Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Lib Dem fightback on #WRB: Update 1

This is a lunchtime blogpost.

Last week, in the aftermath of what I consider to be more shameful, and utterly illiberal voting by Lib Dem peers on the Welfare Reform Bill, I wrote this blogpost about my determination to make sure that there was some sort of fightback against what I can only describe as a shameful and deeply worrying dismissal of the democratic will of the party by our parliamentarians.

Fortunately it turns out that there were plenty of others who felt the same way I did. The same evening I was contacted by Gareth Epps, key member of the Social Liberal Forum, member of the Federal Policy Committee and all-round good guy. He'd been contacting some other people and, over the past few days we've worked out a plan of action. On Friday about 45 of our parliamentary candidates from 2010 will send an open letter to Nick Clegg, also hopefully to be published in the Guardian, that will express their concern over the way our parliamentary party has acted on the Welfare Reform Bill.

And then, on Monday, I'm going to be off to the Houses of Parliament to attend a meeting between our parliamentarians and various people who don't agree with what's happening and who want to change our parliamentarians' minds.

It's not possible to undo what's been done so the main aim will be to try and make sure that the House of Commons doesn't undo the spirit of what has been done in the Lords and to make sure that the Welfare Reform Bill is made much fairer. That said, I will also be speaking and, depending on whether they're stonewalling or not, our parliamentarians might well risk getting an earful about what damage the things they've voted for will actually do to the vulnerable people we're meant to be in politics to protect. I'll try and avoid swearing though.

I'll report back on how the meeting went while travelling home on Monday - assuming security actually let me into the meeting in the first place of course ;)

But above all, I'm determined that we will either change some minds at the meeting or we will turn up the volume on our opposition to aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill and to parliamentarians ignoring the democratic principles on which this party was founded. And I doubt that that will give them good publicity at all... ;)

17 comments:

  1. Good man!! Give 'em hell. xx

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  2. Thankyou for supporting myself and other disabled people all over Britain. This #wrb has so many of us running scared--no, terrified--and many of us don't see a future. Already there have been suicides because of the heavyhanded manner in which sick and disabled people have been dealt with in the last year. Even now, staff from the DWP are infiltrating disability activist groups on Facebook, presumably they think that if we can use computers, we can work full time jobs. One such person has already been caught. It seems we disabled are not safe anywhere. We cannot even congregate in cyberspace without being spied upon. However, the #spartacusreport campaign will continue. We are, and will, continue to fight from our sickbeds until we are awarded the entitlements we rightly deserve. We will continue to fight the stigma that would have others believing that our illnesses and disabilities are our fault. The fight will invariably cost many of us our health, and some of us, our lives. But we will never stop fighting, because We Are Spartacus, as is anyone who supports us. You, sir, are Spartacus. Deepest Thanks for standing by and with us.

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  4. Thank you, George. I'm one of the crew that's kind of taken over the Spartacus Campaign because Sue, Kaliya and others are exhausted and ill. I hope you saw my early analysis of the dwp's draft thresholds document, where I posted about the likelihood that if the current proposals aren't amended thousands and thousands of people will lose their Motability cars. The post is at http://janeyoung.me.uk/2012/01/19/thousands-could-lose-motability-vehicles/

    My own case is an interesting example. A couple of weeks ago, after waiting a total of 10 months, I took delivery of a wheelchair accessible vehicle, designed so that I can open the back, deploy the ramp, drive my wheelchair in and then transfer to the driver's seat, by myself. Most of the hefty downpayment for this was met by a grant from the government's Specialist Vehicles Fund (the grant must have been at least £13,000). I should have the vehicle on a 5 year lease, but if I fail to qualify for PIP because I can walk a little (I've quoted the case studies from the dwp document which support this probability) my vehicle will be repossessed by Motability - not because my needs have changed but because the government will have moved the goalposts. This is such a waste of government money (the grant) because the vehicle has been designed around my specific needs.

    This all beggars belief; only this government could think such an outcome sensible!! And the worst thing is, as these issues are dealt with in regulations, they don't even get debated in parliament!

    Thank you for helping my colleagues with ideas for the letter for CPAG; they're diverting onto this because it's more urgent than working on the current PIP consultation. If you want to see the current activity on the campaign website, it's at wearespartacus.org.uk

    Thank you for your support!

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    1. Thanks Jane. Your experience is a really useful example. Mind if I borrow it for the meeting? I promise I won't mention you by name but just use it as a generic example.

      I still can't really believe that our parliamentarians would actually be supporting this if they understood what it really meant and I hope to god we can change some minds on Monday.

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    2. if you want some real life examples George just take a few of the #spartacus stories - over 100 of them here - print a few off and hand them out.

      http://spartacus-stories.blogspot.com/

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  5. oh god, i just cannot believe it, the Liberal Democrats have just voted to abolish the Social Fund. No more Social Fund. This is the absolute last resort safety net for people in very dire circumstances. What the Fuck? And I make no apologies for swearing. This is carnage. George, you just have to rally more people to stand up to those from the party who have utterly and comprehensively lost all ethical and moral perspective.

    I seem to remember Clegg saying - "this is an incredibly important opportunity for those Lib Dems who are in government to show people in the party that they retain the same values, instincts and ambitions; that walking through the door of power does not mean that you lose your soul.”

    well, Nick, seems you and your whipped cronies have become the walking dead after all. deep shame on you all.

    utterly utterly shocking.

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    1. Ugh. I just read about this. I've added it to the list of things to ask them what the hell they're playing at over.

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  6. george, keeep up the good fight - we desperately need it, can't believe what is happening

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  7. WTG George, thank you so much for standing up for what you believe in unlike some others we could mention. We fight the good fight!

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    1. if you want some real life examples George just take a few of the #spartacus stories - over 100 of them here - print a few off and hand them out.

      http://spartacus-stories.blogspot.com/

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    2. That's a brilliant link! Thanks so much! This will be really useful!

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  8. George, I am so glad that you are speaking out. I can't believe what our party is doing to poor children. It is single mothers, disabled people and children who will suffer the most.

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  9. Just to clarify what someone just said, the Social Fund has not been abolished. If you read the Polly Toynbee article which claimed that, then I hope you also read Steve Webb's letter the following day in the Guardian correcting her.

    The Social Fund has been localised and the money given to local councils to distribute. Believe it or not, a party which believes strongly in localism and trusting local government is fairly comfortable localising a benefit which, by its nature, needs to offer fairly tailored support to people.

    Get your facts right, please.

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    1. The central social housing fund has been abolished. The funds from it have been cut and then disbursed to local councils. But there's no requirement for the councils to spend the money on the people the social fund was meant to help and there's no way for the government to even check if they are doing so or to force them to do so for that matter.

      So what that really means is that in some places the fund will be abolished as the council spends the money on other, vote winning things (because people receiving help from the social fund are so politicallly voiceless as to be easily ignored) and in other places it will be preserved minus the cut in funding.

      So Toynbee wasn't strictly correct but the point behind it still stands and I think it's utterly wrong that our peers voted against an amendment to provide oversight on how the disbursed money is spent and to require it to be spent helping the people the money was originally meant to help.

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  10. Soooooo.. What happened? How did it go?

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    1. I'll do an update at lunch time. (12ish).

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