At business questions this week I raised the government’s track record of avoiding scrutiny. On the European arrest warrant, on the Agricultural Wages Board and now on plain packaging of cigarettes, instead of trying to win the argument they just try to avoid having it altogether.
Last week, the government rejected our request for a debate on plain packaging in the Commons chamber, and this week we can see why. A majority of Tory members of parliament failed to vote in favour of this common sense measure to protect public health, including eight ministers, three members of the cabinet and even the Tory deputy chief whip.
Does it not say everything about today’s Tory party that a majority of its MPs are more interested in the rights of global tobacco companies than the health of Britain’s children?
Next week, we will have the charade of the chancellor’s pre-election budget, and it is clear that the real omnishambles is George Osborne’s record. He has broken every promise and missed every target he has ever set himself on the economy. For the first time in nearly 100 years working people are worse off at the end of a parliament than they were at the beginning. Not only would Tory plans cut public spending back to pre-war levels, the reality would be extreme and dangerous cuts of up to £70bn.
To meet their target, a Tory government would have to cut spending on day-to-day public services by significantly more than they will admit, and pay for it by raising VAT or cutting the NHS. Tory plans would also mean that we would have the smallest police force since records began and the smallest army since Cromwell.
There are just a few days left of this Parliament and I can see that William Hague is eagerly counting them down. He has led his party, he has toured the world, he has become best mates with Angelina Jolie. However, in a rather disappointing end to his glittering career it seems that Conservative party headquarters has got him doing its e-mails. This week, in a message to Tory Members, he warned of the dangers of entering government on the coat tails of a small party that does not keep its promises. He should know quite enough about that already.
It has not been a good week for the Liberal Democrats either. They have been embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal, but the country is mainly just in shock that anyone wants to donate any money to them at all. Julien Huppert has apparently been sending leaflets out in his constituency that spell the word ‘failure’ incorrectly. I would have thought that every single Liberal Democrat would know how to spell that.
Angela Eagle is member of parliament for Wallasey, shadow leader of the House of Commons and writes the weekly Business of Parliament column for Progress. She tweets @AngelaEagle
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