Echoing his plea in yesterday's Daily Mirror for conscionable Lib Dems to help Labour crush the worst cuts, Ed Miliband told the Scottish Labour conference: "A week from Tuesday we will force a vote in the House of Commons on housing benefit. Our appeal is to all MPs of conscience. Join us, vote against these unfair and unworkable changes and force the government to think again."
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• The government’s unfair housing benefit cuts were attacked from all sides this week. Mayor of London Boris Johnson spoke out against the “Kosovo-style social cleansing” that the cuts might bring, with poor people forced to leave inner cities, while Ed Miliband this afternoon vowed to force a vote in parliament on the plans.
Echoing his plea in yesterday’s Daily Mirror for conscionable Lib Dems to help Labour crush the worst cuts, he told the Scottish Labour conference: “A week from Tuesday we will force a vote in the House of Commons on housing benefit. Our appeal is to all MPs of conscience. Join us, vote against these unfair and unworkable changes and force the government to think again.”
On Left Foot Forward, we have looked in detail at what the proposals will mean, with Declan Gaffney explaining how the changes to the welfare system will “affect all those who may need support at any point in their working lives”. Our full impact assessment spreadsheet can be downloaded here. Will Straw, meanwhile, looked at the Tories’ political strategy with David Cameron’s “conjuring trick” seeking to focus attention on the £20,000 cap which “will affect a small number of people and saves just £65 million (3%) of the £2bn earmarked for housing benefit cuts”.
• Europe came back to give David Cameron another headache this week. Eurosceptic backbenchers are up in arms over the prime minister’s inability to deliver a Brussels budget freeze, bemoaning the 2.9 per cent rise as a “failure dressed up as a victory”, refusing to buy Cameron’s “I have in my hand a piece of paper” spin about a magic letter signed by 13 heads of government opposing a 5.9 per cent rise that was never likely to happen.
As the leader of Labour’s MEPs Glenis Willmott explained in an article for Left Foot Forward, for all his bluster, Tory MEPs did not table a single amendment to significantly cut the European Union budget. She wrote: “Labour MEPs voted against the overall call for a budget increase and against a host of outrageous calls to increase spending. It was left to Labour members to propose cuts of more than €1bn to wasteful agricultural subsidies.”
Right wing bloggers also questioned the Tory leader’s tactic of blaming Labour for “voting for higher budgets”. As Dizzy Thinks pointed out yesterday, Labour MEPs actually voted against the budget, while today he wrote: “The bottom line as it were is that the three main British political parties in the European Parliament voted against the 6% rise in the EU budget, but not having a dividing line doesn’t make particularly interesting copy now does it? Much better to spin it.”
• There was some welcome good news on the economy this week, with economic growth beating expectations. As Left Foot Forward’s Tony Dolphin reported, the UK economy grew far more rapidly than expected, up 0.8% – confounding expectations of a 0.4% rise. The growth was led by a surge in activity in the construction sector. Questions persist, however, about the long term impact of the cuts on growth.
Following last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), it was announced that state funding for degree courses in arts, humanities, and social science subjects would end, while Left Foot Forward reported that the scrapping of Regional Development Agencies would result in an 80 per cent funding cut to the regions, and looked at how the freezing of the science budget – representing an 8.9% real terms cut – could hit the UK’s global reputation in research and development. And today, the latest Bank of England lending figures provided more evidence the housing market has lost momentum.
Progressive of the week:
Boris Johnson, who spoke up for the capital this week against the coalition’s regressive housing benefit cuts, devised by a Cabinet of millionaires, which would lead to, in his words, “Kosovo-style social cleansing” of the poor from inner London. He said: “What we will not see, and will not accept, is any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots.”
Regressive of the week:
Vince Cable, who yesterday chickened out of a visit to Oxford University, citing “police advice” – yet the police gave no such advice and did not tell him to pull out of the visit. During the election campaign, you couldn’t move for Lib Dems swanning around campuses signing pledges not to raise tuition fees; now, it appears they’re running scared, unable and unwilling to look students in the eye and explain their u-turn. Nick Clegg is due to visit Oxford on Wednesday, November 17th – the question is, will he have the balls to turn up, all alone, without David Cameron by his side…
Evidence of the week:
Data undermining Tory claims about Britain’s “bloated welfare system” – as a percentage of GDP, welfare is still lower than at any time from 1979-97. Left Foot Forward’s Duncan Weldon unearthed a chart from the UK Public Spending website which showed that, while Britian’s welfare spending is rising, it is lower than it was throughout the Tories’ term in office. Furthermore, as Will Straw points out, “any broad definition of welfare spending includes popular tax credits such as the child tax credit, working tax credit, and pensions credit and universal benefits including child benefit and the winter fuel payment”.
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