“Complete and Utter lies”

The Winter Fuel allowance is now a major story.

This is probably entirely egomaniacal, but I do sort of feel that I’ve some minor role in this. I’ve been banging on about it for days, and yesterday it turned into a proper story as journalists followed it up.  This is clearly all down to me going “Oi, look at this” on my blog, and nothing at all to do with journalists working their sources and getting real stories out of it.

Anyway, some developments. Labourlist have fished out the video of the Cameron Press Conference where he talked about the Winter Fuel Allowance.

It’s worth paying attention to the last question.  I think it’s James Langdale asking the question. Transcript is below.


Cameron :…Stop his candidates from lying about Conservative policy. Glad I got that off my chest, it’s something I feel very, very, strongly about.

Q:  Just to be clear, you will keep benefits, but you will not change them in any way. You will not means test, you will not change the criteria?

Cameron: We will keep what we inherit in all of those important areas. All of the things Labour has been saying are complete and utter lies.

Pretty Definitive, and it comes pre-clipped for handy repeated play on 24 hour news.

Compare and contrast to today’s Telegraph:

“The Daily Telegraph has learnt that ministers have resolved to increase the qualifying age for the annual payment from 60 to at least 66. Talks are under way about an even bigger rise.

The basic winter fuel payment, made to more than 12 million people, will also be cut by £50 for new recipients and £100 for the oldest.”

As Nick Clegg said this morning, this is all irresponsible speculation (Pause for wry smile from veterans of Labour years). Quite right too.  This sort of quiet briefing was bad for Labour and it’s bad for the Coalition too.

The only way to stop it is for some sort of definitive statement to be made, as it was with the School Milk story. I suggest that No 10 could quell this speculation with eleven simple words.

  “What the Prime Minister said in March is still true today”.  

Alternatively, If David Cameron really feels so “very, very, strongly” about this, perhaps he should have a word with the government, so they know they’re on the wrong track?

He is, after all, the Prime Minister.

23 Responses to ““Complete and Utter lies””

  1. Liam Murray

    Your tone is such that it’s sometimes hard to spot irony on here but to the extent that you did have a hand in pushing this up the agenda a genuine well done!

    Quick observation – there’s two stories here:

    (1) Pre & post election pledges on the WFA and the extent to which the coalition are reneging on them now.

    (2) The substance of the debate – universality etc. and I see the IPPR have an interesting post today on the need for the left to consider that seriously.

    I won’t begrudge you your fun with (1) but can you promise thoughts on (2) as well?

    You’ll have to take me at my word here but I genuinely believe it’s too early to land significant blows on the coalition based on (1) – there’s too much good will (or ill will towards Labour) and even if it ends in a 180 degree turn – which it’s looking like – Cameron will recover from that. That’s why Labour need to be seen to engage with (2)….

    • Brian Hughes

      With 1,722 days to go before the next GE, it’s too early to land significant blows on the coalition based on anything. But you wouldn’t deny us some fun in the meantime would you?

      • Liam Murray

        Not at all Brian – it’s August so by all means take your sport where you can find it!

        I’m worried for Hopi though – I suspect come the CSR in the autumn he may well actually explode with indignation….

  2. hopisen


    I’ll come back to the Universality issue, as you’re quite right, it’s an important one and also one where devil is in details.

    However, I would say one thing about your point one. It would be extremely bad for politics if by forming the coalition, the parties involved can then say that all their previous promises, passions and beliefs can just be ignored.

    David Cameron, six weeks before becoming Prime Minister, told us that the idea that he would authorise cuts to the Winter fuel allowance outraged him to his very core.

    This must surely have meaning. Otherwise, nothing any politicians says means anything, as long as they have formed a coalition.

    Now all politicians allow themselves wriggle room. That’s fair enough. the Tories did precisely this on VAT, Labour did on NI. So to a certain extent it was Caveat Emptor there. You can at least see the wriggle room if you look – though problematic, this is understandable.

    But when the leader of a political party thumps the lectern to tell us that the very idea he would consider a proposal to cut a specific programme is a lie, and a deliberate and malevolent lie at that…

    Well, surely that has to have some significance?

    • Liam Murray

      I don’t want to trot around that argument we always have about partisanship again so I’ll try & be brief.

      OK yes, I can see the issue here. Cameron was quite clear he wouldn’t stand on one leg and now he’s saying well, actually I might stand on one leg for a couple of days a week.

      I suspect my reaction is similar to the reaction many ordinary people will have – “politicians eh? can’t bloody trust them as far as you could throw ’em”. But the context of that promise – and the charge that elicited it – was a fierce election campaign. Labour didn’t leaflet people saying “If the Tories get in they’ll look closely at the principle of universality and so some wealthier pensioners might not get their winter fuel allowance” – if they had his denunciation would have been equally subtle. They said – without any evidence – the Tories will scrap this and as I write in 18th August that’s still not government policy and I’ll bet you a pie & a pint it never will be. The charge was overblown, baseless and dramatic as was the refutation – move on.

      For that reason I don’t buy the notion that this goes beyond the wriggle room all parties use. Pretty sure you won’t agree with that but that’s my thoughts….

      • hopisen

        “They said – without any evidence – the Tories will scrap this”

        Actually, No.

        They said that some pensioners WFA might be at risk. Read the mail story that I gave you a link to yesterday that actually quotes the letters Cameron was complaining about.

        and lo, it came to pass (or might do, for we are not being given answers by our masters)

  3. Liam Murray

    Fair enough – he’s stretching the wriggle room principle to it’s limits then. His OTT denunciation certainly wasn’t – “we’ll never look at any aspect of this, they’ll be preserved exactly as they are currently”.

    Like I say I think your partisan glasses are lending this more weight than it bears.

    • Edward Carlsson Browne

      “Cameron: We will keep what we inherit in all of those important areas. All of the things Labour has been saying are complete and utter lies.”

      That seems pretty unambiguous to me. He is suggesting that there is no truth whatsoever in any of the allegations, that all but very minor elements of the program will remain unchanged.

      That doesn’t appear to match the reports we’re getting now, which suggests that he has reneged on that promise.

      When you describe something as a ‘complete and utter lie’ you go beyond mere denial. You suggest that there is absolutely no truth in such an account. And that takes away pretty much all your wriggle room.

      • Page With A View

        Cameron purposely didn’t answer the question ‘…you will not change them in any way?’ Instead, he said: “We will keep what we inherit”

        Labour already planned to raise the minimum age for WFA to 65 for all pensioners in 10 years time so aren’t we just quibbling (like most cuts) about how soon it’s done?

        As for the £50/£100 cut in the amount of WFA, it just moves it back to more affordable 2008 levels – before Brown increased it in a pre-election giveaway/bribe.

        What all parties should do is leave the ages well alone but means test it for well off pensioners – if you don’t need it, you don’t get it.

  4. douglasmclellan

    Hopisen: “It would be extremely bad for politics if by forming the coalition, the parties involved can then say that all their previous promises, passions and beliefs can just be ignored.”

    What about when the two parties have different policies on the same issue. Should you instead not be noting the fact that these changes are pretty much in alignment with Lib Dem manifesto positions?

  5. stephen

    If any LibDem MPs had any backbone, or political savvy, they would be making clear their support for Cameron’s publicly stated position, rather than leaving all the lobbying to IDS and/or Osborne.

  6. Newmania

    It was the Sen wot won it !!! Well done .

    ECB you are not following the plot , when New Labour decided to print their leaflets they had no grounds for suggesting the Conservative Party had plans to ditch WFA . In suggesting they did ,they were therefore lying .Simple
    Hopi , do be a sweety and clear this up by either producing the secret plan or admitting same ? . The class war leaflets contrasted the supposed benevolence of the Conservative Party to millionaires ‘like Cameron’ and vindictiveness to poor old people ..usual stuff .
    Cameron would not rule out reforming these benefits they said . Meaningless literally , but the implication was that the cuts were pencilled in . They were not and unless you are suggesting they were Hopi , what are you saying ?

    In fact said leaflets were just another part of the class war / scorched earth policy New Labour adopted under Brown in his bunker days .Fantasy spending was promised in marginal seats and the country mortgaged even further .New Labour could promise any spending they liked and deny any taxes they liked spend borrow and ruin leaving a wreck behind them .
    The Oldster scare story was cooked up , like others before it ( See 97 pensions scare ) so activitists could go at get core old dears out of bed to vote .

    It had no basis in reality expect New Labour’s knowledge they had bankrupted the country and so nothing could in reality be ruled out

    Frankly the headline “ Fawning Blairite Outraged at Political Dishonesty” is beyond parody so we need not bother to much about high principles . What does concern me is what is going on within the coalition for such a clear attempt to embarrass Cameron to surface

    • stephen

      “Cameron would not rule out reforming these benefits”

      So why did he address his statement in the debate to “any pensioner”

      You may wish to continue to mangle the English language to suit your purposes, but it is a bit rich to accuse Hopi of fawning when continue to engage in such contortions to support whatever your lot are saying this week.

      It is possible to support a political party without agreeing with all its pronouncements. You can even demonstrate loyalty, and be respected by your opponents, just by staying silent when it says something you disagree with.

      • Newmania

        Stephen I was referring to this exchange between Tony boy Hopi Sen and Liam ( I- have -considered all- sides- so- I must-be-right ) Murray

        Liam -“They said – without any evidence – the Tories will scrap this”
        Hopi -Actually, No.
        They said that some pensioners WFA might be at risk. Read the mail story

        I looked up the actual wording of the leaflets and in fact the New Labour leaflets only said that Cameron would not rule out reform This formation ,taken literally , means nothing at all . Of course the point of it was to suggest that there were actual plans ( or why mention it ?)
        This was not true , the leaflet was just the invention of some Oxbridge Labour propagandist told to stir up class war , someone ,I daresay, not unlike Hopi . The only thing New Labour knew was that nothing could be ruled out because they had bankrupted the country .

        Well if you invent things then you are lying are you not so its one or the other ?

  7. Quietzapple

    Just love all the sillier type of innumerate tory who invariably picture piggy banks and post office counter staff when they “discuss” economics …

    Osborne will want to make his stamp as he views Brown as having done in that earlier “project.”

    This could be His issue when he makes to wrench more control from Chameleon, especially with the Lib Dem’s manifesto commitment to cutting winter fuel payments to the 60 – 64/5 year olds.

    He has always had a narrower view of how he and Dave should be doing their orc-style mimicry of Brown and Blair.

    And he hasn’t done anything utterly stupid out side policy making since …. the GE campaign!

  8. roger alexander

    A bit like Blair’s promise of no increase in university fees or how about Brown’s promise of ‘no more boom or bust’?

    In any case Cameron’s pledge was for a Tory governement,as you should know with a Coalition government compromises have to be made.

    • stephen

      So the Prime Minister is justified in breaking his previous promise because he wanted to compromise with the LibDems. Have you any evidence that the LibDems are pressing for the PM to break his previous undertaking?? Or will that be the next lie perpetrated by the Tories?

      • Newmania

        Stephen whilst I enjoy your ire no end haven`t you forgotten the geography here .By reforming universal benefits the coalition will be making the effect of cuts more progressive .
        IDS may well want to argue that in straightened times the first thing to suffer must be the middleclass welfare state .Its an easy line to sell but hardly one Conservatives are comfy with

        University Fees , Child benefit and , in many cases , WFA.- This is left wing stuff

        All of us who stumped up for these transfers into our child rearing stage eg. have been ripped off by the state but it was Brown wot dun it
        Even Hopi has allowed that he is actually quite pleased with this direction .I can assure it will put enormous pressure on Conservative MP`s from their core support .

  9. stephen

    It may be the case that benefits should be more targetted – and I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is that this isn’t what was put to the electorate or what was promised by the Prime Minister or in the coalition agreement for that matter.

    It may well be more efficient to increase tax rates than play around with universal benefits anyway – if we want to introduce policies that were not put before the electorate.

    Yes circumstances change – but they haven’t changed fundamentally since the Election.

  10. Newmania

    It was put to the electorate by the Lib Dems and in the context of New Labour talking about investment versus cuts and both Parties denying the inevitable rise in VAT narrative escaped reality entirely .

    VAT is the only heavy lifting option and it is going up as well . Its tax rises and cuts Stephen and let us once again remind ourslves we got into this mess by listening to people like Hopi Sen and you

    Perhaps a lttle humility might be in order ?

    • stephen

      Perhaps Newmania could explain what this Government has a mandate to do and what it doesn’t have a mandate for before lecturing us all on humility. At present he appears to be prepared to justify anything. Are we still living in a democracy or do we have an elected dictatorship that can now do whatever it wants without any reference to previous promises/commitments?

      It is rather arrogant and lacking humilty to tell us that there are only certain options are available – hints of TINA I’m afraid.

      • Newmania

        You surely jest ? No tax rises , no tuition fees , clean and open government and do you recall …no Gordon Brown ?
        At best we live in an elected dictatorship a fact New Labour exploited to the utmost by ditching the “New” keeping “Labour” and imposing high tax rises and spending cuts on furture voters by handing the Nations government to its creditiors not to say the EU.
        The Dictatorship we are living under is the unelected socialist clown show we just dumped but whose long poisonous plume blights the efforts of the govement we actually elected


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