We don’t often link to the Telegraph on Red Brick. But the sting operation against leading Liberal Democrats has had a focus on one of our favourite topics – housing benefit.
So here is what Business Minister Ed Davey actually said to the undercover reporters on this topic. Hear the tape here.
“Well, their housing benefit cuts, for example, which are going to mean in my view if they go through that some people on the breadline will be put below the breadline. And that’s just deeply unacceptable. There is (sic) five changes to housing benefit, and there are two which I find are unsupportable. One which will come in in 2010-13 where if you were unemployed for 12 months and you still were passing the working test which is actively seeking work – to get jobseekers allowance, which is about £80 a week, something like that, so you can eat you will have to show that you are looking for work…… I don’t understand why you are on the breadline, you’ve been trying to look for work, you’ve been passing all the government tests, and you’re suddenly going to have your rent, which is your highest cost, your help with that, taken down by 10 per cent. No logic behind that whatsoever…. We spend too much on it. It’s pushed up rents and landlords, rich landlords, are getting their pockets filled. So the system doesn’t work, but I don’t think you kick people when they’re down.”
Contrast that with the pugnacious and ever so slightly pompous Mr Davey’s attack on Chris Bryant and Boris Johnson on BBC’s Question Time in October for using the word ‘cleansing’ to describe the housing benefit changes. He said:
“Chris and Boris Johnson should apologise. The language they are using is appalling and I think it is scaremongering and I think their analysis is completely wrong. And I’ll tell you why it’s appalling. I have Kosovan asylum seekers in my constituency who really were ethnically cleansed ….. what is being proposed is nothing of the sort, you should use temperate language and have a moderate and grown up and adult debate…. People will find that 790,000 social homes in London will be completely unaffected. They will find that the vast majority of housing benefit recipients across the country will be unaffected. And yes there will be some but we have increased massively the fund that will assist if there are problems to £140m. And even those people who will be affected, they will be able to find that up to a third of private rented sector homes in London still affordable under housing benefit. Now I’m afraid you are being factually wrong and pandering to people’s sentiment when we’re actually putting in a sensible policy….. The real issue here is that we are proposing after all these changes the state will still subsidise up to £20,000 a year rent in the private sector – £400 a week”.
A few facts
– Many social tenants will be affected by the 10% cut in jobseekers allowance, uprating benefits at less then RPI, and the increase in rents for some tenancies to 80% market rents
– The £21,000 a year cap is irrelevant to most private tenants. Many more will be affected by the 30th percentile rule and the overall benefits cap of £26,000
– The ‘vast majority’ of private tenants will be affected, as the government’s own figures now show.
As an aside, Ed Davey’s rage about the use of hyperbole about cleansing looked synthetic at the time – after all, Lord Turnbull said Gordon Brown was Stalinist – but it looks even odder now that Vince Cable has called the government ‘Maoist’. It seems that comparisons to genocidal maniacs are more common that we think.
We’ve observed before that the more the government accuse the opposition of scaremongering, the more likely it is to be true. Below the breadline…… kicking people when they’re down. Mr Davey’s real views deserve to be heard, and should be acted upon.
Even Ebenezer Scrooge finally repents. If the LibDems stand up for their principles, they might just get to play the part of the ghost of Christmas yet to come.