Do you remember when lower income workers crashed the economy? Nor do I. Nonetheless, last night, such folks were poised to join a long list of people - such as doctors, nurses, firefighters and students - that would have to pay the price for the mistakes of the financial and political elite. The Conservatives' proposals to cut tax credits, according to the Institute of Financial Studies, would have left three million Britons worse off. This includes one million single parents who stood to lose on average £1,000 per year.
These callous proposals from the 'party of working people' made it through the House of Commons swimmingly. The proposals, however, still had to pass through the House of Lords. This is usually a straightforward and dull process with utter predictability. On this occasion, however, the event proved both complicated and exciting. As the debate toiled into the early evening, it seemed certain peers were rebelling against what they saw, correctly, as a deception from our dear leader.
One Labour Peer, Baron Campbell-Savours, claimed that Cameron lied about cuts to tax credits to win the general election. Campbell-Savours even suggested that Cameron's deception was worse than Nick Clegg's tuition fee fiasco. This is certainly debatable and I don't think Clegg should start rejoicing, as one shouldn't really celebrate telling a lie comparable to Cameron's porky.
As the House of Lords counted the votes on the first motion it seemed the rebellion was short-lived. After a refreshingly impassioned debate, peers voted convincingly against the outright prevention of the Conservatives' proposals. This was perhaps unsurprising, as, even at their most rebellious, peers are hardly rebellious. The result was so convincing in the government's favour, in fact, that any optimism for preventing the tax credit cuts seemed misguided.
The second vote addressed Baroness Meacher's motion to delay the cuts until an independent review works out whom the cuts will affect. The timid and quintessentially British rebellion was back. On this occasion, the Lords defeated the government's proposition and backed the motion with 307 votes to 277. Then, the government suffered another, more damaging defeat, as Baroness Hollis's motion to table the cuts until those affected received a three-year package of transitional financial support was passed by 289 votes to 272.
The government was defeated. Tory proposals proved too harsh for the grand old peers.
Those affected by cuts to tax credits were due to receive a letter just before Christmas explaining the changes. Thanks to the House of Lords, however, these folks will not receive perhaps the world's worst Christmas card. It is remarkable that a bunch of unelected, unaccountable, mainly wealthy individuals seem to care more about lower income families than our democratically elected government.
I agree with the decision made by the peers to delay tax credit cuts until we have a better understanding of who will be affected. I also agree with the decision to offer financial support. In fact, I would go further and either ensure an imminent rise to the minimum wage to meet the financial deficit for working families or to rule out such cuts altogether, as we should not punish those who earn the least in our society. I do not, however, believe that unelected, unaccountable individuals should overrule a democratically elected government. Last night, therefore, was a bittersweet moment for left-leaning democrats.
Ultimately, I'm just happy that lower income workers and single parents won't receive a particularly callous Christmas card. I'm happy that folks at the lower end of the income scale won't have to struggle further in 2016. It is a shame, however, that we couldn't achieve these goals democratically and that instead we have to rely on an outdated and undemocratic institution that has no place in modern democracy.