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  1. Politics
4 August 2010

Simon Hughes goes to war over social housing

Liberal Democrat deputy leader attacks government plan to end council homes for life.

By George Eaton

David Cameron’s unexpected plan to end council homes for life hasn’t gone down well with Simon Hughes. Speaking to Paul Waugh, the Lib Dem deputy leader declares that the ideas put forward by the Prime Minister “in no way represent the policy of the coalition and certainly do not represent the policy of the Liberal Democrats”.

As the policy wasn’t included in the coalition agreement, Hughes has every right to attack it. Indeed, when the proposal was previously floated by Labour ministers, the Tories set themselves against it. As recently as April, a party spokesman told Inside Housing that the party had “no policy to change the current or future security of tenure of tenants in social housing”.

Unless Cameron beats a hasty retreat, we can expect this issue to make waves at the Lib Dem conference. As Hughes suggests:

I’m sure that Liberal Democrats from all over the country will look forward to discussions with our coalition partners over these proposals and fully expressing their views. Labour floated this idea and quickly withdrew it because it had been badly thought out.

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I doubt that Cameron will lose any sleep over Hughes’s comments. After all, he previously warned George Osborne not to raise VAT — “the most regressive tax” — but swiftly fell into line after the Budget.

This said, Hughes, who has so far publicly defended the coalition, could yet become a lightning rod for wider Lib Dem discontent. The test now is how the more outspoken members of cabinet, notably Vince Cable, respond.

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