Lib Dems should have halted bedroom tax when in coalition, Jo Swinson concedes

Liberal Democrats should have halted the so-called “bedroom tax” when they were in coalition with the Tories, party leadership contender Jo Swinson said.

While she defended the five years her party spent as junior partners in David Cameron’s government, Ms Swinson – the current deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats – said they should have stopped welfare changes that see benefit recipients lose cash if they have spare rooms.

Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the Lib Dem MP, who served as a minister in the coalition government, stated: “It was just not the right policy, we shouldn’t have let that through.”

However, she said there was a need to “constrain spending” when the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government came in in 2010.

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And while she also accepted her party should not have voted to increase university tuition fees south of the border, Ms Swinson insisted the Lib Dems “did do a lot of good” over the five years of the coalition.

She stated: “In 2010 with the financial crisis that was unfolding, we did need to make cuts.”

She added: “We stopped a lot of welfare cuts but equally the bedroom tax was an example where we shouldn’t have.

“We didn’t get everything right in coalition, but we did do a lot of good.

“We were in a coalition and we had to compromise on various issues, that is the essence of coalition.”

Ms Swinson, who recaptured her East Dunbartonshire constituency in 2017 after losing it to the SNP two years before, is running against Sir Ed Davey to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The party’s current leader, Sir Vince Cable, is stepping down from the role, with his successor to be elected by July 23.

She said: “I think we are at a pivotal moment in our politics where the two party structure is fracturing and there is a real appetite for a Liberal movement, for people who believe in our values, who say immigration is a good thing, that we need to reshape our economy so that it works for people and the planet.

“And those people are joining us in their thousands and I want to lead the Liberal Democrats to build that Liberal movement.”