The great Lords-Commons standoff
Today, of course, the House of Lords gets to decide whether George Osborneâ€™s controversial tax credits curtailment plan will go forward. Because of the way this is being pursued through Parliament, as a statutory instrument, this is a rare occasion when the Upper House can, if it wants to, block a major part of government policy.
If this had been part of a finance bill then the House of Lords would have had no power to stop it. It is the parliamentary process that George Osborne’s team have used that has created this possible crisis between the two houses.
In the build up over the past few days we have seen quite a number of Conservative voices raised against the policy of their own government. The latest to join is Ruth Davidson the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
If the Lords do block it it will be in the face of threats to create 100+ new CON peers in order to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. I don’t buy it.
A problem for ministers is, as the latest YouGov polling finds, that they are not winning the argument on the issue itself. The pollster found 46% said they thought this was unfair with 28% saying it wasn’t. The rest don’t have a view.
My reading of George Osborne is that following his Omnishambles budget of 2012 the last thing he wants to happen is for him to have appeared to have U-turned. His ratings took a lot of damage 3 years ago but he has slowly recovered his position.
One thing’s for certain: When Osborne runs for the leadership of the Conservative Party then what happens over tax credits will be a key part of the campaign.