23 Jan 2012

Party lines, halls and mirrors on welfare

The Tories aren’t exactly “braced” for defeat in the Lords over the benefit cap as some reports suggest. I think it would be more accurate to describe their posture as “on their knees praying for it”.

They know there’s massive support for the cap amongst voters and that there’s the added prize of possibly painting their political opponents as on the wrong side of public opinion. 

Labour’s posture (see previous blog) is a pretty excruciating back-bending exercise.

The Lib Dems are trying to pull off one of those dangerous exercises in politics when you let your rebels have a bit of licence, even lend them one of your valued loyalists in the form of former Party leader Lord Ashdown.

But the plan is that the rebellion doesn’t get out of hand, doesn’t drown out the overall message to voters that the Lib Dems support the overall cap and doesn’t persist too long after Nick Clegg unveils his hard-won concessions.

The concessions, not yet finalised, were nodded towards by Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith in interviews yesterday and today. The Lib Dems want and expect to be conceded “transitional funds” to ease the pain of the new policy for deserving causes. Who decides the discretionary payments – councils or DWP – and on what terms is all still to be crunched. 

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