You got

A Tory prime minister

A Tory chancellor, a Tory home secretary, a Tory education secretary, a Tory health secretary, a Tory foreign secretary, a Tory agriculture secretary, a Tory defence secretary, Tories in charge of work and pensions, local government, transport, justice, environment, universities, planning, culture and sport…oh, and you got the bedroom tax and food banks

All propped up by the Liberal Democrats



9 February 2015

The Liberal Democrat party has issued an abject apology.

In the light of the independent report by the King’s Fund on the damaging and misguided Tory Libdem changes to the NHS, a Libdem spokesperson said: “Sorry, we got the NHS so wrong, wrong, wrong. We meant well, but, oh dear, we were overcome by the scent of government and … Sorry. We apologise wholeheartedly. Nostra culpa. Oh, and that goes for the bedroom tax and tuition fees and can I throw in the police commissioners and, well, pretty much everything really. Did I mention the employment tribunal fees? Do you know how I can get these damned blue spots out? I’ve tried scrubbing.”

The King’s Fund report on the Tory Libdem NHS changes is damning. Instead of focusing on improving patient care and meeting the difficulties of finance and increased demands for services, the coalition government wasted three years on organisational changes that left the NHS weaker and more organisationally complex.

The full report, The NHS under the coalition government, is here and a useful summary article by the Guardian is here.

Real life: Do I need to say that they haven’t apologised?

…and for the rest of Britain?

They have killed off
The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) that protected low-paid farm workers, the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that encouraged and helped 7294 students in Cornwall continue their education, closed Remploy at Penzance leaving 2/5ths of tracked employees unemployed
Libdems, making a difference

They have increased the need for food banks
In 2009/10 only 41 000 people in Britain used Trussell Trust food banks; last year there were 913 000. As the allparty inquiry into food poverty said in its December 2014 report Feeding Britain: “Hunger stalks this country”
Libdems, making a difference

They successfully opposed in Parliament
A Labour party attempt to ban agents’ letting fees for private renters, a Green party attempt to replace houses lost through right-to-buy
Libdems, making a difference

They have backed
The bedroom tax, the trebling of tuition fees, the reorganisation of the NHS at a cost of £3 billion, deterrent fees at employment tribunals which have cut claims by wronged workers by 2/3rds
Libdems, making a difference

They have cut
Funds for affordable housing
Libdems, making a difference

Of course a very few Libdems in parliament have disagreed with the Liberal Democrat majority votes on some of these horrors. See the Public Whip for details of individual votes. And the Libdem party have apparently had pre-election conversions and say they now support some changes on employment tribunal fees and the bedroom tax.

UPDATE 15 February 2015
See here (Observer 15 February 2015) for Libdem concerns about tribunal fees the introduction of which they supported. Really, what did they think would happen when they introduced fees?

Update at the foot of this post

Letting fees
A while ago I noted the failure of Libdem MPs in Cornwall to support a Labour motion on help for private tenants. Read my post Helping or hindering private tenants (6 August 2014) on the motion. The Labour motion called for three year tenancies to replace the present default six-month ones, the banning of letting fees for tenants, and the banning of excessive rent rises for people on the longer tenancies. It was a balanced and progressive motion promoting social justice.

Andrew George (Libdem, St Ives) voted against the progressive Labour motion; votes are not recorded for the other two Libdem MPs from Cornwall, Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) and Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall).

Retaliatory eviction
On 28 November 2014 the Commons debated the second reading of the Tenancies (Reform) Bill of the Libdem MP Sarah Teather which outlawed retaliatory eviction, eviction after a tenant had complained about unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the rented place. Read the debate here. It had support from all the main parties and the government said it supported its passing the second reading. It was talked out by two Tory MPs, not enough MPs being present to end the debate and have a second reading vote, and it will now reappear on 5 December.

Two MPs from Cornwall were present and voted for a closure motion and a vote on the bill. They were Stephen Gilbert, who proposed the closure motion, and George Eustice (Conservative, Camborne and Redruth). Gilbert spoke strongly in favour of the bill.

Votes on 28 November on this progressive bill, which will help private renters, are not recorded for the other two Libdems, Andrew George (St Ives) and Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall). As I note above, in June George had voted against the Labour motion for longer tenancies and banning letting fees and excessive rent rises and no vote was recorded for Rogerson.

Lords debate
In the Lords on 24 November 2014 the Tories and Libdems opposed (division 3) a Labour amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill which would ban double fees and letting fees for tenants; the debate begins at column 755. Of peers associated with Cornwall, Labour’s Brenda Dean and Tony Berkeley voted for the amendment; Libdem Judith Jolly, Robin Teverson, and Paul Tyler voted against. All the 52 Libdems voting opposed the amendment.

In the Lords debate on the Labour amendment the government specifically mentioned its support for the Teather bill against retaliatory eviction up for its second reading a few days later (column 761). Well, that didn’t work and it will be interesting to see what the government does now.

So which party supports private tenants?
Labour has pressed hard for changes to the law that would help private renters. Apart from Stephen Gilbert on 28 November, parliamentary Libdems from Cornwall have failed to support private tenants in the two debates I have looked at here.

Also look at Replacing lost homes: how Cornwall MPs voted 1 September 2014.

Update 9 December 2014
The obstruction of Sarah Teather’s bill to prevent retaliatory eviction has led to a preventing amendment proposed by Libdems to the Deregulation Bill in the Lords.

Tenancies (Reform) Bill 2014
Amendment: preventing retaliatory eviction

What all the wise men promised would happen has not happened and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass (Lord Melbourne)

The other day the Department for work and pensions (DWP) quietly published a report on the first five months (April-August 2013) of the working of the bedroom tax. There are problems with the report (as discussed excellently by Joe Halewood here) but it found a minimal number of social rent tenants had downsized in the social rent sector, extremely few had moved into the private rented sector, a fifth of tenants had paid not a penny of the shortfall in rent caused for them by the bedroom tax benefit cut, and those tenants who had paid all or some were cutting back on some essentials.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. No wonder the DWP put out the report as the Cabinet reshuffle filled the news.

What was it supposed to be like?

First, let me remind you that Tories and Libdems (with very few Libdem exceptions) backed the introduction of the bedroom tax to the hilt and in the face of clear monitory advice that the ill-effects that have indeed come to pass would do so. The Tory Libdem government were obdurate about the tax, including the difficulties it would cause to adult disabled people, while shouting it was fair, that fuzziness so loved by Libdems.

The Huffington Post has a scarring record of Nick Clegg’s support for the tax on eight occasions.

The Tories and Libdems said the tax would persuade social rent tenants living in a house deemed too large for their needs would move into a smaller house. Opponents pointed out there were not enough smaller houses; this policy would not happen; it hasn’t, it turns out that there are not enough smaller houses.

Opponents pointed out the difficulties that would be caused to adult disabled tenants; the Tories and Libdems ploughed on; and the difficulties have indeed happened.

Opponents warned of serious financial difficulties with an impact on their everyday lives would be caused to tenants already poor; the Tory Libdems persisted while crying fairness; the adverse impacts have happened.

The numbers affected by the tax are problematic and the promised savings have not come about.

Libdems and the bedroom tax

The Libdem party has said the tax should be radically changed. This is hardly a response to surprise evidence: the DWP report covers only the first five months of the tax and the adverse impacts were well rehearsed before it came into force. No, this is more a Westminster than a Damascus conversion: Libdem policy is now influenced by 6 May 2015, the next general election. Having spent four years up to their elbows in reactionary Tory policies, Libdems now wish us to believe they are not Tories: the Land Registry will not be privatised, nor tuition fee loans, the wisdom of 6 May.

The damaging reorganisation and privatisation of the NHS, free schools, tuition fees, abolition of the farmworkers pay board, hit-the-poor welfare changes … Libdems voted for all these. The Libdems were also at the heart of the sell off of part of Royal Mail for what amounts to a £1 billion loss to the taxpayer.

Cornwall MPs and the bedroom tax

The record is brutal. Andrew George (Libdem St Ives) has consistently opposed the tax and he has a private member’s bill that will repeal it. (He has also opposed several of the other toxic Tory Libdem policies.)

For how Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson (Libdem, St Austell and Newquay; North Cornwall) have voted on the bedroom tax see my post Cornwall Libdem MPs support-oppose-who-knows bedroom tax (14 February 2014). The three Tory MPs have backed it.

I just watch

Well, I think it’s going to be fun reading what the Libdem party says now the election draws close. As Will Rogers very nearly said: I don’t make jokes. I just watch the Liberal Democrats and report the facts.

Lord Melbourne (William Lamb): 1779-1848, Whig/Liberal prime minister

Will Rogers: 1879-1935, USA political comedian etc


13 March 2014

Julia Goldsworthy, former Cornwall Libdem MP and now chosen as prospective parliamentary candidate for Camborne and Redruth, says the Libdem record in government is “a record to be proud of”. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are jointly responsible for what the government does. Here’s some of the proud Tory Libdem government record Goldsworthy hasn’t mentioned.

The Trussell Trust says that in 2013 it helped 12 115 people at its Cornwall foodbanks. In 2011 it helped 4959. An increase of 144 percent in the need for and use of foodbanks. A record to be proud of, Julia?

The Tory Libdem bedroom tax is “an immoral policy”: Andrew George, Libdem MP for St Ives, Hansard 12 November 2013 column 855. The bedroom tax. A record to be proud of, Julia?

Cuts to tax credits that top up low wages, freeze in child benefit. A record to be proud of, Julia?

Cut in income tax for those getting more than £150 000 a year. Helping the rich. A record to be proud of, Julia?

In England in 2009/10 there were 40 020 homeless households; in 2012/13 there were 53 540, an increase of 34 percent. In Cornwall the figures were 419 and 497. See live table 784 here. Increased homelessness. A record to be proud of, Julia?

Funds for affordable housing savaged. A record to be proud of, Julia?

Remploy Penzance shut down in summer 2012. Of the 33 former employees, 12 have jobs a year later. Putting the disadvantaged out of work. A record to be proud of, Julia?

Welfare benefit cuts can lead to 97 percent tax rate on the low paid: the withdrawal of council tax support and housing benefit, combined with income tax and national insurance, can see some people losing 97 pence in the pound of earnings (48th report of the Public Accounts Committee 5 March 2014, paragraph 7). A record to be proud of, Julia?

Government welfare reforms include use of food banks: Department of works and pensions is referring – er, signposting – desperate clients to food banks. See Guardian 11 March 2014.) A record to be proud of, Julia

And there’s this: si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

Goldsworthy became Libdem MP for Falmouth and Camborne in 2005. She lost the redrawn seat of Camborne and Redruth to the Tories at the 2010 general election and was appointed a special adviser to Danny Alexander, Libdem chief secretary to the Treasury (for which she was paid £74 000 a year (Prime minister statement 19 July 2011: she was unpaid initially because she had a resettlement grant after losing her seat). She has resigned as adviser on her selection as prospective parliamentary candidate for Camborne and Redruth.

If you wish to see what the Tory Libdem government has achieved, what it is about and the fruits of its work, look around you.

David Cameron: Welfare reforms are “at the heart of our social and moral mission”
Daily Telegraph 19 February 2014


“Malnutrition, rent arrears, bailiff visits and food bank use in Cornwall soars

The levels of malnutrition, rent arrears, bailiff visits and food bank use in Cornwall is soaring as welfare reform starts to bite.”
Falmouth Packet 2 February 2014


“Thousands of HIV patients go hungry as benefit cuts hit

Thousands of people with HIV have been left struggling in poverty by the Government’s welfare reforms – with some unable to afford the basic food they need to fight their condition.”
Independent February 2014

Si monumentum…the epitaph of Christopher Wren in St Paul’s cathedral

Having spent three and a half years colluding with the Tories, the Libdems are now running around hither and thither like headless chickens.

Is this a damascus moment when the light has shone on their deeds and they repent? Or have they realised that the general election and day of reckoning is only nineteen months away? Whichever, they are queuing up to refudiate, as Sarah Palin would put it, the policies they have voted for. They are now denouncing their own policies and supporting the very ones they have hitherto denounced.

Bedroom tax
In Parliament the Libdems supported the bedroom tax for social rented houses and justified it and disregarded the warnings of where it would lead. Now, as people fall into rent arrears and face eviction caused by the tax, the difficulties faced by disabled people because of the tax become better known, and the absence of sufficient houses to downsize to becomes obvious, many Libdems want to review it though some have always rejected it.

Free school meals
In a time of foodbanks and approaching general election the Libdems promote universal free school meals for infant schoolchildren, saying rightly it is a progressive policy with real following benefits in achievement. Hmm, they went along with the 2010 coalition axing of the planned modest extension of free school meals planned by the ousted Labour government. Left foot forward and its commenters have pointed out that some Libdems have robustly opposed programs of free school meals introduced or supported by Labour councillors.

Poor and vulnerable
They shout their pupil premium and tax threshold policies. Yes, but their policies have seen an increase in child poverty, an increase in VAT, which hits the poor most, and a large tax cut for the very rich. They have overseen the degrading of employment with short hours and the zero-hours uncertainty of pay with the certainty of bills for groceries and fuel and housing. The Libdems supported the abolition of the agricultural wages board that protected farm workers. I have recorded and discussed some of their reactionary votes in the post Libdem watch, especially the attacks on support for the vulnerable.

Their centre ground is a swamp and they have made life more difficult for very many. In a grotesquerie they have willingly imposed sacrifices on the poor and vulnerable not demanded from the well-heeled. The Libdem party is up to its elbows in the social and economic immiseration of people.

For the relation of poverty, free school meals, and school achievement see my blog post of 2009 here.

For an evaluation by the Institute for fiscal studies (IFS) of the effect of free school meals on attainment see here and here.

Labour introduced a bedroom criteria – in effect a ‘bedroom tax’ – for benefit for houses rented in the private sector but not for social rented houses. The party has now promised to abolish the bedroom tax in social rented houses introduced by the Tory Libdem government.

“Liberal Democrats are different”: Nick Clegg, Libdem 2010 election manifesto

The 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto promised to introduce a mansion tax. At the Eastleigh by-election the other week Nick Clegg, Libdem leader, called for a mansion tax. On Tuesday 12 March the Commons debated a straightforward Labour motion calling on the government “to bring forward proposals” for a mansion tax “at the earliest opportunity” ( Hansard 12 March 2013 column 162 onwards).

Well, truly the Libdems are different. Shedding credibility, not one Libdem MP voted for their party’s own policy; those present and voting, forty nine of them, voted against the motion which called for the introduction of a mansion tax. The three Cornwall Libdem MPs voted against this motion and voted for the Tory Libdem government amendment (text at column 174) which routinely criticised Labour and described the government parties’ at-odds views on a mansion tax, an amendment which Labour’s Chris Leslie rightly pointed out “neither called for a mansion tax nor did anything to help secure one”.

On March 12 the Libdems displayed tribalism and inconsistency; they voted against implementing their own policy. Really, why should anyone believe them when they promise whatever?

Libdem 2010 election manifesto, page 14, speaks of “Introducing a Mansion Tax at a rate of 1 per cent on properties worth over £2 million, paid on the value of the property above that level.”

“49 Lib Dems voted against the mansion tax. The rest of their party were absent. So not one Lib Dem voted for their own policy.” @labourwhips

Suppose you were writing a council budget at a time of financial difficulties. You have a choice.

(a) freeze council tax, mend pot holes, and cut car parking charges, but also destroy around 135 council jobs and cut £1.6 million from employee funds for vulnerable adults and children, cuts which will adversely affect the services to them; or

(b) put council tax up by 1.97 percent, don’t destroy 135 jobs, maintain funding for adults and children who are in need, keep up the car parking charges, and patch the potholes for the time being.

The other day Cornwall councillors chose.

Forty nine chose (b) but fifty two chose (a).

The Libdems had proposed (a) as an amendment to the Tory/Independent Cabinet’s budget and voted for it with support from some Tories apparently out to embarrass. Labour’s sole councillor and Mebyon Kernow councillors voted against (a).

No doubt in May the Libdem election leaflets will cry up the council tax freeze and potholes. They will not mention the loss of 135 jobs and the cuts against the adults and children in need. They should not get away with half a story but the fullness of what they have done should be told.

The Libdem budget also expects the collection rate for council tax, already high in Cornwall, to increase. Hmmm. I think the recession and the removal of the council tax exemption from the poor in Cornwall is more likely to lead to a fall in the collection rate. How much do bailiffs cost?

For next year the Libdem decision to keep the council tax unchanged means that at the council-tax-setting cost inflation will have created a large hole in council finances and consequently, with a lesser tax base due to the freeze, a large rise in council tax or a large cut to services will follow. That will be well after the May 2013 elections of course.

I think that the Libdem budget shows financial naivety and an unacceptable order of priorities.

Also read
Jude Robinson (Labour) and Andrew Wallis (Independent) and Lance Kennedy (former Tory) have comments on the budget and manoeuvrings that are well worth reading.