On the 12th November, the Labour Party used one of its opposition days, to debate the so-called Bedroom Tax, which reduces the amount of Housing Benefit paid to council house tenants deemed to be under occupying their homes. It was generally reported that the Labour Party won the debate, although not the vote. As I finished my article on Rachel Reeves’ interview on being tougher than the Tories, I decided to watch the debate on Parliament TV, hoping that in the light of the Labour Party’s unequivocal commitment to repeal this measure, she could reshape the the debate on welfare and establish a position of compassion.
Annoyingly, there are no bookmarks on the streaming technology, so you’ll have to skip or go through Questions to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, which is not an edifying experience. He really is a slimy, mendacious and corrupt shit. (I wonder if UKIP can get him!)
Reeves speech was not great, she took a number of interventions, many from the Labour Benches and was only quoted from her interview about being tough once; she was lucky. The heavy lifting was done by her back bench colleagues.
This isn’t a great debate, there are one or two good speeches; most of the speeches from the Government benches are poor, and some of the Tory speeches are just plain nasty. The bedroom tax impacts the disabled, impacts only the poor and there’s nowhere for people to move to. It’s hard to see what arguments might be put in its favour. A combination of it can’t be afforded, we’re clearing up Labour’s mess and Labour local authorities make it worse, don’t cut it. While Governments has done nothing, for decades, about increasing the number of affordable houses, the Tories have always, at least since 1979 sought to ensure that social housing was privatised and remained so.
To my mind the best speech was made by Stephen Twigg, Labour’s previous shadow spokesman on Education. I supported his dismissal from Labour’s front benches, but this speech was good; perhaps he just had the wrong portfolio, or maybe he’s just a better backbench MP than shadow minister.