I began Business of the House Questions by congratulating Eleanor Laing on her election to the position of deputy speaker. I noted that it’s unusual to see a Scottish Tory getting elected to something!
I continued by raising the government’s plans for funding social care. At their conference the Tories claimed that no person would be forced to sell their home to pay for care. But during the debate on the care bill in the House of Lords, these grand claims have been exposed as empty PR posturing and the truth has finally emerged. Older people will only get help if they have less than £23,250 in the bank. I asked Tom Brake (who was standing in for Andrew Lansley) to arrange for Jeremy Hunt to come and explain the huge disparity between the Tories’ claims and the reality.
I followed this up by highlighting David Cameron’s continued confusion over his own policy on marriage tax breaks, a policy which will only benefit a third of couples. Nick Clegg has made his opposition clear. I asked the deputy leader of the house if he would be voting for the policy when it comes to the Commons! Or will it be just another example of the Liberal Democrats saying one thing and then doing another?
I raised the now notorious Lib Dem pre-election promise to vote against any increase in tuition fees. Tom Brake signed the NUS pledge before the election and then later voted for an increase in tuition fees. This week Nick Clegg has made another Lib Dem pledge on tuition fees. He’s promised not to increase them to £16,000. I asked the deputy leader of the house whether he would be signing this new pledge.
I observed that the ‘save St Helier Hospital’ campaign appears to be run out of Tom Brake’s office. I asked him to clear up any confusion and confirm that he is actually a part of the government that is closing the hospital! There is a pattern of Lib Dem behaviour here; Tom Brake is campaigning against himself on St Helier. Nick Clegg is campaigning against himself on library closures forced by government cuts in Sheffield. And now they’re ready to sign up to a new pledge on tuition fees! The more they protest, the more we see right through them – you just can’t trust the Lib Dems.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
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