Libdems to force a conference debate on disability benefits

10:28 am - September 6th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    

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Libdem blogger George Potter (also a frequent contributor to Liberal Conspiracy) will mostly likely force a debate at the Liberal Democrat conference on Employment Support Allowance.

The amendment calls for a “less stressful Assessment process” and for people with disabilities to get the support they need.

He reported on his blog yesterday:

The amendment Sophie Bridger and I have written to the ESA motion was submitted to the Federal Conference Committee today by Guildford Liberal Democrats who are kindly sponsoring it. This now means that the FCC will formally consider whether to allow the amendment to be placed on the agenda for the debate on the original motion itself. Under the circumstances, I can’t see any grounds for blocking a debate on an amendment so that stage should be something of a formality.

The amendment can be read here, and the news was loudly welcomed by disability campaigners.

A similar amendment is being submitted by another group of Libdem campaigners, including Dr Evan Harris.

Plans are now afoot to combine the two amendments, force a debate and a vote, and get the Libdems to take action on the extremely harsh ATOS tests as part of the Welfare Reform bill.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

1. robert the crip

One of the WCA tests can you move a pound coin using any part of your body including your stump from a to b.

I was told one doctor told a lady push it with your nose, go on try it. and you can take me to court ATOS.

It use to be can you pick up a twenty piece coin.

Can you pick up a box using any part of your body including your stumps, this was included for soldiers who have lost arms or hands.

People who have to use a catheter, it use to be if you had to place a catheter up through your penis into your bladder to pee you got 15 points, not any more they stated it was not problem. If you have a tube fitted into your bowel going to a bag attached to your leg, you’d get 15 points, not any more they stated problem solved you have a bag.

The WCA which was produced by that great socialist Nye Bevan, whoops sorry Purnell who now leads Blue Liebour gosh my spelling is bad Blue Labour, must have been sleeping with Freud to come up with a medical test so one sided.

For example if you can wheel your own wheelchair then it’s the same as having legs no reason to be on the sick or disability, let me break the little twat’s legs I’ll show him what it’s like to be in a wheelchair.

Labour have lost it and for me they are worse then the Tories, socialist I do not think so, and now we have another Labour ex MP going through the courts.

Shame they didn’t have the guts to challenge things like social cleansing.

I’m not holding my breath

4. Sarah Campbell

Why do i believe Liberals will do anythign – They sit back and let the Conservatives treats the disabled like they are nothing. Like they need to be eradicated and like we are all fakers – If I was faking – I wouldn’t waste my time for DLA! If i were faking I would get me a life and find something better to do than having painful things at hospitals and having no life at all!

If the LibDems want even one single vote in their future (which they wont get from me now) They need to wise up and force ATOS to play fair! Force the Concervatives to stop this attack and more importantly – Notice that people who have had their benefits stopped – tend to die from lack of food!

5. Charles Wheeler

ESA is to be time-limited – so even with a revised procedure thousands of the most severely disabled – you have to be too disabled to work! – will be cast adrift with no support other than that of family members, losing £4,500 a year of an already meagre income. Rather perversely, it would pay the govt. to rate MORE claimants as too disabled to work – because they won’t even be eligibe for Jobseekers’ Allowance!

For many in this position the prospect of a ‘less stressful assessment’ is rather like being offered a ‘more humane execution’!

First of all, thanks very much to Sunny for posting this as I was about to write an article on it for Lib Con before I read this so it’s saved me quite a bit of time I couldn’t really afford to spend.

Just to clarify a few points, this is an amendment to a Liberal Youth sponsored motion which shares the same spirit as the amendment. The point of the amendment is to strengthen the the motion which was already due to be voting on.

As long as it’s selected by the conference committee (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be), the amendment will be debated and voted on at the same time as the motion as a whole which will be at 4.15pm on the 17th of September.

@3 and @4

Thank you for your cynicism. It’s been noted and I’ll do my best to prove it ill founded 🙂


Hyperbole much?

If people want to know what is going on take a look at the comments on the Guardian article today –

an interview with Professor Harrington who is supposed to be doing an ‘independent’ review of the WCA, for which he is no doubt being paid a great deal of money, in which he makes comments such as –

“I’m telling the charities, ‘Be patient.’ I think things will get better.”

THINK things will get better? !!


“People said to me, ‘Why didn’t you tell the minister to stop and wait until your recommendations go ahead?’ That’s a political decision,” he says. “My view is that the government can decide to do what it likes, in what order it likes. I’ll just monitor the situation to see whether it works.”

and when asked – Might it have been better to pause and get it right? His reply is

“Not my decision. I deliberately avoided having an opinion on that”


“But we’re doing something [to improve the system]. Maybe we are going in the right direction, we’ll see.”

We’ll see? !!


“There will be people on the wrong side of the improvement. But you can’t just grind everything to a halt while you fix things.”

Why not Professor?


That’s why a line in the amendment says: Conference calls for: “Opposition to an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can claim contributory ESA.”

@George W. Potter:

Thank you, it is nice to have some support, however small, from a political party again. I wish you luck with this motion, as a disabled person myself. Sadly I do feel you’re facing a big fight. If the comments of most LibDems I follow on various blogs/Twitter are anything to go by, they think absolutely nothing is wrong with the welfare bill & that disabled/sick people are exaggerating when they say they are worried and downright fearful of the future.

Anyway, at least you’re trying to remind your party what it should be doing. We should all applaud you for this.


I think the problem is that Lib Dems are constantly told online how they’re traitors enabling a government worse than thatcher which is cutting and destroying EVERYTHING.

Unfortunately, people tend to react to this by just tuning it out which also means that genuine problems, such as this one, get tuned out as well. I’m hopeful that the debate on the motion will draw the party’s attention to what is going on and that things can improve from there.

11. robert the crip

So you all think telling people two years is better then one year, we are being told having no arms or no legs is not a disability, we are told having a bag attached to your leg to hold your shit is not really a problem.

The fact is the main problem is, the new medical being used which is basically wrong, and now we are hearing the Government are angry at the £55 million the tribunal cost so they might be cut back leaving people with serious life problems without any benefits, because as in my case JSA is only payable if your fit to work.

The Liberals sold out to the Tories on welfare. end of story

Douglas @ 9

If the comments of most LibDems I follow on various blogs/Twitter are anything to go by, they think absolutely nothing is wrong with the welfare bill & that disabled/sick people are exaggerating when they say they are worried and downright fearful of the future.

Sadly, this is the crux of the matter. I have no doubt that GWP and his co sponsor are absolutely sincere in their endeavours, but even if he does manage to get this motion passed, it will not have the desired effect.

Politics is broken, right now, perhaps beyond repair. We no longer have politics based on evidence, but politics of the pitchfork waving baying mob. We have had a year of appeasement simply because the baying mob is a mixture of too stupid and just too pig headed to make any attempt to understand the issues involved.

I do not blame the Lib Dems for this, especially, they are no worse than any other Party, but the Lib Dems used to be the Party of quiet reflection rather than merely slavishly following opinion polls. That appears to have gone now and no-where in the political sphere do we get the grasp of political nettles that we used to. The real, nitty gritty of political discourse seems to have been replaced by a series of ideological pronouncements designed to appease, not the activists or some sense of right and wrong, but the idiotic tendency.

Last month as Gaddifi’s regime was being eviscerated, Nick Clegg announced that he wished to see the Lockeribe bomber returned to the UK. Now, Nick is not a fuckwits, he doesn’t get to squirm out of it that easily. He knows the position with Al Mehgrachi, he has terminal cancer and was being kept alive by the most advanced hormone treatment known to science. Once returned to a Scottish prison the initial diagnosis would still stand and there would be the same two options open: sent home to die or sent to a hospice to die. Prison is not equipped to look after a man with terminal cancer.

So what was Nick getting out of that? Was he advancing Liberal Democracy in making stupid comments? Hardly, he was saying what the fuckwits in the baying mob wanted to hear because telling the truth would have been unpopular.

Isn’t strange that people are always wanting the MPs to ‘tell the truth’ until they actually do, then it turns out they want them merely to repeat what the mob wants to hear.

So, I welcome GWP intervention and I hope he gets it through and I hope that Nick Clegg uses it to destroy a fucking inhumane treatment of the vulnerable I our society, but don’t hold your breath, Douglas.

GWP @ 10

Unfortunately, people tend to react to this by just tuning it out which also means that genuine problems, such as this one, get tuned out as well

That does not make right though, does it? Perhaps if they had the decency to get out and actually investigate the real issues they wouldn’t be hated as much?

Nick Clegg was booed at riot scenes last month, yet he said he wasn’t going to apologise for meeting the victims of crime. Surely he could get out and meet the victims of his own political convictions and policies?

@13 The one thing politicians will never to is meet victims of their policies. You only had to look at the ring of steel that surrounded Blair when he went on a publicity seeking walkabout meeting “ordinary” people. The pure spite of this government is seen here Breaking its manifesto pledge (another one) to save a paltry amount of money on the day Osborne makes more noises about the 50p tax rate because it raises a paltry amount of money. Its one thing being irredeemable scum as the Tories have proved themselves to be, its another to be apologists for irredeemable scum as the LibDems are.


I never said it was right.

But let’s be serious. When some nutter pops up on my blog and says that the restoration of the earnings link to pensions is actually some twisted neo-Thatcherite plot to bankrupt pensioners, or that replacing the NHS direct number is part of a plan to privatise every public service in the country then I know that they are wrong and that there’d be no point investigated. If every Lib Dem attempted to find the truth behind every single critical online comment then they’d have to spend all their time doing that and nothing else just to stay on top of the situation.

So if a Lib Dem sees one Anonymous comment saying that this is all a New World Order plot to turn the UK into a corporate, fascist state, and then another Anonymous comment saying that the government is launching a pogrom against disabled people with its welfare cuts then why would they see the point investigating either given that both of them sound outlandish?


And here Schmidt goes and proves why it’s very difficult to take critical comments seriously. Some of them might be true, but the vast majority of criticisms are twaddle like 14.

@16 as opposed to the thoughts of an intellectual titan such as @16.

GWP @ 15

Nice to see you back, BTW.

Hmm, to be honest, though some of older viewers know the Tories to have form on this. We know that they have an agenda, an agenda that will be revealed every new year for the next ten years as the papers are released into the public domain, so you will have to forgive us if we think the Lib Dems are being a tad naïve with regard to the Tories on these issues.

Lib Dems are not just members though, you are also councillors, MP, MSP, AM, MEP and researchers for these people and campaigners (like yourself). You must have access to surgeries and public meetings etc. You frequent here quite often and you have been moved to this course of action when listening to the plight of some of the contributions here. Okay, some of your colleagues may zone out when hearing things that they would rather not, but that is no excuse for being unable to accept what is being said by ordinary folk and get to the core of the issues.

I used to have a lot of respect for the Lib Dems because they took politics seriously and cut to the chase a lot of the time. I was a supporter, but switched to the SNP circa 1997, but now all I see is the same tribal, ya boo stuff. Paddy Ashdown went out to a war zone to fact find but Clegg and the rest of (present company excluded) cannot even get down to the local day centre?

Poor show, from you colleagues, George. You didn’t join politics to rely on propaganda from the Right Wing Press, did you?

19. Margin4error

George Potter

Does this mean you are one of the trusted “rebels” selected by the leadership?

I know a couple of other “rebels” who have effectively been allocated a “rebellion” for the party conference to help foster a sense of party diferentiation.

I’m led to believe there were up to ten such “rebelions” planned, though some may have been superceded by events, and not all were expressly against the leadership stance but more about opposing existing bills or provisions that will anyway be changed before being waved through.

If so – fair play to you for having a degree of status as a blogger. It is rarely achieved and I hope you keep from being sucked into acceptance of the status quo.

I think the Libdems should remember that people switched to them because they were sick of Labours authoritarianism and they did not trust the tories. I hoped when the Libdems joined the tories they would curb any draconian polices.
The tories are targeting the most vulnerable people and the Libdems should stand up and be counted.

@GWP: That “the government is launching a pogrom against disabled people with its welfare cuts then why would they see the point investigating either given that both of them sound outlandish?”

For that is precisely what this illegitimate ‘government’ has done. It is a POGROM.

[via Yiddish from Russian: destruction, from po- like + grom thunder]

And the evidence is there. So, how is it outlandish?

22. Leon Wolfson

@6 – No, stone hard cold truth. Hundreds of thousands, this parliament.

Don’t worry, I know, you’re in a *coalition*. Right. Well, you’re in a coalition with the Tories for my vote too, i.e. I’d burn first.


Thanks – it’s nice to be back 🙂

You’re quite right that we’ve got quite a few elected public office holders and I do know that quite a few of them have heard about this stuff in their constituency surgeries and are sympathetic to the cause. But part of the problem is that the sick and disabled tend to be the people least able to attend constituency surgeries which can often make them invisible. That said, I’ve been told by quite a few party members (both elected and formerly elected) that they’re supportive of the motion precisely because of what they’ve heard from constituents.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that most Lib Dems with the time to comment online, such as myself, are rarely those who have held, or hold, public office. The Lib Dems who do tend to be busier and (given the age demographic) less comfortable with using the internet. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t view comments of Lib Dems or Lib Dem supporters online as representative of the view of the party as a whole.

It’s a crying shame that no one has done anything about this sooner but unfortunately some people find it rather hard to put their heads above the parapet to start something – but hopefully that won’t stop them from supporting something once the ball’s got rolling.


If I am then no one’s told me. I wrote the original draft of the motion after reading a piece on LC and then I asked around until I persuaded Liberal Youth to sponsor it. When I came to the conclusion that an amendment was necessary I asked Sophie Bridger to help me write it (she’s also going to be moving the amendment in the debate) and I asked my local party to sponsor it which they did.

In any event, it’s the Federal Conference Committee (elected by the party as a whole with each member having one vote) who decides the agenda for conference and not the party leadership. Besides, it’s the conference which makes policy so it doesn’t matter what the leadership want as it’s the reps who will decide which direction to take the party in.

And all I can say is that I certainly don’t intend to compromise my principles now or at any point in the future. So unless the status quo changes radically then I doubt I’ll ever be supportive of it.


I want to be honest so please don’t take offence at what I say even if you disagree with it, as you probably will.

I don’t like the tories. Never have, never will. Their policies and mindset tend to be the exact opposite of mine and the way their empathy only ever extends to people like themselves is exactly why I dislike them so much. Nevertheless, they represent the views of just over a third of the population, based on the share of the vote they got. I don’t like them but I know that a sizeable minority, or even a majority, of them are perfectly pleasant people despite their politics and that they are interested in politics for the same reason I am – they want to make the country a better place. Their ideas on how to do it might be wrong, in my opinion, but they will no doubt think the same thing about me.

I believe in pluralism. I believe in diversity. Different opinions are better than one single opinion universally shared.

I do not view the tories as the side of evil and darkness in a black and white contest between good and evil because they’re not. Real life isn’t that simple. The tories are not the great Satan, any more than socialists are. Yet people from both the left and right view each other with tribal zealotry as a homogenous mass of identical people when they’re not. Both the right and left are composed of individuals, every single one of them unique.

So I’m afraid that I find rather repulsive your blanket, irrational hatred of anything connected to the tories. I don’t like the tories as whole myself, but I don’t personally hate every single one of them as you seem to do and that’s why I am able to tolerate the idea of working in government with them while you seem to view it as the worst thing imaginable.

25. Leon Wolfson

@24 – The cabinet is collectively responsible for it’s decisions.

Among other issues, you’ve presided over the destruction of the university system (I teach in it, I’m already seeing massively, massively negative effects), the gutting of the NHS and social clensing via the housing benefit cuts, attacks on the disabled and so on. Not to mention the economic stagnation which we’re in.

This isn’t something I can forgive or forget. I am not talking to members of my own family who are LibDem politicians (on a local level), and very probably never will again.

You’ve thrown away any scrap of legitimacy you might have had, and ensured that the country has no good choices on the left for the next few generations. Congratulations!

Oh, and I’m a *moderate*. After all, I didn’t make the mistake of voting for the libdems. Many of those people would be actually annoyed with you, I’m just bitter.


First of all, I like the “you”. Am I in the cabinet now? Do I make government policy? I don’t think so but given your comment perhaps I’d better check just to make sure.

Sarcasm aside, let’s get down to specifics. University fees. Yep. Wrong. I protested against it and I’ll never forgive those MPs who voted to increase them. Breaking a promise like that is wrong. But Labour would have done exactly the same thing. And, in fact, the difference with the new system is that people start repaying later, make payments for a shorter period of time and pay less per year overall unless they’re earning very high salaries.

The NHS reforms haven’t gone through yet and I doubt they ever will unless people like Shirley Williams are satisfied so let’s wait and see with that one.

I agree that housing benefit cuts are a disgrace – not going to say otherwise. But they are not social cleansing.

And don’t you fucking dare talk to me about cuts impacting the disabled. I’m the one who’s spent the past few months trying to stop it which is probably more than you’ve done. And unless I am very much mistaken the motion will be passed by conference and from there it might well end up changing government policy by exactly the same method that a motion passed at a previous conference ended child detention.

And if you weren’t so bigoted and vindictive that you’ve effectively disowned members of your own family for the temerity of being part of the same party as me, regardless of whether they agree with the coalition or not, then you might have actually been able to speak to them and persuade them to persuade their conference reps to back the motion and in doing so you might have actually helped tackle some of the bad things that you’ve complained about.

But no. You’re so wrapped up in vindictive, tribal, hateful bigotry that you’d rather disown your own relatives for having different political opinions to you than actually doing something that might make this country better.

You’re not a moderate, you’re a close-minded fundamentalist. Your attitude is exactly the same “I’m the only one who’s right” attitude that’s responsible for most of the world’s problems.

George: But Labour would have done exactly the same thing.

Don’t think that was in the Labour manifesto, was it? They were wrong to introduce tuition fees but they weren’t that large. Now they are.

Leon: Why? Because the results are so plain?

No, I think George is making that point because he’s fighting hard to change how ATOS assesses people and cuts to disability benefits. Search for his name – he’s introduced a motion at the Libdem conf

28. Leon Wolfson

@26 – You’re a LibDem. That’s “you”, yes. I’m quite willing to label a political party by the actions of it’s leadership. This isn’t sarcasm. My sarcasm is funny.

“But Labour would have done exactly the same thing”

And? You mistake me for a New Labour supporter. No, I’m an actual left-winger. And I’ve been talking about University policy being wrong for years.

“I agree that housing benefit cuts are a disgrace – not going to say otherwise. But they are not social cleansing.”

Yes, they are. You’re a coward to call them otherwise. People are being forced to chose between their community and their utility bills next winter. Next winter they’re out anyway. Short term work? Nope, HB reassessment. Etc. etc. – it’s PURE social cleansing, getting rid of the poor out of the areas which might *possibly* have jobs. And even then, the poor will be pushed well out from areas with shops and facilities…

“And don’t you fucking dare talk to me about cuts impacting the disabled”

Why? Because the results are so plain? Because my friend got attacked recently because of the Government rhetoric about the disabled? Because the police have “better things to do” than investigate it? Because my friends in the press told me it’s “not a story, it’s too common” to run with the recording of the police saying that?

“And if you weren’t so bigoted and vindictive that you’ve effectively disowned members of your own family for the temerity of being part of the same party as me”

You evidently also suffer from foot in mouth syndrome. The reason I’m not speaking to them any more is they *can’t understand* why I’m upset with the LibDems. They were arguing that it was a GOOD thing that the party leadership had signed on to so many Tory policies. And they wouldn’t let it rest. So no, I’m not speaking to them now, because they ended up haranguing me about your One True Way. Screw that.

The United Kingdom (while it lasts, sadly) is acting like a third world country, and you and your party have signed on the dotted line. We’re doing worse, economically, than a country with no government at all. Yours is the politics of hated, of tribalism, not mine. I am for PEOPLE, not politics.

I’m absolutely a moderate. You evidently have *no* idea how many of the people who made the mistake of voting for you last time feel. See that 9%? It’s not getting better. And it won’t get better. Most of the left will stay home next election unless Labour gets its ass into gear and remembers where it came from. Congratulations!

If you wanted to tackle the actual issues, you’d not sign your name to the ConDem government. But you have, you are, and you’re just as responsible as everyone who has. I’ll keep on working with UK Uncut and 38 Degrees, you keep on working with the Tories.

Don’t worry, I’ll be sitting in the cold and dark most of this winter, because we can’t afford the utility rises. And next summer, I’ll probably have to leave London and the jobs I’d otherwise have here in the next university year, because I won’t be able to afford the rent (never mind that it’s in the lowest 15% of the advertised rents, it’s still £40/week lower than the “30%” boundary your government claims for the rents round here) or find a summer job.

And that’s ignoring the 3 billion and counting in my industry which the UK has missed out on because a “poorly targeted” subsidy was “only” pitched to return five times the amount of tax that the subsidy paid out. Makes perfect sense to you, I’m sure.

It’s not like there’s a long-term in University teaching anyway, the courses are all taking on their last year of students unless something major turns around anyway.
I’ll probably go to a country where, despite the fact that part of the government is outright fascist, there are also left-wingers in that government who will actually speak for me.

(My current MP, a Tory, returned both letters I sent to him, about serious issues, unopened and unread. At least the Labour MP I had, living elsewhere, at least replied to them even if he disagreed with me!)


Labour commissioned the Browne review and in coalition negotiations with Lib Dems they proposed raising the cap to £7,000. Their opposition to it in this parliament was pure opportunism.

If we’d had a Labour government then the Browne review would probably have been implemented in full with no cap existing at all.

I’m not saying that’s what happened is right, far from it, just pointing out that Labour would have done the same as well. And, as I’ve pointed out previously, the new fees system acts like a graduate tax in all but name. As a student who marched against the fee increases, I would still prefer to attend uni under the new system than the old.

GWP @ 29

To be fair to others, George, there is considerable anger out there and it is the weakest voiceless people that are suffering the most. Of course the fact that there appears to be a media blackout on the subject means that many decent people are unaware of the extent the persecution, but that is really no excuse for activists and senior members of the Party. The Lib Dems care(d), the Lib Dems are out there on the front line and in the community. People who join the Lib Dems do not join because they instantly feel that they will gain power, nor do they join as part of a class consciousness, they join because they are passionate about politics and changing things for the better.

I do applaud your efforts to highlight this issue, but does it never occur to you to ask why it got this stage? I cannot believe that a system that works so badly and throws up so many absurdities requires a motion at a conference to expose it. Anyone with an ounce of compassion or even a sense of duty can surely understand that a system that ‘awards’ terminal lung cancer ‘zero points’ and sends them on their merry way to the job centre is broken beyond repair.

Are you seriously telling me that senior Lib Dems are actually under the impression that the system is working okay? Or are you saying that that they see the same problems you do but are reluctant to act, until they have a mandate?

Either way, George it is a pretty damming indictment on your Party as it currently stands. I have to be brutally honest with you, George and at the risk of bringing a charge of hyperbole the current system appears to be designed to drive the weakest members of our society into poverty. Give me a way out George, give me a plausible excuse to believe that senior Lib Dems are not complicit in this cleansing. Seriously, George, I want so much for this to be a huge mistake and British politics is not rotten to the core. I want our Parliamentary system not be wrecked and that we still can write workable legalisation.

I have watched with utter dismay as Clegg has lurched further to the Right over the last year. However, had he merely lurched to Right that would be one thing but he has lurched to the stupid Right. Things like the orange boiler suits, the return of the lockerbie bomber and the mooted removal of the benefits and housing for rioters are policies set out by Tories to appease the fuckwits among us, but Clegg has either failed to slap them down or in some cases actually took up the cudgels for them.

Who is Clegg lap dancing for? The guy is human, I will give him that, he wants to be liked, fair enough, politics is show business for ugly people and all that. Does anything of these daft policies further the cause of liberal democracy? Are you proud to be a member of a Party who want to humiliate people for the baying mob? Who think that slamming a dying man in a maximum security jail is the answer to anything?

George, I do not believe you are for a second, not if your blogg is anything to go by, but for fucks sake, you leader is a bit of a tosser.

31. Leon Wolfeson

@29 – “As a student who marched against the fee increases, I would still prefer to attend uni under the new system than the old.”

And that really DOES highlight my point (made previously, several times) that unless you’re going to Oxbridge, if you’re willing to pay £9k.year, you should not be going to University on the grounds of low intelligence. It’s not like you’ll ever be able to fail, though, and that will take the value of UK-issued degrees into the floor very rapidly (it’s already too hard to fail people *now*, based on the allready-massive expense involved).

There are better options, abroad. Taught in English.

@28 – And if you think it’ll go anywhere, I have some bucket of mud to sell you. I’d like to be wrong, but I won’t be. It’s *noise*, nothing more. 38 Degrees has had far more success, and I’ll keep backing THEM!


The system is disgraceful and it is something that anyone with an ounce of compassion would object to. But the system was designed by the last government and, apart from the time limiting, this government has essentially decided to leave things alone. The person ultimately in charge of it is a tory and they are adverse to any changes – because any overhaul would inevitably cost money. I’ve seen the paper that introduced the decision to time limit ESA and it was carried out by the DWP with the stated aim of dealing with the people who come onto ESA and stay on it until they retire – based on the idea that all sick people should recover and go back into work. If you’re a minster who’s already under pressure to find £3 billion of savings in order to pay for Ken Clarke’s universal credit then you won’t bother to think any further than the summary page of the paper. You’ll sign it off without any further thought.

The real problem here is the DWP. And ministers in Whitehall are insulated from the real world. Most of the information they get comes from their civil servants and if the civil servants advice that a consultation is unnecessary then the ministers will listen to them. If they do happen to meet with people affected by the decision or people representing them then they’ll be going into the meeting with a line to take which has been prepared for them by the DWP, they’ll be warned of cabinet responsibility and the importance of not kicking up a fuss.

The scrutiny committees looking at ESA have time and time again come out with criticisms of the system. Damning criticism. But the DWP just ignores it, as it has done ever since James Purnell was minister and before. It will react occasionally, such as by commissioning the Harrington report – but any read of that will see that it is cursory and that the author deliberately avoided suggesting anything that would cause the government major problems.

I don’t think for a moment that the majority of elected LIb Dems are ignoring what they’re hearing from constituents. But the problem is that everyone has a special interest area.For example, I could have chosen to focus on the cap on housing benefit rather than ESA. If I had then I would know next to nothing about what was going on with ESA. And it’s the same problem with our elected representatives. They’ll listen to what people say but they won’t do much digging as they’ll normally be busy with some other campaign or key issue of their own.

As for our ministers, I can absolve those not associated with the DWP as they’ll be busy with their own ministerial business. I can even absolve Clegg for this (though I agree that he’s a tosser) but I certainly can’t forgive any Lib Dem ministers associated with the DWP.

I will point out that Clegg did speak out against tory reactionaryism following the riots, and his speech was sensible and well measured. But sadly it didn’t get any coverage. And I think you’ll find that most of the insane ideas will eventually get kicked into the long grass as Lib Dems will take the view that it’s easier to let the tories spout off in public and then just block those things inside government than it is to get into a public argument.

I do know that there’s a lot we’re doing well. I’m afraid that too many of those Lib Dems at the top have ignored the advice “never to warm ourselves too well in the establishment’s folds”. But I think that for most it’s a case of them dismissing rumours of terrible things rather than risk controversy and disputes inside the coalition by digging into someone else’s brief. The problem is that every area of policy has a party spokesman, and, if we’re lucky, a minister. And most party members, including myself, have to trust that those people will do their job. I have no clue about health matters, I have to trust that our health spokesperson does their job correctly. So I think this is why there has been no fuss about this kicked up in the parliamentary party – they’re trusting that the welfare spokesman does his job properly and focusing on other matters. The problem is that he’s not. And that’s compounded by the fact that the media are ignoring the issue because it’s not photogenic.

And this is why our party conference exists. It exists precisely because situations like this require ordinary members to be able to bring something to the attention of the party as a whole and change party policy. It was exactly the same with child detention – and I think that shows just how successful a motion can be. But I will say that my party loyalty only goes so far. If the motion fails to get passed then I will probably leave the party. If the motion does get passed, as it should, and the leadership ignores it, then I will stay in the party so I can continue to fight for this and in order to make sure that everyone knows what scum they are when they come to face internal party elections.

It’s a great sadness to see a UNUM Insurance advert at the end of these comments….

WELFARE REFORM – REDRESS FOR THE DISABLED is a detailed report, now published on and recently supplied to 350 members of the House of Lords, at the request of Baroness Shirley Williams, in advance of the Welfare Reform debate planned for Tuesday 13th Sept.

Lib Dem MPs will be sent a copy but, given recent activity by certain MPs I doubt they will access it and will attempt to pass the buck, deny it could possibly be true, and hand over to Maria Miller who is an expert in chronic disability and poor health given her past experience in finance… Nothing can or will improve unless the elected representatives wake up to the government funded medical tyranny now on-going, for which none of them have a mandate from the British people.

34. Leon Wolfeson

@33 – I hope you’re using an online login and/or unique download URL’s for it so you can TELL who’s accessed it. That would be…interesting

GWP @ 32

If the motion fails to get passed then I will probably leave the party.

The crux of the matter, George. When otherwise decent people walk away from politics the whole system is becomes more polluted with the type of feral scum that currently run the Country. People become disillusioned with politics and cynical towards politicians, however it is the decent people who walk away and it is the scumbags that stay and fuck it up for everyone else.

It is a crying shame that our Country’s political system has broken down to the extent that no-one knows how to fix it. It appears that the rule of law is being abandoned and replaced by the type of politics of persecution.

I have never joined a political Party, preciously because I have wanted to get into all this rubbish and wade through the political sewers. For me a lot of issues are stock simple and the obvious things stick out a mile. This issue being the most obvious example of what I mean; clearly we have a system that has been designed to appease a few fuckwits in a baying mob. The system is clearly broken and not fit for purpose and hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in the Country are suffering financial hardship as well as physical distress and no-one in Government can see it and get it rectified! Everyone is either too busy, too tied up or simply not willing to put their head above the parapet. Not only on this, but right across the board we see the same thing. We see housing benefit reforms fucked up and we see the legal aid system fucked up too. How can we have the rule of law when people are denied access to legal services?

Let me tell you my opinion. I truly believe that the Right in this Country are a malevolent bunch of bastards. They are not ‘misguided’, ’mistaken’ or somehow unable to see the damage they are doing. These people are deliberately and knowingly out to destroy every social advancement we have made post war and will not let anyone stop them.

36. Leon Wolfeson

@35 – And for those of us who were formerly on the Labour Left?

I’ve been unable to vote for New Labour, it’s centralist and paternalist. And this Labour leadership have shown tone deafness and an unwillingness to challenge the Tories which means I can’t see myself voting for them either.

(Honestly, pre-2008, I didn’t really pay much attention…things were generally fine)

I nearly voted for the LibDems last time, and it was only a few things Clegg said which dissuaded me during the final few weeks, which was good (I suspect I’d have become very depressed if I’d voted LibDem).

So…where do I stand now? Who can represent me? (The Greens and I differ irreconcilably over my pro-nuclear views, before you suggest that. And say SWP and I will laugh in your face.)

I am underemployed and could be politically active…if I had a party to support.

Leon @ 36

I am not really sure who you should vote for, I vote SNP. There is plenty to dislike Labour over, but if the last election taught you anything, you either vote Labour or the Tory vermin get in by default and as bad as the Labour Party are the Tories are worse. The Lib Dems (with a few exceptions) have shown their true colours and have propped up a Party which has set out to destroy our Country.

To be fair though, I don’t think it matters any more who you vote for, the Tories have set about reducing the numbers of elected members of Parliament and enlarging their huge rural constituencies, thus leaving the Labour Party unelectable in any case. The Tories are on the brink of a generation of power wielded without mercy.

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