Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson has apologised for backing draconian welfare cuts while in coalition government with the Conservatives, admitting that her party were “wrong” to support cruel policies like the ‘bedroom tax’.
Jo Swinson was grilled by Andrew Neil over her record in government and challenged on whether austerity measures were a “necessary evil or terrible mistake”.
Charities and welfare rights campaigners have blamed a decade of benefit cuts for pushing millions of low-income households into poverty, leaving many dependent on help from food banks.
Jo Swindon told the Andrew Neil Show that the Liberal Democrats were wrong to back the bedroom tax, adding that the Party “should have stopped it”.
“It was not the right policy and we should have stopped it”, she said.
“I am sorry about that and it is one of the things we did get wrong.”
But Ms Swinson argued that the Liberal Democrats had successfully blocked the Tories from introducing even harsher cuts, that were later enforced by the Tory government after 2015.
Pressed further on her voting record, Ms Swinson said the Liberal Democrats had “won many battles” with the Conservatives, but argued that “some cuts were necessary”.
However, she also admitted that the coalition had got the balance between cuts and tax rises wrong and was now committed to scrapping the bedroom tax, as well as reversing cuts to Universal Credit and ending the two-child limit and controversial benefits cap.
“Clearly too much was cut, clearly not enough was raised from taxation”, she said.
“And certainly the investment should have kicked in earlier in terms of more borrowing for capital investment.”
Responding to Jo Swinson’s comments, SNP candidate Pete Wishart said: “Despite Jo Swinson’s best attempts to dodge her shameful record when in government with the Tories, the reality is communities across Scotland will not forgive or forget the Lib Dems for their active part in inflicting austerity on the most vulnerable people in society.
“Rather than recognising and unequivocally apologising for the devastating impact austerity has had, the Lib Dem leader instead said the policies were ‘necessary.’
“That is shameful and it is little wonder the party is trailing in the polls.”
Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”).
Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.
Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
Consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support.
Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.
Almost always voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.