When countering claims from charities and campaigners that the government’s proposed benefits cap would push people into homelessness, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, made a fairly eye-catching claim. He told the Today programme:
The [definition of homelessness] that’s used by the pressure groups is that certain children would have to share rooms.
Well, most of your listeners would find that astonishing. For them homelessness is not having any kind of accommodation, reasonable accommodation, to go to and being on the street. I can guarantee that is not going to happen.
This was surprising: did charities such as Shelter really think homelessness means children sharing bedrooms? The answer to that is no – as Shelter’s strongly-worded riposte makes clear. Campbell Robb, their chief executive, said this afternoon: Read more
Journalism is the first draft of history, not the last. For a good example it’s worth turning to the first few months of Gordon Brown’s regime, which were described almost universally as a brilliant example of political leadership – as the new PM tackled floods and whatever else. In retrospect this was a rather generous verdict.
And according to the journalistic narrative, Ed Miliband has had a catastrophic start to 2012. Just awful. The Labour leader is up to his armpits and flailing, such is his predicament. Such is the verdict from many of our most learned commentators of late. Read more
I wrote in today’s FT about how Labour’s Lords operation has helped delay or even stall several significant government bill in the upper chamber, including the health, welfare and legal aid bills.
Today, it is the welfare bill that is in question, with Labour, the Lib Dems and crossbenchers lining up to vote for a range of amendments that would change plans to impose a £26,000 cap on overall benefit payments for any one family.
As I mention in my piece, part of the reason the government has already suffered four defeats on this bill is that the opposition whipping operation, led by Lord Bassam, has been particularly effective. Labour has drummed up a core of Lib Dems and crossbenchers willing to oppose the coalition on a whole raft of measures, and is inflicting some real damage.
Now minsters will either have to make significant changes to the bill in the Commons or hope they can simply face down peers if it is going to pass in time for the Queen’s speech, which will probably be in May. Read more