Lib Dems head for meltdown as they pick benefit row with Tories

Mon, 08/09/2014 - 16:31 -- nick

The Liberal Democrats made much of being an alternative to the two main parties at the 2010 general election.

A country sick of both Conservative and Labour rewarded them handsomely, giving them the balance of power in the House of Commons and enabling them to be part of government for the first time in many decades.

Since then they have been a huge disappointment to many of their new voters, many of whom only wanted a leftish alternative to a Labour party hampered by an uncharismatic and desperate leader in Gordon Brown.

What they found was a party that supported the worst excesses of one of the most right wing Tory-led governments in living memory.

The Conservatives abandoned all talk of moderation and launched an attack on the country's benefit claimants the like of which they had never seen before.

Conveniently 'forgetting' that the vast majority of unemployed people are simply victims of industrial change and worldwide economic problems, they attacked their characters and cut their incomes, already some of the lowest in Europe.

Some of these policies were so anti-claimant that even the working British public opposed them, a hurting public that has spent years being softened up by newspapers and starved of income by companies that would rather pay it to their directors.

Which brings us to the bedroom tax, which takes benefits from housing 'over-occupiers' regardless of the circumstances that surround them.

On Friday a LibDem MP put forward a bill in the House of Commons promising to end its worst excesses, including taking benefits from people who have no smaller property available to them, and from disabled people who have adapted housing or need space for carers.

This goes to the heart of what the tax is all about; in most areas, telling people to move to a smaller flat is pointless when none are to be found.

And making disabled people move when money has been spent on making a place inhabitable for them is another colossal waste of funding by the government that is more keen on votes than cutting the deficit or fairness.

So why the change of heart by Nick Clegg and his crew?

The unpopularity of the bedroom tax is a big part of the answer.

There is a general election next year and many of the party's MPs must be fearing the same unemployment they have made so unliveable after the voters kick them out of power.

They should save their time though.

The Liberal Democrats are heading for a wipeout at the 2015 election, and for good reason.

Without their support the hard right Tory welfare programme would have been abandoned, and a minority Conservative government would have ruled with no teeth.

If they were principled the LibDems would have opposed the bedroom tax when it was brought before the Commons the first time round, or in the committee considering it, or in the House of Lords, or simply killed it at birth.

In every one of those places the party chose to support it, voting it through and blighting the lives of thousands of the UK's most vulnerable people.

The reason they are heading for such electoral disaster isn't because they are wrong to try to end the excesses of the bedroom tax, or to oppose excessive sanctions or universal credit implementation as their next steps towards re-establishing themselves in the centre-left.

The Liberal Democrats decided early on that the politically expedient thing to do was to take ownership of all the government's actions even when they secretly disagreed with them.

Voters may accept parties changing positions, but they will not forget the hypocritical positions taken by a party simply to look 'governmental'.