Please listen to the political song and broadcast below:
Intriguingly I read in the press that Nick Clegg has set out the first demand that the Liberal Democrats would make if they were asked by Ed Miliband to form a coalition government with Labour: “Don’t break the bank.”
His words are likely to annoy the shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, who would challenge any suggestion that government finances would be unsafe in his hands. They will please Labour MPs and many grass-roots Liberal Democrat activists, however, showing that the Deputy Prime Minister is making public overtures to Labour, while accusing the Conservatives of having changed “dramatically” – for the worse.
In an interview to be broadcast on Monday night on BBC Radio 4, Mr Clegg said: “There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank.”
He implied that the Labour Party now looks more like a potential party of government than it did three years ago. He said: “I think they’ve changed. I think there’s nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others is realising that it might have to.”
Mr Clegg also suggested that the Liberal Democrats are finding the Conservatives increasingly hard to deal with. He claimed: “The Conservative Party has changed quite dramatically since we entered into coalition with them. They’ve become much more ideological, they’ve returned much more to a lot of their familiar theme tunes.
“I think it would be best for everybody if the Conservative Party were to rediscover a talent for actually talking to mainstream voters about mainstream concerns.”
The Liberal Democrats have suffered a run of disastrous opinion poll findings, and their candidate in last week’s Wythenshawe by election lost her deposit, which suggests they will lose seats in next year’s general election. But they have a track record of holding on in places where they have a strong presence, as they demonstrated when they won to Eastleigh by-election after Chris Huhne resigned.
Here the famous song that Nick Clegg did which really cuts no ice with anybody:
Here are a few examples of the work practices of the LibDems working in partnership with their bedroom partners Conservatives:
Can somebody remind us who help to push through the dreaded zero hour contacts?
Well if you are not sure then look no further as many can tell you it was the Conservatives bedroom partners:
The government has run out of ideas and failed to tackle the scourge of zero-hours contracts, unions and the Labour Party claimed yesterday.
They sounded their warning as Business Secretary Vince Cable prepared to launch a consultation on the controversial contracts but ruled out an outright ban, claiming they offer “welcome flexibility” for some workers.
Mr Cable insisted the contracts had a place in the labour market even though there had been evidence of abuse.
The 12-week consultation will include the possibility of banning “exclusivity contracts” which offer no guarantee of work and stop people working for another employer.
Mr Cable said: “A growing number of employers and individuals today are using zero-hours contracts. While for many people they offer a welcome flexibility to accommodate childcare or top up monthly earnings, for others it is clear that there has been evidence of abuse around this type of employment which can offer limited employment rights and job security.
“We believe they have a place in today’s labour market and are not proposing to ban them outright, but we also want to make sure that people are getting a fair deal.
While business groups welcomed the announcement and the decision against a ban, union leaders said it showed the coalition was “desperately short on solutions.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The growth of zero-hours contracts is one of the reasons why so many hard-working people are fearful for their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, in spite of the recovery.
“But while the government has identified some of the problems faced by those with zero job security it’s desperately short on solutions to curb the use of these contracts.”
GMB national officer Mick Rix added: “This snail’s pace reaction to what is clearly an urgent problem will not bring any Christmas cheer to exploited low-paid workers on zero-hours contracts and similar contracts offering employment insecurity.
“It is regrettable that the government is not outlawing the use of zero-hours contracts even though it admits there is abuse.”
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “Ministers have failed to act on this worrying rise in zero-hours contracts.
“Having spent months saying they will investigate, all that has emerged is a consultation on proposals which do not go far enough to tackle exploitation and bad practice.”
Oh dear me another reminder who helped the conservatives to implement the dreaded Bedroom Tax again. If you want further reminder then look no further:
LET’S hear it for David Nuttall, the only Tory MP with the guts and rhinoceros skin to match to attend the debate on Ian Lavery’s bedroom tax Bill and vote against it.
The Bury North MP was the lone voice opposing Lavery’s Housing Benefit and Universal Credit in the Social Housing Sector Bill while 226 voted in favour.
Unfortunately, the Bill has no chance of becoming law because the massed ranks of Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs will be deployed against it.
The conservative coalition that voted as one to cut income tax for the richest 1 per cent will display similar unanimity in supporting the government’s dishonest and brutal tax on some of the poorest people in Britain.
Two-thirds of those affected are disabled, which explains the mass booing of George Osborne last summer when he had the front to turn up to award prizes to Paralympic competitors.
The tax is dishonest because it is based on the false premise that tenants can downsize to smaller properties and refuse to do so.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) reported last year that 180,000 tenants were “underoccupying” two-bedroom homes while only 70,000 one-bedroom flats were available.
In fact, the idea of underoccupation is faulty since it takes no account of the circumstances in which households live, especially when one or more members has a disability.
Had the government been seriously perturbed about a shortage of larger properties being available for families, it would have agreed with housing campaigners that there should be a concerted initiative to build council homes.
The same applies to the very real dearth of one-bedroom accommodation needed by growing numbers of single homeless people as well as those living in homes too big for their needs who would like to downsize.
The Tories and Liberal Democrats have not considered personal circumstances or personal wishes.
They have hunted for ways to dispossess people in social housing and to impose punitive taxes on them as part of an austerity agenda designed to further skew the division of national income towards the rich minority.
The tax has had the effect its opponents forecast before pro-government MPs pushed this measure through Parliament.
It has claimed the lives of tenants driven beyond despair to commit suicide. Others have been plunged into severe depression as the result of escalating debt and the threat of eviction.
According to the NHF, two-thirds of households affected by the tax are now in rent arrears while one in seven have received eviction risk letters.
Labour has pledged to repeal bedroom tax legislation if it wins next year’s general election.
In Holyrood, the Scottish National Party government has said that it will fund the £50 million bedroom tax shortfall, effectively axing the tax in Scotland.
The Department of Work and Pensions admitted last month that a legal loophole meant that social housing tenants who had lived in their homes since January 1 1996 and claimed housing benefit since then would not be subject to the bedroom tax.
It has since announced that this loophole will be closed as of March 3, but the writing is on the wall for this unjust measure.
The bedroom tax has so many similarities to Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax, not least in the nature of its victims and their inability to pay up even if they chose to.
The sooner it is killed off the better.
Here is another Tory policy in partnership with the LibDems voted:
The government’s assault on the poor includes abolishing council tax benefit. This is just as pernicious as the bedroom tax but has received less publicity. It came in on May 1.
Prior to this, council tax benefit was means-tested and administered by local authorities.
If you were on employment and support allowance or jobseeker’s allowance, or your income was at that level, you received 100 per cent council tax benefit, leaving you with nothing to pay.
Slightly higher incomes were means-tested, so that you could still receive some council tax benefit.
In place of council tax benefit, the government introduced a “council tax-reduction scheme.”
The name suggests lower council tax bills. It is nothing of the sort.
It is simply a subsidy from government to local authorities to replace council tax benefit.
But the big difference is that the “council tax-reduction” subsidy is only 80 per cent the amount that a local authority used to receive in council tax benefit.
So claimants who were receiving 100 per cent council tax benefit now only have 80 per cent of their council tax bill reduced, leaving them to pay 20 per cent. Around two million people are affected.
The difference between 100 per cent council tax benefit and 80 per cent council tax reduction is £400 million – that’s the amount cut by the government.
It never ceases to amaze me how this government can believe that someone who receives what the state decides is the bare minimum required to survive – and pay for food, heating, lighting and other essentials – can suddenly be asked to find extra money from that subsistence amount.
Jobseeker’s allowance was not calculated to include a 20 per cent contribution towards council tax, just as it was not calculated to include the bedroom tax.
The government’s intention is to blame local authorities for this cut.
By simply giving local authorities a pot of money equivalent to 80 per cent of the amount that they used to receive in council tax benefit, it can claim that if local authorities pass the 20 per cent shortfall onto each council taxpayer, that is their choice.
The government can say that local authorities could choose to reduce council tax by 100 per cent – on a means-tested basis – but have decided not to.
Of course, it is a fake choice. If a local authority decides to retain 100 per cent reduction of council tax, it will have to find the extra 20 per cent from its budget. So will be looking at making cuts elsewhere.
It falls to local authorities to collect council tax, and so we are suddenly back to the days of the poll tax.
Brent and Southwark councils have each issued thousands of applications for liability orders in the magistrate’s court, predominantly against people who previously received 100 per cent council tax benefit and are now being asked to find £2 to £5 per week towards council tax, even though their other benefits have not increased accordingly.
The method of challenging a council tax bill is immensely complex.
Each local authority has its own “council tax-reduction scheme,” which it should publish on its website.
That scheme sets out how the council tax will be reduced, on the basis of means-testing etc.
If you receive a council tax bill and you want to challenge it, you have to check your circumstances against the scheme published by your council.
If the council has got your details wrong and you should be entitled to a higher reduction, first of all complain to the council.
If the council refuses to change its decision or fails to reply within two months, you appeal to the valuation tribunal.
The appeal can only be on the basis that the council has wrongly applied its own scheme and your circumstances mean that you should be entitled to a greater reduction under the scheme.
The tribunal will not hear appeals arguing you cannot afford to pay the council tax.
Each council must also operate a council tax discretionary relief scheme or council tax hardship scheme and details should be in the published council tax-reduction scheme.
These are little-known provisions which give councils a discretion to reduce council tax liability in particular circumstances, usually applied to war pensioners or the very seriously disabled.
These discretionary relief schemes can help in the short-term to reduce council tax bills for those in real poverty.
If you simply can’t afford to pay your council tax but are not entitled to discretionary relief and you can’t argue that the council misapplied its own scheme, then you will eventually receive a summons to the magistrate’s court so that the council can obtain a liability order.
There are some technical arguments here – is the amount on the summons the correct amount, has the council applied the right time limits?
But, again, if the only reason why you are not paying your council tax is because you can’t afford to, the magistrate’s court has no discretion but to make a liability order. Poverty is not a defence.
In many ways, this is the new poll tax. Its aim is that everyone, even the poorest, should contribute to council tax.
It is implemented by local authorities – which may or may not have agreed with the cut depending on their political composition – and so local authorities take the political blame.
But, unlike the poll tax and much more like the bedroom tax, it is a tax on the poor.
It is a tax on people who were previously assessed as being so poor that they should receive 100 per cent discount on their council tax, through council tax benefit.
Garden Court Chambers, where a colleague work, has launched Legal Action on Council Tax.
The website contains detailed legal information as to how to appeal to a valuation tribunal and what happens when you are summonsed to the magistrate’s court.
No legal aid is available and so applicants have to represent themselves. Our hope is that the dissemination of information will give applicants the tools to make the argument and do just that.
Perhaps the best hope is that, like the poll tax, the collecting authorities and the courts will become so overwhelmed that government has to give in.
I’m sure many will continue to remember that the LibDems continue to vote for cuts to Legal Aid remember: