Monday, 13 February 2012

Plan of action for #WRB Lib Dem fightback

I'm still, ahem, not best pleased about Lib Dem MPs voting overwhelmingly (46 to 6) in favour of the Welfare Reform Bill and its devastating cuts to disability benefits.

And I really don't think that many grassroots members are happy either.

So, here's the plan for Liberal Democrat Spring Conference (9-11 March).

The first step is to submit the following emergency motion to conference. This is the draft version and I'm currently about to begin work on getting sufficient support for it for it to be able to go forwards (the rules mean that either ten reps or one statutory associated organisation have to sponsor it):
Emergency Motion to Censure the Parliamentary Party

Conference notes:

1. That policy motion F6, including a call for “Liberal Democrats in Government to oppose an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can claim contributory ESA [Employment and Support Allowance]”, was passed unanimously by Autumn 2011 Federal Conference.
2. That, on 01/02/2012, Lib Dem MPs voted, by a margin of 46 to 6, to reject a House of Lords amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB), which raised the contributory ESA time limit to a minimum of 730 days.
3. That, as a result receipt of contributory ESA will now be time limited to a maximum of 365 days.
4. That the DWP Final Impact Assessment (16/02/11) of this time limit shows that 280,000 of those removed from contributory ESA will be ineligible for income-related ESA.

Conference believes:

1. That, by voting against Lords amendment 17, Liberal Democrat MPs were voting for an arbitrary time limit.
2. That this contravenes the spirit, as well as the letter, of policy motion F6 which stated that “It is the duty of a compassionate society and government to provide the necessary support for those who are unable to support themselves.
3. That the collective impact of the PLDP’s voting on the WRB is to show disregard for the will of conference and its role as the democratic and sovereign policy making body of the party.

And, therefore conference resolves to:

1. Censure the PLDP for their collective voting record on the elements of the Welfare Reform Bill relating to disability and sickness benefits.
2. Expresses its dismay at the continued inclusion within the Welfare Reform Bill of an arbitrary time limit that will penalise long term sick and disabled people for having a partner who works.
3. Criticise the PLDP for ignoring the will, and undermining the constitutional position of, conference.
Unfortunately, there's only enough time at conference for one emergency motion to be debated and the one that gets debated is determined by a vote of the reps in the conference hall. Given that opponents to the NHS reforms are more organised than those of us opposed to the WRB, in all probability it will be an emergency motion on the NHS reforms that gets debated. I still hope that my emergency motion will be chosen for the debate but we have to be realistic. On the bright side, the presence of the emergency motion in the conference papers will hopefully bring the issue to the attention of a few more party members.

But the real area where I'm hoping to kick up a fuss is on the official report by the parliamentary party. This includes a question and answer session at 9am on the last day of conference.

Here I intend to get in contact with like minded people and follow a three stage plan:

1. Get a formal question submitted to the report (submission deadline in early March) which will have to be replied to by the parliamentary party.
2. Get conference attendees to ask questions about the cuts to disability benefits during the Q&A session.
3. Move for the report by the parliamentary party to be rejected by conference - this will, if nothing else, ensure a brief, public debate about the Welfare Reform Bill and give the issue some much needed media attention.

Quite frankly, I can't think of anyone who can genuinely justify taking all support away from 280,000 long term sick and disabled people just because their partner earns more than £7,500 a year and I'm sure that most conference reps would be vehemently against our parliamentarians on this if given the chance of a proper debate.

Unfortunately, a proper debate is going to be very hard to get at this conference. This is because a) the vote in the House of Commons happened after the deadline for submission of non-emergency motions to conference and b) because the constitution has a rule that any subject can't be debated at conference if it's been debated in the past two years. This rule is utterly incompatible with the nature of being in government and it's something that can hopefully be changed at autumn conference - but in the meantime I've got to work with the methods that are available.


If you want to help right now then the Welfare Bill is back in Lords tomorro, meaning that it's the last chance for the Lords to help disabled children and ESA claimants.

So please sign Pat's Petition by Tuesday to tell the Lords to keep fighting for disabled people and carers.

Pat herself has said "As a severely blind person, I am sick of the way this government is treating disabled people, going against everything the Lords, and campaigners, have fought for by hiding behind financial privileges. I hope that on Tuesday the Lords will continue to fight on our behalf."


  1. I think you might have misunderstood our constitution, George. Federal conference determines policy, but that doesn't mean it can tell our MPs how to vote or mandate elected representatives. Article 2 of the constitution is explicitly clear on that point.

    I agree with much of your point about cuts to benefits, although personally I think Lib Dems have done a good job up against the Tories, who would slash the lot if they could.

    My fear is that all this motion will do is feed a press narrative of 'Lib Dem splits' (the press don't care about the substance of the splits, they just want to say we're split and therefore weak) and not do anything to further the cause for sick and disabled people.

  2. And there it is.

    "My fear is that all this motion will do is feed a press narrative of 'Lib Dem splits' (the press don't care about the substance of the splits, they just want to say we're split and therefore weak) and not do anything to further the cause for sick and disabled people."

    Preserve your party, no matter the cost.

    George: thank you for your continued efforts. I know you prefer constructive criticism, but I'm finding it a bit hard when I see your fellow party members expressing views like that. Does morality or conscience not enter into this? How low will the LibDem party go? Destruction of the NHS, too? It's looking that way.


    P.S. "although personally I think Lib Dems have done a good job up against the Tories, who would slash the lot if they could."

    It's the way he tells 'em.

  3. Ben, I'm prefectly aware that conference can't mandate our MPs - but, on an issue, which wasn't in our manifesto, the tory manifesto or the coalition agreement then them voting completely against the will of conference, against party policy and for an unmoderated tory proposal is completely unacceptable. That's what I think anyway and I hope conference will agree with me. Especially when it's about our MPs being complicit in slashing support for the most vulnerable in society.

    1. Well done George but suggest caution here as I think 'Ben' may well be a 'plant' on your blog.... It does happen as you really don't know his identity...


  4. The time limit on ESA is not the main problem. The problem is that the Atos disability tests are not fit for purpose. To be paying a company £100 millon a year to carry out assessments that then require over £50 milion in tribunal costs to put right is absurd.

    These tests are known to be deliberately designed not to reflect a person's true illness or limitations, the doctors are not specialist and nurses are used to assess conditions outside their skill level.

    The tests must STOP.In a democratic country how can any government implement a policy it KNOWS is leading to the deaths of vulnerable people? Just in recent days we hear of a psychiatric patient only just released from hospital who slit her throat on receiving another Atos assessment letter. And a man found fit for work who then promptly died of a heart attack. There are many cases like this.
    MPs must realise they carry responsibility for allowing this state of affairs to continue. Ask Danny Alexander. He said they were finding hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled peole wrongly fit for work just before the election on the BBC Scotland documentary Who's Cheating Who? Lib Dem Mps have a duty to hold him accountable for this.

    This is more important than the time limit. Those who are too ill to work should be in the Support Group, where this would not apply.
    The Wrag group should be what it was supposed to be - "may" be able to work at some point in the future with treatment and/or support. Limiting all conditions to one year in the Wrag is patently ridiculous and was not the original inention of the legislation.
    Do Mps have any idea just how long it takes to even get to see a Consultant, have appropriate tests and get a diagnosis, never mind treatment? This time limit is assuming that all happens overnight.
    It can take months just to see an appropriate specialist and then months more to get tests such as scans etc.
    Many people are being found fit for work, before they have even had a chance to get a diagnosis.The death toll is mounting and Parliament will eventually be held accountable.

    1. However bad you think it is... it's worse.

      Check out: for the evidence of the relationship between the DWP, Atos & UNUM Insurance.

    2. Not to be confused with other 'anonymous' people onthis blog :) Mo

  5. "Preserve your party, no matter the cost"

    Well, when the cost is being unable to influence government policy because of the navel gazing noise generated by stories of splits, then yes party unity matters.

    As for morality and conscience, I think you need to get off your high horse. Politics is about making very difficult decisions. Spending £2bn on ESA may seem 'moral' to you, but that money has to come from somewhere in the DWP budget. Would you rather it came from poor children perhaps, or disabled people able to work, or impoverished pensioners on Pension Credit? Which is the 'moral' answer?

    Of course you can dodge the question and argue about HS2 (deferred expense, generating investment) and so on. But that wasn't a question which our parliamentarians could tackle in the WRB. They had to make £12bn of cuts. I actually think that those on contributory ESA who have another source of income or savings are better able to bear this than other places where £2bn might be saved from a Department which spends a huge amount of money on sick, disabled, poor and old people.

    We can agree to disagree, but it's those kinds of decisions which define politics.

    1. Ben. I'm afraid I've ended up writing a blogpost in reply to your comment. Please read it here and apologies in advance for having vented my spleen at you.

    2. Link:

    3. BEN - I suggest THAT money comes from ALL the UNPAID corporate taxes owed to this gvt...


  6. Thanks George and take it from me the libdems will never ever get a wiff of powere the way they have betrayed the sick and disabled so enjoy it while you can whilst I prepare for Kristalnacht

  7. Ben. You are an ignorant fool. I have voted Liberal or Lib Dem all my voting life (since 1983) . I will NEVER do so again. Your party has betrayed the sick, ill, disadvantaged, and the weak, all for a litte taste of power. The Tories have used your party. They are laughing at you. They KNOW that using you like this will destroy your party for the foreseeable future, possibly for ever, because people like me will never forgive your party for the disgraceful way it has behaved. I will laugh my head off watching the Lib Dem party be anihilated in the coming years because you lot deserve everything coming your way.

  8. Short of refusing to vote through the disastrous Welfare Reform Bill and the NHS Bill, the Lib Dems are toast. Yellow Tories, R.I.P.


I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

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Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

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