Tim Farron to vote against the bedroom tax tonight

A source close to the Lib Dem president says he will vote against the government after party members "expressed their will very strongly against the Bedroom Tax".

The Lib Dem revolt against the bedroom tax is gathering steam. Andrew George and Charles Kennedy have already announced that they will vote in favour of Labour's motion calling for the repeal of the measure and I've just learned that party president Tim Farron will be joining them. 

A source close to Farron told me:

At our recent Conference, the members expressed their will very strongly against the Bedroom Tax. As a result he will probably be voting against the the government tonight. Tim, as President, is the voice of the party members, they have expressed their view and Tim wants to make sure that their voice is heard.

As well as being morally right, Farron's decision will help to maintain his popularity among the Lib Dem grassroots, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion at their autumn conference calling for "an immediate evaluation of the impact of the policy" and for "a redrafting of clear housing needs guidelines in association with those representing vulnerable groups including the disabled, elderly and children". 

The motion also argued that, until new guidelines are in place, there should be no withdrawal of housing benefit from those on the waiting list for social housing and that there should be an exemption for those who "temporarily have a smaller housing need due to a change in their circumstances, but whose need will predictably return to a higher level (e.g. whose children will pass the age limits for separate rooms within that period)".

Farron has previously defied the Lib Dem whip on tuition fees, the NHS bill and Secret Courts, a voting record that will do him no harm should he run for the leadership in the future. 

Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron speaks at the party's spring conference in Brighton on 10 March 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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