More Libdems say Tory policies are a mess


8:45 am - December 22nd 2010

by Sunder Katwala    


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The Telegraph has more revelations today of what LibDem ministers really think of the Coalition.

Ed Davey warns that the government’s changes to housing benefit would “put people below the breadline”, something which he calls “deeply unacceptable”.

Nobody could seriously claim that it isn’t true that the HB changes will increase adult and child poverty – the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates the housing benefit changes will increase child poverty by 100,000. Moreover, while the government claims its policies will lead to no net increase in child poverty, the IFS finds that “the discrepancy is entirely accounted for by the fact that IFS researchers have considered the impact of the government’s planned reforms to Local Housing Allowance on poverty rates, whereas the Treasury did not”.

It is good that Davey thinks that some of the changes are “unsupportable”.

He particularly singles out the arbitrary, top down, one-size-fits-all 10 per cent reduction in housing benefit after 12 months.

There are five changes to housing benefit and there are two I find unsupportable.

One which would come in in 2012-13 is where if you were unemployed for 12 months and you were still passing the government test which is actively seeking work to get jobseekers’ allowance, which is £80 a week, something like that, so you can eat, you have to show you are looking for work. So imagine somebody who has been unemployed for 12 months, you are passing the actively seeking work test, the government is saying your housing benefit will be cut by 10 per cent just because you have been unemployed for 12 months.

I don’t understand why. You are on the breadline, you’ve been trying to look for work, you’ve been passing all the government tests [about actively seeking work], and suddenly you’re going to have your rent, which is your highest cost, your help with that, taken down by 10 per cent. No logic behind that whatsoever … So the system doesn’t work but I don’t think you kick people when they are down.

Davey should be congratulated for his clarity and effective critique of government policy.

We identified back in June this arbitrary and illogical measure – which saves only £100 million – as a natural issue on which Simon Hughes and LibDem backbenchers should press for change, with Labour and civic non-partisan support.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore says the child benefit cut was “blatantly not a fair or consistent thing to do”.

Again, it is difficult to disagree with that.

Welfare minister Steve Webb wrote to the Chancellor to complain because “the details aren’t right”. Indeed. The policy is a complete mess – for at least 10 reasons. The much under-discussed 100-300% marginal tax rate problem is one reason why it is difficult to see it being implemented.

The Telegraph report confirms that a number of LibDem government ministers knew nothing about the child benefit change before it was announced – demonstrating the back of the envelope nature of the botched announcement – but it was already pretty clear that the Tory Home Secretary didn’t know much in advance either.


A longer version is at Next Left

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments


Not far out for an article ? Perhaps now the Dim-Libs will find some long lost guts an pull out of this nauseating farce we call a coalition ?

Who knows what those Lib Dem ministers really think ?

It is obvious that they just say whatever they think the person wants to hear.

What these “revelations” show, beyond the doubt of any reasonable person, is that Lib Dems in this Tory Led government, are preventing out and out implementation of the more extreme Tory policies, and including some of their own. (eg Royal Assent was given yesterday to the Act scrapping identity cards.)

The “news” that Lib Dems disagree with Tory was diseminated by a newspaper that hates the coalition an is despirate for it to fail so that unadulterated Tory policy can be put in place. Is this what people here really want? (Absolute Labour government isn’t on offer).

If the Lib Dmes think that by telling their supporters that they don’t really support these policies, so not to worry, you can vote for them next time, they are living in a fantasy world.

You can’t go on like this for another 5 years (well 4.5 years now) just holding your nose and doing call me Daves business.

It’s a pity Nick Clegg isn’t saying it.

6. Cynical/Realist?

If they hate it so much they should put their ministerial posts where their mouths are.

I got a leaflet from the LibDems the other day with a big bit about Wollas, headlined, ‘Labour Lied In Their Election Campaign’.

Pot – kettle – black.

So, having looked into the abyss, – ‘some’ Lib Dems are hoping to hedge their future electoral survival by muttering that Tory policies are a mess. This is Lib Dems at their most mealy-mouthed hypocritical. They hope to convince the electorate that the compromise that they are currently locked into is in the national interest – whereas in private they are assuring the punters that they don’t like their Tory masters – nor yet the Tory policies that they are underwriting. I hope they can genuinely convince themselves of this amazing feat of doublethink – the electorate are not likely to be so gullible again. When you’re gone – you’re gone!


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