Monday, 28 July 2014

Senior Lib Dem blasts Tory ‘demonisation’ of poor

Lord Paddy Ashdown has criticised Conservatives for demonising the poor and making welfare reforms harder to implement.

The former Liberal Democrat leader made the comments at the Chartered Institute of Housing south west conference in Torquay on Friday ahead of the beginning of universal credit today (Monday).

Lord Ashdown said it was ‘distressing for Liberal Democrats’ that some were looking to demonise the poor.

He said: ‘When you are in coalition you can’t necessarily control the words used by another party.’

He added: ‘The demonisation of the poor, which has been going on there is no doubt about that, is extremely unhelpful to the nation and very unhelpful in getting through these changes which I think are necessary and helpful to the country.

‘And we will continue to fight that and continue in this government to restrain [the Conservatives] from doing things that are either damaging to those that least able to bear the burdens or infringing our civil liberties.’

Lord Ashdown, however, defended the government’s welfare reforms.

He said: ‘If you were to express the welfare changes about the feckless poor that’s not what they are about and I object to that and every Liberal Democrat does as well.

‘What we are trying to do is build a welfare system that gives the individual far more choice, far more power, the moving towards an individual package on welfare under the control of the individual.

‘I believe you should always try to give people a hand up before you give them a hand out.’

The government’s universal credit begins today with small number of payments in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester. Under universal credit, a number of benefits including housing benefits are scrapped and replaced with a single payment made direct to the household. Further pilots in Warrington, Wigan and Oldham will start in July ahead of a roll out of the scheme nationally over four years from October.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Iron Fist

    "The demonisation of the poor, which has been going on there is no doubt about that, is extremely unhelpful to the nation and very unhelpful in getting through these changes which I think are necessary and helpful to the country".

    In other words Paddy, you feel if the Tories had used nicer language then these changes would still be justified. What a plonker! I'm sure it would be a great consolation to the people they affect had the Government used nicer terminology!! Your party are a bunch of political turncoats who sold out principles of social justice for a whiff of power. Please don't try and act the part of the saving angel of the poor now.

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  • Actions speak louder than words - and the LibDems (and New Labour especially in the form of Liam Byrne) have shown that their actions would be no different than those of the Conservatives. The only difference being that Call-me-Dave and his ugly crew don't bother to hide their contempt for and dislike of poor people. Including (perhaps especially) those they have made poor by reducing wages, employmenr rights and public services.

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  • Absolutely ditto to Iron Fist
    Meantime, the Lib Dem leader was on Sunday TV doing the divide and rule smearing e.g. 'Better-off' pensioners should give back their benefits because it's 'not fair' to hard working families.

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  • Perhaps better off MPs, MEPs, Lords and civil servants could start that ball rolling.

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  • michael barratt

    Last week, a middle class professor gave advice how the poor could eat on £12 per week - where are we heading? Maybe on the road to the Polish ghettos where Jews received an official ration of 800 calories, the Nazis knew that this was not enough to sustain life and those without things to sell went hungry and eventually died of starvation.

    According to the Mail On-Line 28th September 2012 the average weekly shopping bill was £77 up m £5.60 on the previous year with food prices in the UK twice the EU average.

    BBC online 29 November 2011 stated that: “Across the UK, figures from 2008 to 2010 show that households in London had the highest weekly expenditure of £577.80, followed by south-east England (£523.20) and eastern England (£493.40).” According to those statists, average household expenditure in London was in excess of £30,000 per year whereas the Condems have capped benefits for a family of two adults and four children to a maximum of £500 per week (January 2012).

    The Condems are fully aware that the welfare caps they have implemented will lead to despair and the breakup of families especially in London and the South of England - do you think they really care?

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  • This is great electioneering by the Lib Democrats because at the subconscious level they need to make the public feel they are the Tories constraint so at the next general election they are not wiped out.

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  • Paddy Backdown ( because he sold out the miners) was one of the Lib
    Dem Lords who voted for privatisation of our NHS.He has no moral
    compass for social justice.

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  • The Lib Dems have supported the government in all it's cruel measures and the campaign against the poor otherwise they would not have got through parliament. Same applies to flexible tenancies, MV80 rents - supposedly affordable, ATOS etc, etc, etc,

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  • Ernie Gray

    The main issue is not the unemployed poor, whether they are shirkers or not. The level of funding towards pensioners and the effective ring fencing based upon the promise made by the Prime Minister in the lead up to the general election is the elephant in the room.

    When are any of the political parties going to actually start the debate on the way in which funding to older people who have strong occupational pensions, yet still benefit from non-means tested benefits either directly or indirectly.

    The issue of welfare reform has to be balanced across all areas. The current issues with the Reformation of Disability Living Allowance are another issue where the most vulnerable are being targeted.

    It is laudable to see that Paddy Ashdown is making these comments may be he is acting as Nick Clegg's voice free of government, but the real truth is, despite all the rhetoric that certain groups within the welfare reform system are being treated differently.

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  • Sorry - anyone taken in by these comments aren't thinking straight.

    Lib Dems voted through policy that ia unfair and won't work.

    You can be in any party and be right or wrong...........

    Lib Dems aren't holding back the worst of any policy they are at the front leading the change.

    The demonisation of the 'poor' was predictable but Lib Dems stood by and allowed it to happen.

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