The government faces a pincer movement from an array of opposition parties to its “bedroom tax” tomorrow with the potential to expose splits within the coalition over the controversial plan.
It’s a taste of how Gordon Brown’s “umbrella coalition” could have worked had the defeated prime minister been able to cobble together a desperate union of Labour with the Celtic fringes and the solo Green MP back in 2010. (No one, including those involved in those half-hearted talks, has since mourned their failure.)
The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens will use an opposition day motion to call on the government to abolish its “unjust and unworkable” housing under-occupancy policy.
This, you may recall, docks housing benefit from families who are not using every bedroom in their home; the idea is to incentivise them to move somewhere smaller and free up space for more needy people.
Ed Miliband has called it “a symbol of what people hate about this government” as incompetent and out-of-touch. “We said this policy could never work unless there was a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation,” the Labour leader has added.
Tomorrow’s motion will argue that there is “growing public anger” about the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax. It will cite DWP figures suggesting that 63 per cent of the 660,000 claimants affected by the new levy were disabled. (There is also concern that it could affect families with sons away in the military in Afghanistan, for example.)
What will be interesting, however, is whether the Lib Dems turn up en mass to support their Tory partners over the issue – or whether they will skulk away, perhaps arguing that they are needed down in Eastleigh. A few have already criticised the policy, including Scottish MP Mike Crockart.
Those behind the motion are clearly aware of this angle, saying in a statement: “This is a test for those Liberal Democrats who know this is wrong but have until now compromised their principles to stay in power.”