Lib Dem MPs have voted against Labour proposals for a mansion tax, a policy long supported by the junior coalition partner, after accusing the Opposition of playing "cynical games".
MPs voted 304 to 241 on Tuesday afternoon against the symbolic Labour motion that urged the government to introduce a new levy on properties worth over £2m, to fund a tax cut for millions of people on middle and low incomes.
Instead Lib Dem and Tory MPs voted in favour of a government amendment that recognised the division within the coalition on the issue which allowed Nick Clegg's MPs to express their support for the policy.
The amendment specifically set out that "the part of the coalition led by the deputy prime minister" advocates a mansion tax while "the party of the coalition led by the prime minister does not".
When Labour decided to spring the parliamentary trap on the Lib Dems it was not clear which way Clegg's party would vote.
Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable had on several occasions declined to rule out voting with Labour if its motion fully reflected the policy he devised and has personally championed.
However on the eve of the vote Cable said the government amendment allowed Lib Dem MPs to avoid an awkward split in the coalition or face the embarrassing prospect of voting against their own policy.
"The Liberal Democrats will not however support a Labour motion designed exclusively to play cynical party political games," he said.
If the Lib Dems had decided to make a stand and support the Labour motion, which after all was their policy in the first place, Ed Miliband could have claimed to have split the coalition on a hugely symbolic issue.
As it was the Lib Dems decided to stick with the Tories and vote down the motion. Immediately following the vote Labour shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Tweeted: "Not a single Lib Dem voted for mansion tax, in fact they voted it down in parliament. When will Nick Clegg say sorry 4 that broken promise?"
Chris Leslie MP, Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister, responding to this afternoon’s House of Commons vote on the mansion tax, said Cable was a "busted flush" after the vote.
"The Lib Dems have not only failed to support a straightforward motion calling for their flagship policy of a mansion tax, they actually voted against it. Instead they voted for David Cameron’s amendment which neither called for a mansion tax nor did anything to help secure one," he said.
“Vince Cable is now a busted flush. He writes essays calling for a change of direction and more infrastructure spending but continues to support this government’s failing plan. And he spent years championing a mansion tax but today he, Nick Clegg and the rest of the Liberal Democrats once again betrayed their principles and their supporters."