Quite simply, lies?

One of these things is not like the others.

“We will keep the winter fuel allowance. Let me take this opportunity to say very clearly to any pensioner … You know you are getting letters from the Labour Party that say the Conservatives would cut the winter fuel allowance, would cut the free bus travel, would cut the free television licence.

“These statements by Labour are quite simply lies. I don’t use the word ‘lie’ very often, but I am using it today because they are lies.

David Cameron, March 23rd 2010.

“We will protect key benefits for older people such as the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel, and free eye tests and prescriptions.”

Coalition Policy Programme, May 2010.

“…spending Mr Duncan Smith wants to pare back includes £2.7bn of winter fuel payments, a universal benefit paid to the over-60s that Mr Cameron made a conspicuous pledge to keep in the election campaign and coalition policy manifesto.”

The Financial Times, today.

23 Responses to “Quite simply, lies?”

  1. Chris Paul

    Indeed. And of course the Lib Dems’ promises are dust. The free bus passes promise (if maintained rather than sacrificed to the lie that “it’s all worse than we thought”) will come at the expense of BUS ROUTES, other CONCESSIONS e.g. scholars, FLEET investment, and EARLY/LATE SERVICES. In other words they will cut the overall budget but protect (or not) one particular.

    This will happen over and over and over again.

  2. Red

    “The coalition didn’t promise anything” is the line I get from LDs and tories alike.

  3. Liam Murray

    The first two are directly attributable and the third is an unsourced comment from Alex Barker in a newspaper article, an article full of gems like:

    “according to people familiar with the negotiations.”

    Of course that’s the very sort of thing you’d have been wonderfully acerbic about 6 months ago Hopi but I guess the rules changed now. Fair enough I suppose….

    • hopisen

      You’re quite right about the sourcing, which is why I’ve asked any Lobby Corr going to follow up this story by phoning up No 10 and asking PMOS to go on the record restating govt commitment not to cut the WFA at all.

      Hopefully one of them will. I expect they’ll get a non-denial denial if they do.

      Anyways it’s clear from the Iain Martin story in the WSJ on Sat, and from the FT today, that somebody, somewhere is briefing this story that Cameron is willing to back down on his pre election pledges.

      Who they are, I don’t know, and that’s a real shame. I’d much rather No 10 was put on the record about this.

      Sadly, I can’t do it.

      • Liam Murray

        Fair enough. My point remains though – anonymous briefings & their consequences were tittle-tattle before 6th May whereas now….

        On the substance the issue here is universality. As Polly T points out regularly she still gets her WFA which is absurd; I’m quite relaxed if the government is looking at genuine need here.

      • hopisen

        Well, there’s two issues.

        The first is the fact that Cameron got mildly hysterical when accused of precisely this policy during the election campaign.

        Here’s himin the Mail –

        “‘We will keep what we inherit in all these areas.
        ‘All these things that Labour are saying are complete and utter lies, and they know it too.

        ‘Get the leaflets and show them to Government ministers and see what they say about them.

        They are appalling people and the sooner they are out of government of this country the better.’ ”

        Whatever the merits of the policy, his hypocrisy if he has now agreed to this policy change is a real issue.

        Second, ont the actual policy, the Universality issue is indeed the key one. The WFA last year cost £2.7 billion, which is the amount mentioned in the FT story.

        I doubt that the govt would cut the whole thing, because that would be suicidal, but to make any significant saving in that amount it’d have to be significantly cut back for an awful lot of pensioners.


  4. NightJack

    I guess over the years Labour has got used to a mechanical type of government with rigid policy lines enforced by dour polyester suited thugs from the Midlands consituencies. There was a culture where to be dissent without being in possession of a +3 Cloak of Bullying was to be cast out into the darkness, spat out, spun against and marginalised. There can be no other explanation for conflating punt of IDS and word of DC as the same thing.
    Senior politicians now disagree and publicly fight their corners. Haven’t seen that for a while. Maybe it is a good thing. Lord knows between Thatcher and Blair, cabinet government was stamped into the dirt awful hard. Personally I like to see these modest signs that it is returning,

    • hopisen

      Sorry NJ, but that’s wonderfully panglossian of you.

      Look at this way, why do you think someone, presumably close to IDS, is briefing journalists that Cameron is willing to back down on pre-election pledges?

      This is a fight between ministers being carried out, in part, through behind the hand briefings to favoured journalists. It’s not reasoned cabinet government, it’s using the press as a bank shot to help get the advantage in a big policy tussle.

      • Liam Murray

        “It’s not reasoned cabinet government, it’s using the press as a bank shot to help get the advantage in a big policy tussle.”

        …and that didn’t concern you for the last 4 or 5 years because…?

      • hopisen

        It concerned me to precisely the same degree as it does today – it’s a sign of internal tension, disloyalty and disagreement.

        I tend to get frustrated when the focus is on personal, who said what to who and who had a strop clashes (a la Mr Rawsley’s books), which underplays the significance of the policy disagreements they’re rowing about. I don’t care if IDs doesn’t like Osborne. I care if they disagree about benefits policy.

        NJ is right about one thing, this is a classic Whitehall battle, which we mere mortals are only getting the merest glimpse of.

  5. NightJack

    Well, you know, I’m on the hoof and off the cuff quite a bit but its nice to see them debating, even if it is via briefing. Let a 100 flowers blossom.

    I predict that the Coalition will play the “Oh my word, when we made that promise we had no idea that things were so bad” card (again) with a side order of “Why do we give this benefit universally…not needed by people with castles and moats..keep it for those who really need it” garnished with “Can’t leave these debts for our children”

    • stephen

      I’ve nothing against proper debate within the Cabinet. But surely there is no room for debate on a matter where the Prime Minister made what appeared to be a cast iron promise less than 5 months ago which was then documented in May. Either the Prime Minister is so weak that his authority disappears after 3 months in power or he is treating the elctorate with contempt.

      Personally, this is another sign that Cameron is following the “social conservatism” model for getting elected pioneered by Dubya, for those who remember Hopi’s previous postings on the true nature of Cameron’s politics.

      • NightJack

        “Either the Prime Minister is so weak that his authority disappears after 3 months in power or he is treating the elctorate with contempt.”

        Its not either or, it could be both and lots of other stuff as well. Thats one of the hallmarks of messy, complex, contradictory real life situations.

        It could also be that the coalition government are having to examine benefit spending at the margins (such as heating allowances to millionaires to choose an obviously extreme example) with a hope that cutting out giving our money back to those who do not need it will allow them to preserve the ability to give it out to those who do.

        Its pragmatic but no more so than the Golden Rule or the Fivefold Test and all the other hocus pokery drawn veil like over the ravening maw of PFI. I’ll take pragmatic over dogmatic.

  6. Nick Evans

    A cynic would suggest that the Tories have no intention of cutting these particular items, but are merely raising them now so that they can row back later and therefore show the electorate that:
    (a) Labour left the economy in such a bad state that even these items had to be looked at, but
    (b) the coalition is so keen on fairness that they couldn’t possibly cut things which would hit poor pensioners hard, and
    (c) it just goes to show that nice Mr Cameron is a man of his word; when he says something’s safe, it’s really safe, however
    (d) something else will have to be cut harder.

  7. Liam Murray

    Did they concern you to the same degree? My recollection is that you dismissed such stories out of hand when the subjects were Balls, Mandelson, Darling etc. but perhaps I’m wrong…

    Regardless, Cameron’s pre-election hysteria was addressed to the charge the WFA would be scrapped entirely which was then – and remains – a baseless smear. Is there an implication it wouldn’t be touched at all – an implication now contradicted by sources close to IDS? Yes, clearly but such is campaigning & government – EU referendum anyone?

    • hopisen

      Actually the hysteria was generated by the suggestion it might be cut

      :- read the Mail article I quoted.

      In any case, I find the Coalition’s new defence that their pledge to “protect” the Winter Fuel Allowance leaves it open for them to cut it drily amusing. (See the Joe Murphy story in new post)

      I’m sure you’re outraged by that Orwellian use of the language…

      • Liam Murray

        Outraged? Nah…. just weary. See, us independents know governments of every stripe use language like that.

        The faux outrage is the perogative of you partisans (until such times as you find yourself back in office of course). I could dig out our exchange from c18months ago when I warned you you’d be celebrating anonymous briefings & gossip should Cameron land in No.10 but I’m sure you recall it anyway….


  8. Jill

    I like universal benefits. They’re cheap to administer and they make taxpayers feel as though things are ‘fair’ – even when they aren’t. They are oil on the troubled waters of welfare. I’m also against slash and burn cutting and, oh and blah and blah the Coalition smells and all that jazz. But if everything that isn’t necessary has to go, why did Cameron promise to maintain winter fuel payments for people in work just because they’re over 60? They’re not pensioners. Ditto bus passes. Ditto free scripts. Do I recall this is something to do with human rights and gender equality? Frankly, much as I detest this administration, I can’t see who could argue with a partial cut: “older people” benefits to be universal TO PEOPLE OF STATE PENSION AGE.


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