for the Liberal Democrats again or for the Conservative Party ever.

            Hurrah!

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            Would you consider going one step further in condemning all those Fibs who voted for the bedroom tax including the honourable member for Brent Central and in particular will you condemn her for voting against the Labour amendment which would have made life easier for disabled people who were made to pay the tax? You will of course know that her decision to vote against this amendment was contemporaneous with her expression of ‘extreme worry’ and ‘genuine concern’ and her decision not to give the people of Brent Central an opportunity to judge her on her record between 2010-2015?

    • Tubby_Isaacs

      People in work get housing benefit too.

      • treborc1

        These days with labour if your in a private house and renting your stuffed anyway

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      This is how the middle swing voters will think……

      Evidence?

  • Pete

    Simon Hughes is also on record as saying that abolishing tuition fees remains a long-term goal of the party. They have some very strange ways of realising their long-term goals, don’t they? It’s one thing to try and make these changes after electoral annihilation, but whilst they’re still in government giving supply and confidence to the people who dreamt these up policies up?

    I think the most insulting thing is that they seem to be under the impression that they’re onto a winner with this. What do they plan to tell the voters when they get called out on their hypocrisy? “Well, we only introduced the bedroom tax so you could see exactly how bad it was”?

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      It’s the party that likes to change its mind.

      • RWP

        as opposed to being wrong consistently and refusing to change your mind?

  • BillFrancisOConnor

    Absolute bogus bulls**t from Farron. The Fibs do this all the time.

  • david kirkup

    its a deplorable tax or benefit cut whatever you want to call it. how any government could bring this in. there is just not the housing stock available to move families into those houses. if in 2010 the alliance had said we are going to build 250 thousand, 1 and 2 bedroom houses / flats.

    it was an ill though out piece of jiggery pokery brought about to hit and hurt the lowest in our country.

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