The BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, yesterday tweeted remarks made by David Cameron about the need for more discussion within the coalition before decisions are made. Simon Hughes’ intervention on council tenancies appears to indicate that the Prime Minister has failed to heed his own advice.
Yesterday afternoon, Laura Kuenssberg tweeted:
“The PM says coalition is a ‘proper partnership’ but there has to be more discsussions and ‘workings out’ before decisions are made”
But just a day later, Simon Hughes tells the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh:
“The ideas put forward by David Cameron this week in no way represent the policy of the coalition and certainly do not represent the policy of the Liberal Democrats.
“We will not let anybody have their homes taken away. We must continue to suppport established and cohesive communities where people have the security of knowing that they will continue to have a home.”
What Paul Waugh reveals next is revealing:
I’m told (not by the man himself, I stress) that Mr Hughes ‘exploded’ last night when he heard of the Cameron words.
He had first got wind of the controversial proposal recently when Andrew Stunnell flagged it up in the party hierarchy. He warned ministers that the party should ‘not touch this with a bargepole’ but it seems there was confusion as to whether Nick Clegg was alerted of the concerns.
Crucially, Hughes appears to have been assured that no announcement was going to be made on the subject until after discussions within the coalition.
Although Simon Hughes had urged the government to “slow down” on cuts to housing benefit, sounded a warning shot on the VAT rise, and indicated his initial desire for a Lib-Lab coalition, Mr Hughes has – until this point – been a strong public defender of the coalition’s policies. Just two weeks ago, he wrote in the Guardian, “in 10 weeks we have achieved greater political change than I could have ever imagined.” If Cameron wants him to return to this championing role, he’ll need to consult him a bit more.
After Simon Hughes tells the World at One, “It is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy. It was not in the election manifesto of either party, it was not in the coalition agreement.”, Sunder Katwala observes at Next Left that:
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“Downing Street wanted to make very clear indeed that that Nick Clegg bloke was obviously not speaking for the government when, erm, taking Prime Minister’s questions as deputy Prime Minister.
“Perhaps they could now tell us if the same applies to the PM.”