Liam Byrne launched Labour’s campaign on the ‘bedroom tax’ today, while Helen Goodman, who was the Labour minister responsible for the party’s own attempt at cutting the housing benefit bill when in government, raised the cut at Education Questions today. Tory MPs groaned a little. Michael Gove pounded the despatch box, and shouted ‘this is not a tax!’ and Labour MPs groaned back.
But behind the scenes, I understand that far from groaning, Conservative MPs have been lobbying the Prime Minister on this particular cut, which comes into effect on 1 April. At a Downing Street lunch for a number of Conservative MPs recently, David Cameron received a bit of a bashing from those worried about a number of specific problems with the cut which relate to carers, armed forces families and couples whose disabilities mean they cannot share a bedroom.
James wrote about these lunches at the weekend, explaining that they’re part of the Tory leadership’s attempt to assuage their own MPs’ fears and make them feel a little more loved. But those at the lunch were a little cheesed off by the PM’s response, which was to say that he hadn’t had such problems raised by his own constituents. One grumbled that Witney might not be quite the same as the areas represented by Cameron’s colleagues. It’s not clear whether the lunch made much of a difference to the feeling among backbenchers that they’re not being listened to by their leaders.