Wednesday, 11 January 2012

What the fuck has happened to us?

Tonight the government suffered a massive triple defeat on elements of the Welfare Reform Bill that would have removed support from disabled children and cancer patients and that would have limited to one year the length of time seriously ill and disabled people could receive support for, after which they'd be denied support unless they had a household income of less than £7,500.

While it's brilliant that we won on this, and that the principles supported unanimously by Lib Dem conference in September triumphed in the lords, the fact is that this was no thanks to Lib Dem peers. Only three of them rebelled against the government on the whipped votes and only five of them went against the government even when the had a free vote. What follows is a list of all those Lib Dem peers who betrayed our party, our principles and the most vulnerable in our society:
Addington, Lord
Alderdice, Lord
Allan of Hallam, Lord
Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Lord
Benjamin, Baroness
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Baroness
Burnett, Lord
Clement-Jones, Lord
Cotter, Lord
Dholakia, Lord
Falkner of Margravine, Baroness
Garden of Frognal, Baroness
Goodhart, Lord
Jolly, Baroness
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord
Kramer, Baroness
Lee of Trafford, Lord
Lester of Herne Hill, Lord
Linklater of Butterstone, Baroness
Loomba, Lord
Maddock, Baroness
Mar and Kellie, Earl
Marks of Henley-on-Thames, Lord
McNally, Lord
Methuen, Lord
Newby, Lord
Northover, Baroness
Parminter, Baroness
Randerson, Baroness
Razzall, Lord
Redesdale, Lord
Rennard, Lord
Roberts of Llandudno, Lord
Scott of Needham Market, Baroness
Sharp of Guildford, Baroness
Shutt of Greetland, Lord
Steel of Aikwood, Lord
Stephen, Lord
Stoneham of Droxford, Lord
Storey, Lord
Taverne, Lord
Taylor of Goss Moor, Lord
Teverson, Lord
Thomas of Gresford, Lord
Thomas of Winchester, Baroness
Tyler, Lord
Wallace of Saltaire, Lord
Wallace of Tankerness, Lord
Walmsley, Baroness
Watson of Richmond, Lord
Williams of Crosby, Baroness
I feel so utterly, utterly ashamed about this. What the fuck has happened to us?

UPDATE: Some credit goes to the 44 or so Lib Dem peers who abstained and thereby allowed the opposition to win the votes. But the fact is that there's still no explanation for why they didn't vote against the government on the third amendment where they were specifically allowed to vote however they liked. Yesterday was a dark day for the state of democracy within the party.


  1. Much as you agree with you, on that list appear the names of very, very good people. I can imagine that this must have been very difficult for them.

    I am disappointed that they chose to support the one year time limit despite our conference very clearly voting against it. I suspect that they will argue that the two year limit is just as arbitrary.

    This vote may well be repeated, though, if the Government press ahead with it, so be nice to them and don't burn any bridges would be my advice.

    1. See your first sentence? I'm getting tired of telling myself stuff like that. When does the point come when the line is crossed? When does the point come when we admit to ourselves that, actually, our lot ARE just the same as all the others when they get a sniff of power and we're wasting our membership fees? Because, frankly, I see no point in paying to be a member of a democratic party when the will of Conference is so blatantly and repeatedly ignored.

    2. Now you can see why I got the hell out 14 months ago; and I've noticed you're not alone among those still "in the tent" in thinking the same way. As long as the Party hurtles towards reinventing itself as an economic-liberal party like Germany's FDP or the Netherlands' VVD, it won't be getting my support. No point drinking the Kool-Aid. Stuff 'em. Vote with your conscience.

  2. But it's not an arbitrary two year limit - it's a limit of no less than two years. And even if their behaviour on the time limit is somewhat justifiable, there can be no moral justification for their behaviour when it comes to support for disabled youths and for cancer patients.

  3. I agree George. There are some things that are above towing the party (or coalition) line.

    I've been in countries where there is little in the way of welfare, and the results are horrible...for everyone. The people who need help and everyone else.

    It's all very well for the posh boys calling for an end to this and that welfare payment, but people have to live. And what happens in some countries is that they beg on the streets; you can't move for beggars.

    And I'm not just talking about the East. India is a heartbreaking place to visit, but it happens in western countries which have reduced their welfare facilities.

    I was appalled recently when in Paris after a few years (since 'Napoleon' has been in charge) to see so many beggars sleeping in the streets of November's Paris. It's warmer than it is here but n weather for sleeping rough. These people's welfare is left to charity. And that's limited to soup and shelter in the worst of the weather.

    Yet, the reforms will put people on the street in the UK. Even Boris Johnston is against some of them.

    I bet they are not implemented until after the Olympics.

  4. PS... Shirley Williams... One of my political heroes... dear oh dear.

  5. Look at the record of people like Baroness Thomas and Lord Kirkwood, read Hansard, and then tell me they are worthy of your shame. They are sensible, compassionate people working hard within difficult constraints.

    The two year limit will be reversed in ping pong. Celia Thomas said in her speech she wanted to support a less significant amendment because that would mean it would be achievable, rather than simply being overturned when No 10 dig in their heels.

    I really am sympathetic to what you're campaigning for, but the right focus for your anger is George Osborne who clearly forced this on DWP. He's the one who thinks it's OK to cut the deficit by cutting welfare by £12bn, and to play politics at the same time (like the total benefit cap which saves barely anything but plays well in the Mail). Our peers are working within a harsh political context. Let's not make it harder for them.

  6. More than half of the LibDem peers refused to support the Government through abstention, that was why the votes were lost.

    This means the £2 billion cost will have to be found elsewhere in the Welfare budget.

  7. Or maybe, Anon, they could try persuading some of their friends to pay tax...

    Novel idea, but it's a good one. Although it is easier just to hurt the sick. They don't vote Tory anyway.

    Peers aren't dependent on patronage. They already have £300 a day for life, and a fancy title that gets them the best seats at the opera and people running around fawning over them. That, we were told, was the beauty of the Lords. They did what their conscience told them.

  8. Well done to those who abstained and as for the rest: there are some things which are unforgiveable and on which bridges are worth burning. Such choices, George, are the stuff of politics.


    click next >> mouse over likely key amendments DLA - next tue jan 17th

  10. Angus Carruthers12 January 2012 at 03:02

    Also don't forget the MPs as the welfare reform bill should never have reached the Lords.

  11. For all those trying to justify the unjustifiable, remember this: you may be able to take away our benefits, but there are 12-15m of us out there (ODI figures) and you can't take away our memories, or our votes. I will never again consider voting Liberal Democrat and I am far from the only disabled person who will remember what your party truly stands for, no matter the voice of its rank and file, and who will speak out against you when the time comes. George has my respect for everything he has done for us, pity I can't say that about your elected representatives or Lords, my thoughts on them are unprintable.

    I used to respect the LibDems for standing for what they believed in, for what they believed was right, even if it meant taking a stance that would cost them votes, it's a crying shame to see them reduced to puppets for Tory policy. What's the point in standing for something if when the moment of truth arrives you don't just step aside, but climb up behind those riding roughshod over everything you are supposed to believe in?

  12. I've never seen so many people trying to justify the unjustifiable. The membership is supposedly more powerful than its leaders, Lords and MPs. Conference sets policy. It was why I joined.

    But Clegg is why I left. It was obvious which way the party was going.

    I hate what has happened to the party.

  13. Anon - You mean you hate the fact the party got into government and was able to implement large parts of its manifesto which it had never previously been able to do, as well as stopping a large number of unfair Tory policies? I am not sure all party members would agree that self-righteous, indignant irrelevance would be preferable as you seem to think.

    DavidG - I presume you intend on never voting again? Labour have a far from unblemished record on ESA. It was Labour who introduced the Work Capability Assessment and refused to change it, and which has caused untold distress to people going through it. It was the Coalition who introduced the Harrington reform process and began improving the WCA.

  14. Looks like Lord Freud succeeded in overturning one of the amendments last night..

    1. With the help of 39 LibDems. Including Shirley Williims. What are we coming to?

      Addington, Lord Content
      Alderdice, Lord Content
      Allan of Hallam, Lord Content
      Benjamin, Baroness Content
      Brinton, Baroness Content
      Cotter, Lord Content
      Dholakia, Lord Content
      Garden of Frognal, Baroness Content
      Jolly, Baroness Content
      Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lord Content
      Kramer, Baroness Content
      Lee of Trafford, Lord Content
      Linklater of Butterstone, Baroness Content
      Loomba, Lord Content
      Maddock, Baroness Content
      Mar and Kellie, Earl Content
      Marks of Henley-on-Thames, Lord Content
      Newby, Lord Content
      Northover, Baroness Content
      Randerson, Baroness Content
      Rennard, Lord Content
      Roberts of Llandudno, Lord Content
      Scott of Needham Market, Baroness Content
      Sharkey, Lord Content
      Shutt of Greetland, Lord Content
      Steel of Aikwood, Lord Content
      Stoneham of Droxford, Lord Content
      Storey, Lord Content
      Teverson, Lord Content
      Thomas of Walliswood, Baroness Content
      Thomas of Winchester, Baroness Content
      Tope, Lord Content
      Tyler of Enfield, Baroness Content
      Tyler, Lord Content
      Wallace of Saltaire, Lord Content
      Wallace of Tankerness, Lord Content
      Walmsley, Baroness Content
      Williams of Crosby, Baroness Content
      Willis of Knaresborough, Lord Content

  15. "I presume you intend on never voting again?"

    Thankfully that's for us to decide. We may have to read your sickening claptrap, but you can't tell us how to vote.

  16. 'We may have to read your sickening claptrap' - from this obvoiusly you are not a liberal & never were a liberal - thank you & good night!!!!

  17. who would have thought that the Lib Dem peers listed would prove themselves to be more right wing than Boris Johnson

  18. Anon - I am not sure what makes pointing out a fact about Labour and the WCA 'sickening claptrap'. I was not telling you how to vote (obviously) but raising the point that if you intend to never vote Lib Dem again because of this Bill, then why support any other party? Unless, of course, you have a very short memory.

    The only people who apparently come out well of this are the cross benchers, but of course they don't have to worry about making the sums add up in the Budget.

  19. Jon

    Read your own comment again. I was referring to the claptrap about large parts of the Lib Dem manifesto being implemented.

    And it's precisely because I was a Liberal Democrat for so long that I find it sickening that the party is supporting this Tory government in its attacks on the poor and vulnerable - and that so many spurious arguments are being deployed in forums like this to defend that support.

  20. Jon: I vote for the party likely to do the least damage to the country (and isn't that a hell of a thing for our political landscape to be reduced to). No one party has ever fitted all my concerns, Labour usually comes closest, Lib Dems have always been second choice if tactical voting becomes necessary, but no more, the Greens now fill that role quite adequately. I'm under no illusion about what Labour are guilty off when it comes to ESA, I've written about it, and I've repeatedly attacked Milliband at Where's The Benefit for the views he's expressed about disabled people. But Labour still has pretensions to being its own party, whereas we've seen that the LibDem parliamentarians are perfectly willing to obey the Tory whips, even when mandated to do otherwise by Conference.

    As for Harrington, don't be so quick to claim that as a Coalition triumph. For a start ESA was always to have had an independent reviewer, if you blame Labour for ESA (and however much blame you throw at them, it will be a fraction of the contempt I feel for them over it - amongst other things I've been through the process at first hand), then you have to acknowledge the full breadth of their policies, and Harrington is one of them. Next we have to consider the significant hardening of the WCA qualifying criteria under the Coalition, you can now be, for instance, unable to sit upright, and still be considered fit for work - how many workplaces do you know willing to accommodate someone who needs to work flat on their back? As for Harrington's work, I've probably looked at it closer than most, you'll find my lengthy dissection of his first report at Where's the Benefit, and the deeper you look, the worse it gets. I've worked as a Quality professional, I've been brought in to do independent reviews of how groups are working, and Harrington simply doesn't understand what the role requires of him. Nor can he be considered independent, his conviction that 'work is good for you' riddles the report, no matter than for many disabled people the reverse is true. And when he turns his back on the very people who have been through the process and dismisses their experiences as 'well, they would say that, wouldn't they', then the value of his report becomes all too clear.

    You say the Coalition are improving WCA, perhaps you can explain how leaving 700,000 disabled people, acknowledged by the state as too disabled to work, with no support after 12 months, or even 24, is an improvement? Lord Freud appears to think an automatic miracle cure kicks in at the 12 month mark. I'm 23 years into one disabling condition, 5 years into another, and I don't even have clear diagnoses yet, never mind hope of a cure, a situation which is far from unusual. In fact we've specifically given up on hunting for a cure, what I have is where I'll stay, and what is true for me is true for hundreds of thousands of other disabled people, no matter how much Lord Freud and his cohorts at DWP may pretend otherwise.

    And if the aim of Coalition policy is really to get disabled people into work, then answer me this: why are there no major initiatives directed at the employers when they openly admit to discriminating against disabled applicants (no matter it's illegal)? Why has Access to Work funding, which supports any extra costs of employing disabled people, been slashed when it actually turns a profit (about £1.40 per pound spent IIRC) for the Treasury via the income tax received as a result?

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