education,  Lib Dems,  The Coalition,  Tories,  UK Politics

Milk Snatching and An Outbreak of Principle Amongst LibDem MPs


It is difficult to know how much more symbolically crass Tory health minister, Anne Milton could have been by suggesting that free milk for play-school children be abolished. Maybe turning-up at an Alderaan Survivors’ convention dressed as Darth Vader?

(Although, as Brendan Montague observes, her parsimonious attitude towards assisting the growth of children’s teeth and bones does not extend to her parliamentary expenses… sorry… allowances which directed £13,000 for “research” by her already-handsomely paid NHS doctor husband.)

Pipping Milton to the post for most crass Coalition statement since the last one, David Cameron last week suggested that security of tenure for social housing should be abolished; and fixed-term periods of as little as five years introduced.

The Guardian reported that within 24 hours of this statement, cold-calls were being made by housing officers in Tory-controlled Kensington and Chelsea to intimidate suggest that tenants with a bedroom too many move to smaller properties.

Yesterday I had the distressing experience of agreeing with Nadine Dorries MP who came out against Cameron’s proposals. Although, with the war of attrition being waged against EDMs in support of homeopathy by LibDem MP, Julian Huppert I have every hope that she returns to her previous klaxon wail of deranged nonsense.

The tales of single people living in spacious houses are not entirely apocryphal. I am one of them, with a bedroom too many after taking over tenancy from my mother as she moved in with her partner: our family has lived in this property since 1993. In the next street, there is an old dear whose husband of 60 years recently died and who has a four bedroom house left-over from family days.

Both our properties are kept in far better condition than some other single-occupancy properties I could care to mention. I would be intensely disappointed if I were required to move, but it is something I could adapt to. I do not know if my neighbour would be so springy.

Other unpalatable cases of affluent council tenants have included Frank Dobson MP, and one of the foremost Black politicians of our generation, Lee Jasper. These definitely do come across as egregious, but legislation based on single cases is generally bad legislation.

The rationale is, of course, a real concern, with shortages in social house for all and not just families with children currently living in cramped accommodation. Yet, even if the proposals were not applied retroactively, it would take years or decades for any effect to be seen: and this would be but of handful of properties.

This is not taking into account the diminishing of the concept of social housing where, if one could expect not to remain beyond five years, little sense of pride and common-ownership would be encouraged. We social housing tenants do not own our properties, but have foregone this advantage for security and a duty of care from the State. If we loose our jobs, for instance, we do not have to worry about falling beyond on payments (unless housing benefit is reduced) and being evicted; after which we would have to look for social housing.

Long-term schemes such as building addition properties are required instead of Tory soundbites. In other circumstances I might have said that this would appeal to a vacuous Islington-set which thinks the country is there to entertain it, and is delighted now to let their inner Tory come-out with the Coalition. Yet, 27 current LibDem MPs – including two cabinet ministers and eight other government ministers – have signed an EDM opposing the proposals; with support coming from 10 former LibDem MPs.

Strange days.