We knew the government had cheated at every stage of the welfare reform bill. First, they utterly whitewashed their own consultation on Disability Living Allowance and lied** about the results to parliament and to the public.
They used made up statistics** to make a case for DLA that simply wasn't accurate.
They tried - in a way never seen before - to rush the welfare reform bill through the Lords before the summer recess last year, despite this meaning peers would have just a few ludicrous days to scrutinise it - they didn't get away with that one.
Then, when peers did return from recess, they took the unprecedented step of holding the committee stage debates in a back room - in Grand Committee rather than the main chamber. For a few nail biting days we weren't even sure if we'd still be able to watch proceedings live or even if the disabled peers would be able to access the rooms!! This is highly unusual for such a large and controversial bill.
When it became clear that the government were going to be utterly slapped down by the Lords, Lord Freud, the Government sponsor of the bill tried to cheat again and sneak through a few amendments to overturn the defeats when everyone had gone home. Again, totally unprecedented.
After 7 - count them - 7 amendments passed (and two measures were accepted by the government in advance AND they made significant concessions over DLA reform) the government simply whipped their members to overturn every one of them and then used financial privilege to make sure the bill didn't go back to the Lords for further consideration!! Guess what? Totally unprecedented For this to happen normally it must be decided before a government are totally humiliated over unsound policies, not after!!
How many times can I use the words "Highly Controversial" or "Unprecedented"? And over one bill? To translate, this Government have ridden roughshod over any thread of democracy we might have thought we still had in the UK. They have treated Parliament and the House of Lords with complete contempt. They've cheated** and steamrollered and sneered their arrogant way through the whole process, believing they were above the law, that no-one would hold them to account, that no-one would notice.
Well we noticed, and we made a fuss and we will hold them to account for every single person hurt by their policies. Every day, week in, week out, every death, every person who loses their home, every family left with too little to buy food, every over-run soup kitchen, every paraplegic declared "fit for work" every cancer patient that dies expected to look for work - we will expose them all.
We tried everything to warn them before it was too late. The great irony is that we played fair. However much they cheated and lied, we kept to the truth, we stuck with evidence. We played the ball not the man. We showed them for what they are.
And just in case anyone thinks "Ach well, it's only welfare, we ALL support using any means possible to give the scroungers a good kicking remember this :
THE NHS BILL AND THE LEGAL AID BILL AND NUMEROUS OTHER PIECES OF LEGISLATION THAT WILL TOTALLY TRANSFORM THE FABRIC OF OUR SOCIETY ARE GOING THROUGH THE SAME PROCESS AS WE SPEAK.
However much this coalition would like us to forget, they have no mandate for these changes. They were NOT in either manifesto, the Conservatives did NOT win a majority and the Lib Dems opposed many of the measures they are now allowing to pass through parliament. None of these changes to Disability Living Allowance were in either manifesto and as everyone knows, nor were the NHS reforms.
Are we going to let this happen? Are we going to give up on democracy altogether? Are we so cynical, so fatigued by corruption that we're just going to sit back with a sigh and give up?
They can carry on living in their little Westminster bubble if they like (and clearly, they will use any means to do so) but times have changed. The world has changed. Now, we can expose their lies in seconds. And we will. And the public will only hate them so very much more in the long run for this arrogance.
**Today, I can use the words "lied" and "cheated" and "made-up" because that's what they did. They lied. And they cheated. And they made things up. To get what they want. All those weeks drafting the Responsible Reform report using words like "misled" and "mendacious" and "inaccurate" made me want to scream when what I knew I was saying and they knew what I was saying was : "You're lying cheats"
So sue me.