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How we all feel: David Gauke is facing demands that he should be punished in the same way he punishes benefit claimants who fail to attend meetings.

The minority Conservative government ran away from another chance to explain how it will accommodate Parliament’s decision to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, with Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke nowhere to be seen during the urgent debate on Tuesday (October 24).

Instead, a succession of other Tories got on their hind legs to spout the usual nonsense – that Universal Credit makes work pay (it doesn’t), that the six-week (at the very least) delay before the first payment emulates the world of work in which payment is in arrears (it doesn’t – most people who are likely to receive Universal Credit would be paid weekly)

They tried to argue against the validity of last week’s Labour motion, which was approved by Parliament with no votes against it – but the best that could be said about these contributions is that they were quibbles.

Nobody cared about Mark Harper’s argument that the motion was simply to “pause” the rollout. Debbie Abrahams, in her opening speech of the debate on October 18, made it clear that the intention was for the government to fix the problems that are traumatising the people of the UK – and the debates have made it clear that there are far too many to have been included on the Order Paper.

Another Tory suggested that the volume of issues raised meant Labour wanted Universal Credit halted altogether, despite the Opposition party having said the opposite many times. Nobody cared.

And nobody cared when someone else said it was unfair to ask the government to respond after only three sitting days. Was it when the last Labour government lost an Opposition Day debate calling for Gurkhas to be allowed to live in the UK that the administration agreed to implement the decision on the same day?

If Labour can do it, why can’t the Tories?

Perhaps the most damning Tory quibble was the claim that none of the Opposition parties had offered a single good reason for pausing and fixing Universal Credit. It seems to This Writer that this claim is entirely based on money – if Labour had said fixing the system would make it cheaper, the Tories would have jumped over themselves to accept it. Without that, they’ll stick to hurting poor people with it.

Meanwhile, Labour and other Opposition MPs raised one home truth after another about the realities of the service that This Writer described on Twitter as “fatally flawed” – not just because it is a bad system, badly implemented, but because it causes people to die.

I was live-tweeting during the debate, and monitoring tweets from other people. Those tweets are reproduced below, to provide a taste of the debate – and the immediate reactions to it.

This will not go away – and the longer the Tories dither about it, the longer David Gauke fails to even turn up and explain himself, the worse it will be for the minority Tory government.

It is a government that refuses to be held to account and, as such, it is a government with no valid claim to authority. Perhaps a vote of ‘no confidence’, even if unsuccessful, will wake up these dozy, selfish, Tory dimwits.

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