Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wow, wow, wow, unbelievable...

Having been a keen supporter of the WOW petition from the start, I was hoping to get to London today. Unfortunately I wasn't able to and as I was busy couldn't follow proceedings too closely. When I checked in the morning it was to read snippets from the marvellous John McDonnell MP and all those of his ilk with any integrity and to see pictures of a disgracefully empty House of Commons. There was a similar poor showing for the Pat's Petition and Bedroom Tax Debates so I thought I could predict what would happen next. The MPs who care about disabled and sick people would tell their important stories to the handful of Coalition MPs who had been ordered to show up block their ears and spout the party line, and suddenly the chamber would fill for the vote, which would be won by the government. The best we could hope for, I thought, was an increase in the abstentions and rebels, so the majority was reduced.

So I was astonished when  I looked on twitter just after the vote to find my timeline full of people saying "the ayes have it". I wasn't the only one to be asking incredulously "have we won?" It was a moment of collective disbelief that this petition that so many of us have worked so hard on, not only got to  the House of Commons but was actually PASSED. And then the joy followed, we won, we won, we WON! And we won in a week where the WCA reassessments have been suspended and Atos are pulling out, and in a month where religious leaders have united in condemning the government for taking away the safety net.That's very good news indeed.

Of course, when you look at what happened, it's not a perfect victory. The house was empty for the majority of the debate, and it seemed today the government's tactic was to not even try to defend the indefensible. BUT, two years ago, this government pulled every despicable trick to whip reluctant MPs to vote for welfare reform, and when the House of Lords kept overturning their votes, they forced it through on Royal Privilege. Since then they've lost legal case after legal case, found it increasingly difficult to win votes on welfare reform, and today, it is in black and white in Hansard. The House has resolved to call on the government to commission an independent cumulative impact assessment on the impact of welfare reform and cuts on sick and disabled people. And I'm sure the tactic will be to try and kick this into the long grass, but we won't let them.

We've got them on the run now.


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