Simon Hughes: “I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms”

At today's Fabian Society conference Simon Hughes said that he opposed the cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance and housing benefit and the NHS reforms.

Tom Rouse, co-founder/editor of The Grapevine website, reports on the “challengers or collaborators” session at today’s Fabian Society Next Left conference, which featured Sian Berry; Simon Hughes; Will Straw; Sunder Katwala; Douglas Alexander and Polly Toynbee

Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats spoke at length on the coalition policies he personally opposes today. Will Straw, a resident of Hughes’s constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, set the early tone for the debate by outlining six principles which should be used to judge the government’s fairness agenda; constitutional and civil liberties; environmental issues and foreign policy; public services and the economy.

It was this last test Straw accused the coalition government of comprehensively failing. As outlined here, 3,267 students in his constituency will be affected by the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance and 1,340 people will be affected by the proposed cut of housing benefit by 10 per cent, a move described by Douglas Alexander as indefensible when those who have been job hunting for 12 months or more facing competition from four other people for every vacancy.

In response Hughes vowed that he would vote against the 10 per cent cut in housing benefit and claimed that he had directly challenged the government in private over this issue. Similarly he pledged – depending on the wording – to support a Labour opposition day motion opposing the abolition of EMA, adding that he had been in talks both private and public with Andy Burnham about how best to do this.

He agreed with Douglas Alexander on the need for consensus for any potential replacement and called for patience over the issue, describing the need to work with Labour to ensure young people are not disincentivised from going to college and that the new system ensured that funds are available for travel and resources where they are truly needed.

When the debate inevitably turned to tuition fees, Hughes was heckled by the crowd for claiming that the Liberal Democrats were the only party still committed to the eradication of tuition fees. His claim that if he was a backbencher he would have voted against the proposal drew further heckling and  unanswered questions from the crowd over why he didn’t resign. In defence he merely reinforced the party line that fees of £600 would be the norm and that £9,000 would only be charged in exceptional circumstances, a statement that was not well received by attendees but went unchallenged by the panel.

The issue of pluralism and how Labour and the Liberal Democrats could cooperate dominated the latter half of the debate. Douglas Alexander’s referred to the success of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in Scotland between 1999 and 2007 as a successful example of this and a model for potential future cooperation between the parties.

Similarly the potential for cooperation arose concerning the issue of proposed reforms to the NHS. Hughes’s remark that in their current form there was no chance of them getting through the Commons, suggested that the Liberal Democrats were willing to vote against the Conservatives if the situation arose. This argument also confirmed Straw’s earlier comment that Andrew Lansley was probably the only man in Britain who supported these reforms.

In spite of his voiced opposition to large branches of coalition policy, Hughes confirmed that he would not walk away from government, stating that it was a five-year deal and he would honour the terms of the coalition agreement. But given the audience he was keen to qualify this:

“I’m there to deliver Lib Dem policy. I want a progressive government, the Conservatives are not my natural ally and not are they the natural ally of most Liberal Democrats.”

The panel ended with a commitment from both Hughes and Alexander to pursue opportunities for the true progressive parties to work together wherever possible. The Yes to AV campaign, and possible coalitions in Holyrood and Cardiff after the May elections, were highlighted as examples of current and potential future cooperation.

47 Responses to “Simon Hughes: “I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms””

  1. John Edginton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  2. Siraj Datoo

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  3. Union

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  4. Adam McNicholas

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  5. Susan Asquith

    Simon Hughes on EMA, Housing Benefit and NHS reform. //tinyurl.com/5skdwp5

  6. John O'Donoghue

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  7. Anthony Painter

    “@leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf #Fab11” < I oppose hypocrisy.

  8. Maureen Czarnecki

    RT @anthonypainter: “@leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf #Fab11” & …

  9. DarkestAngel

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  10. martinb216

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  11. Éoin Clarke

    Simon Hughes is a thoroughly decent man, who if there were any justice would have led the LDs after Charlie’s exit. On all four U-Turns he is been in a quandary.. VAT, Tuition, HB, & EMA… There is also little doubt that he would much prefer a coalition with reds..

    His problem is this- if he breaks rank it will destroy his party. He is not ready to see a party he has gave his life to, do that, so for now he is sitting tight. If there were any type of permanent relationship with blue it would be breaking point I feel… Perhaps a silent revolution where Clegg is deposed is probably the best that MPs like him can hope for.

  12. Thomas Gillespie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  13. Elizabeth Eastwood

    RT @anthonypainter: “@leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf #Fab11” & …

  14. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  15. Norvik_1602

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf

  16. Faye Abbott

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hCqtXh

  17. Sarah Bickerstaffe

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  18. Will Straw

    Good summary by @trouse11 of Simon Hughes progressive pledges against EMA cut, housing ben cut & NHS reform at #fab11 //bit.ly/hXttYf

  19. matthew fox

    Simon Hughes is talking nonsense, he has no problem throwing hundreds of thousand of workers on the scraphead, he should go.

    Ignorance is not a defence and not a justification either.

  20. Tim Montgomerie

    Simon Hughes plays to a Labour audience by opposing Coalition policies on EMA, housing and NHS //bit.ly/hXttYf via @WDJStraw

  21. Iain

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hCqtXh

  22. david

    RT @anthonypainter: “@leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf #Fab11” & …

  23. Tweetminster

    "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  24. Simon Turner

    RT @tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  25. Simon Turner

    Proff the the lib-dems in exile are not progressive but weak willed nany statist: //bit.ly/fmWcoK

  26. Jordan Hall

    RT @tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  27. David B

    RT @tweetminster: @libdemsimon : 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – vote against them,then.

  28. Iain

    RT @tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  29. Hens4Freedom

    RT @TweetMinster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  30. London Life

    RT @tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  31. barry faulkner

    RT @tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK – Left Foot Forward

  32. Kevin Richards

    "Dont just say it do something about it": – Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hCqtXh

  33. Linda Jack

    As one of the so called “radical progressives” in the Lib Dems that Simon referred to today I have to agree with Eoin whole-heartedly. I know how gut wrenching so much of this has been for Simon. As a committed Trade Unionist I could never understand why my Labour pals and Labour heroes (like Jeremy Corbin and John McDonnell) never left their party when it got hijacked by Blair and even more so over Iraq. I understand completely now. This is my party as much as it is Nick Clegg’s or Danny Alexander’s. I have devoted more years than I care to remember to the party I was and am part of because I believe we have the most progressive and liberal policies. I have thought long and hard and been close to resigning many times (as Simon will testify given he has often been the recipient of my angst)but actually I have come to the conclusion that the Lib Dems are still a centre left party, regardless of our leadership. So, for me, this is a fight to the death if necessary – and I’m SO glad we still have Simon Hughes there flying the flag…..without him it would be a hell of a lot harder for all of us

  34. Laurence Turner

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hCqtXh

  35. Andy S

    “@tweetminster: "Simon Hughes: 'I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms'" //bit.ly/fmWcoK” <that'll be aye votes then …

  36. stevebuss71

    RT @TimMontgomerie: Simon Hughes plays to a Labour audience by opposing Coalition policies on EMA, housing and NHS //bit.ly/hXttYf

  37. Mark Krantz

    Hughes’ Lib Dem hypocracy reminds.

    ‘Believe me this will hurt me more than it will hurt you,’ is what the head teacher said before beating the school boy with a huge cane.

  38. Mark Krantz

    Hughes’ Lib Dem hypocracy reminds me…

    ‘Believe me this will hurt me more than it will hurt you,’ is what the head teacher said before beating the school boy with a huge cane.

  39. Nikos D-T

    Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms". He put his left foot in, he put his left out….//bit.ly/hCqtXh

  40. Nishma Doshi

    Simon Hughes, lying once again: //bit.ly/hCqtXh (via @leftfootfwd)

  41. Alan Crowther

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hXttYf reports @TRouse11 #Fab11

  42. Sutton Coldfield CLP

    Lib Dem deputy speaks with forked tongue?
    //goo.gl/k3Bej

  43. Vote YES 2 AV in May

    RT @leftfootfwd: Simon Hughes: "I oppose EMA cut, housing benefit cut and NHS reforms" //bit.ly/hCqtXh

  44. Students lobby Parliament as MPs debate EMA today | Left Foot Forward

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    […] the coalition’s plans for the NHS. At the weekend, Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes, told delegates at the Fabian Society conference that there was little prospect of the proposals getting through the Commons in their current […]

  46. Burnham: "What on Earth is Simon Hughes's job all about?" | Left Foot Forward

    […] despite saying at the weekend that he would support an opposition amendment to maintain it “depending on the wording“. Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham last night branded Hughes a “yellow […]

  47. If UK politics were Tottenham Hotspur, then coalition government would be David Beckham « LeftCentral

    […] Cabinet table after being left armourless in his war on Murdoch, and Simon Hughes has been getting increasingly anxious about the direction of health and welfare reforms. We may well be witnessing the beginning of the […]

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