The Blog

Opposition Day Debate: The Bedroom Tax, Cowardly Conservatives and Duplicitous LibDems

I believe that we can take a lot from the Opposition Day Debate on the Bedroom tax. The coalition's Government majority was cut to only 26 and our views were represented in the House of Commons. It is a step in the right direction.

Duplicitous LibDems and Cowardly Conservatism were on show when the Bedroom Tax had its day at the House of Commons.

Duplicitous LibDems

In September, the LibDems came to Glasgow to hold their National Conference and Glasgow rolled out the welcome mat in our own distinct fashion by holding a 72 hours 'mass lobby' in support of an anti-bedroom tax motion that was submitted at Conference by a principled LibDem representative.

This motion was passed by LibDems members with only one hand raised in opposition. LibDems members had spoken, they did not support the bedroom tax and did not want the LibDems to support this regressive policy in Parliament. A loud message was sent by LibDem members - It Just Aint Liberal and, as LibDem policy is decided at Conference, the Parliamentary Party must listen.

Fast forward to the 12th November, Labour had called an Opposition Day Debate on the Bedroom Tax and the LibDems had to make a choice:

Follow party policy and the views of their members


Support a Tory policy that attacks some of the most vulnerable in our society.

To their eternal shame, LibDem MPs put protecting the Tories before the views of their members.

32 LibDems voted in favour of the bedroom tax in the House of Commons.

21 LibDems MPs abstained from vote

2 LibDem MPs stayed true to their party membership and voted against the bedroom tax.

I spoke to many LibDem members while helping organising the 'mass lobby' of the LibDem conference and was pleasantly surprised why I heard their views on the bedroom tax. They despise this 'tax'. They can see the havoc that it is causing and want no part of it. Many said that the bedroom tax was a line in the sand that they were not willing to cross, openly saying that they would leave the party if it did not stop supporting the bedroom tax at Westminster.

It is those grassroots activists that I feel for; betrayed by their own party who put the whiff of power before the views of their own members. Many are, rightfully, questioning if they want to be part of a party that shows such blatant disregard to both their member's views and the democratic structures that make up their party.

Cowardly Conservatism

It must be noted that not one front bench cabinet minister was in the House of Commons to defend the bedroom tax. This cowardly act is reminiscent of school bullies who cower with fear when they are confronted with someone who will stand up to their bullying tactics.

The Tories are 'courageous' enough to attack poor, vulnerable and disabled people with the bedroom tax but when the same people are in Parliament, the Tories High Command hide in their bunker, afraid to encounter the people that they have callously attacked.

I once challenged a Conservative MP to a debate on the bedroom tax after seeing him post about the policy on Facebook. He did not respond to this request which I, along with some of his constituents, repeated via email, twitter and Facebook. I described this as Cowardly Conservatism and this trait appears to be prevalent in the Tory front bench.

I will add that this challenge to the debate is open to any Tory MP who has the courage to defend the bedroom tax. I am willing to debate with them at any place or at any time. I have the courage of my beliefs bit I very much doubt that the same can be said about the Tories.

Pairing Labour

Labour has been taking a lot of flak for MPs missing the vote and debate at the House of Commons. This was a mistake by Labour as it has been perceived as a slur on the campaigners who travelled many miles and spent a lot of money to get to London to support Labour's motion on Tuesday. I travelled from Paisley, near Glasgow along with another 10 members of the BinTheBedroomTax coalition, and was greatly disappointed that Douglas Alexander, my MP, was not in London for the vote.

Labour need to learn that the relationship between the party and campaigners is still very frail. A lot of campaigners have trouble forgiving what they perceive as Labour's inadequate opposition to the cuts to welfare. What campaigners are after is tangible opposition and representation by the party. One example of this is campaigner's pleas for the Labour Party to implement 'no eviction' policies in all Labour-run councils in the UK. As campaigner said: "Actions speak louder than words".

Onwards and Upwards.

I believe that we can take a lot from the Opposition Day Debate on the Bedroom tax. The coalition's Government majority was cut to only 26 and our views were represented in the House of Commons. It is a step in the right direction.

The battle against the bedroom tax will continue in communities up and down the UK. Led by ordinary men and woman who have little or no political experience, the movement grows in confidence and numbers. The duplicitous LibDems and the Cowardly Conservatives will live to regret their attacks on tenants, it's just a matter of time.