Liberal Democrat critics say Nick Clegg was 'outgunned' in negotiations on George Osborne's Autumn Statement
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 06 December 2012
Nick Clegg has been hit by a Liberal Democrat grassroots backlash for approving below-inflation rises in most state benefits without winning a “wealth tax” from the Conservatives in return.
Liberal Democrat activists claimed their party leader had been outgunned in negotiations on George Osborne’s mini-budget. They said the next £10bn round of spending cuts to which the Liberal Democrats have signed up should abolish winter fuel allowances, bus passes and free television licences for wealthy pensioners.
Mr Clegg is prepared to argue for better-off pensioners to lose such benefits in a government-wide spending review next year. The cuts would not take effect until the 2015-16 financial year, which starts just before the May 2015 election. But David Cameron is unlikely to target pensioners, fearing that would be seen as a breach of his 2010 election pledge to maintain their benefits.
The Liberal Democrats are likely to propose taking away the benefits in their manifesto for the 2015 election.
Clegg allies rejected the criticism from party members, saying he had pared down the Tories’ demands for £10bn of welfare cuts in the autumn statement to £3.7bn and blocked their plans for a freeze in most benefits, an end to housing benefit for under-25s and for state handouts for children to be limited to the first two in a family.
But some Liberal Democrat peers may oppose the legislation to keep the benefit rises below inflation for the next three years. David Hall-Matthews, chairman of the Social Liberal Forum, said the Tory elements of the Autumn Statement had “overwhelmed the Lib-Dem bits”.
He said it was “very disappointing” that the Liberal Democrats had lost the argument for a wealth tax but still agreed to curb benefits to the working poor. Although he blamed the Tories more than Liberal Democrat leaders, he said the result of the negotiations was “not great”.
The Liberal Reform group welcomed some measures in the statement but said: “We would much rather have seen the welfare bill reduced by stopping the numerous unnecessary payments made to those on high incomes.”
Justin Bieber was one of the hardest hit
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...