Tag Archives: David Laws

Conference vote leaves Lib Dems facing both ways on Bedroom Tax

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“So what’s new?” you’re probably thinking.

Well, the passing of the motion to condemn the Bedroom Tax as official Liberal Democrat policy indicates that there is a huge rift between the way grassroots Lib Dems think and what the Parliamentary Party is doing.

But is it enough to force a split in the Coa-lamity – sorry, Coalition – before the next election, as Vince Cable has hinted?

Who knows? It’s the Lib Dems.

It could indicate that time is running out for the ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrats, who include Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander among their number – despite claims by the Daily Telegraph that they have become more influential.

My brother, the blogger beastrabban, told me of a recent conversation between a friend of his and a former Liberal Democrat MP, in which the ex-Hon Gentleman made his opinion of the Orange Bookers – the party’s right-wingers – perfectly clear: “They’re not Liberal”.

This certainly seems to be the feeling of the party’s rank-and-file. Julie Porksen, the Northumbrian member who tabled the Bedroom Tax motion, said: “We are Liberal Democrats and we do not kick people when they are down.”

This may have come as quite a shock to Messrs Clegg, Alexander, David Laws (editor of the Orange Book) and their nearly-Tory buddies, who have been merrily kicking people when they were down ever since they decided they weren’t going to abolish student fees after all, but would help the Tories increase them instead.

Since then, Parliamentary Liberal Democrats have helped force some of the worst injustices of modern times onto the British people, including the Health and Social Care Act, the Welfare Reform Act, the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act, the Localism Act and, yes, the Bedroom Tax.

Nick Clegg is clearly a long, long way out of touch with his members. All he could say about it at conference was that “you would have to be made of granite” not to have feelings on the issue.

Would he commit to changing it? No.

So it seems the Liberal Democrat leader is refusing to carry out the will of his party. I wonder what they’re going to do about it?

One way Clegg could save his career might be to bring the Coalition to an early end, as suggested by Vince Cable at a fringe event arranged by the Independent.

But it seems likely Cable was just causing mischief. “It is obviously a very sensitive one. It has got to be led by the leader,” he said.

Again, this would put Clegg in a very awkward position. Splitting the Coalition means giving up the only power or influence he is ever likely to have.

At the end of the day, it’s not going to make much real difference. After the 2015 election his party will probably have fewer MPs than the DUP, if local election results are any indication. He must take responsibility for that – his leadership is bringing his party to the brink of oblivion.

Nick Robinson’s speculation that Clegg could jump from coalition with Cameron to an alliance with Ed Miliband is, therefore, premature.

But there’s another Liberal Democrat conference to come before the general election. Maybe, by then, Nick Clegg will have grasped that he needs to put his party’s best interests before his own ambitions.

Pleading to stay in the government is like begging to be left on the Titanic

It is hard to believe the lengths to which some people will go, to stay in the public eye.

This weekend, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi appealed to David Cameron to keep her on as chair of the Conservative Party in his forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.

Incredibly, she claimed she fits the demographics of all the people the Tories need to get voting for them at the next general election, being a woman, who is not white, from an urban area, in the North, and who is – most unbelievably of all – working class!

Good luck to her. I’ve always found her inability to listen to – let alone respond to – any views other than her own extremely off-putting. Keeping her in place would be the best way for Cameron to lose support from the groups she claims to represent. And I’m all for that.

One person who will, it seems, certainly return to the cabinet is former Treasury minister David Laws. His creative approach to accountancy necessitated his retirement to the backbenches after only 17 days in place, back in 2010. But it seems the kind of crime that would put any other citizen in jail for six months – defrauding the state out of £40,000 – is not serious enough to warrant the continued punishment of an ex-minister.

One thing I’ll say in Baroness Warsi’s favour: At least she’s more honest. She admitted failing to declare rental income (and was eventually let off the hook for it).

The main cabinet posts are also likely to remain fixed, despite some of their holders being unpopular, according to a Vox Political poll. The question was: David Cameron is expected to reshuffle the cabinet in the very near future. Who should he sack?

Before I reveal the results, I should warn you that the number of respondents makes this nothing like representative of general opinion. But it’s fun, so let’s open the envelopes and see the results.

In third place, with 7.7 per cent of the votes, is cabinet pie-muncher and local government minister Eric Pickles! It seems Eric’s plan to abolish Council Tax Benefit and force everyone to pay increased local taxes just to stay in their home has got your goat.

Second, by a massive 30.8 per cent share of the vote, you asked David Cameron to remove himself from the cabinet! Perhaps if he had concentrated more on solving the nation’s problems than playing video games or jaunting off on jolly holidays around the globe, ‘Call Me Dave’ might have avoided the wrath of the public.

But your winner, with an overwhelming 61.5 per cent shareholding, was Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne! Gideon’s persistent inability to balance the books, letting his rich corporate buddies off paying their taxes while squeezing the rest of us until our pips have well and truly squeaked, have had you squawking in protest (and tweeting, too). His fiscal austerity plan that forced the UK economy into a nosedive was a serious enough misjudgement, but what really browned you off was his idea to charge VAT on pasties, depending on how hot they were.

George deserves a prize and, considering the nature of this vote, I propose we call it the Golden Boot Award. I’ll be keeping it at my house until he can be bothered to turn up for it, at which point I will gladly bestow it upon his posterior.

“Tax the rich” says Clegg – in search of the ‘poor’ vote?

Nick Clegg seems to have had a change of heart.

In a Guardian interview (quoted by the BBC) he has called for a “time limited contribution” from the richest in society beyond his party’s current policy for a mansion tax – taxes on properties above a certain value.

This is a departure for the Deputy Prime Minister who voted solidly for the millionaires’ income tax cut (from 50 per cent to 45 per cent) in George Osborne’s most recent attempt at a Budget.

Some might say that the turnaround is genuine, that Mr Clegg has rethought his position and, in light of the Coalition’s failing economic plan – which has put government borrowing up by a quarter so far this year – admitted that the Tory plan, to cut public services to the bone and tax the poor for the remainder, simply won’t make the grade.

But then we see that, in the same interview, Mr Clegg said he wants to see the return of David Laws to a cabinet position. Laws quit after having to admit he had claimed £40,000 in Parliamentary allowances to pay his partner’s rent. He spent 18 months on the backbenches. If you or I were to overclaim £40,000 in housing benefit, we would be jailed for six months.

So you can see that Mr Clegg is still a big fan of privilege and the principle that, when you’re in power, you change conditions to help your friends.

That’s why I say: Don’t be fooled by this man. He’s seen the state of the opinion polls; he knows his party could be cut down to a maximum of 10 MPs in 2015, and he wants to stop that from happening. That’s why he’s appealing for the sympathy of those of us on low or middle incomes. He wants us to believe that he identifies with us against the rich. In fact, he’s banking on it, even though he himself is a rich man from a privileged background.

What a morally bankrupt attitude (as I’m sure David Cameron might describe it, since he’s fond of that phrase).