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Sarah Teather dents the Coalition’s unity message by announcing her benefits rebellion

7 January 2013

Coupled with Lord Strathclyde’s resignation over the way the Coalition worked in the House of Lords, Sarah Teather’s announcement that she will rebel against the government tomorrow is extremely poor timing. Today was supposed to be about unity, the Coalition working well together in the national interest. Now there are suggestions that this unity isn’t visible in the Upper Chamber, and that senior Lib Dems aren’t quite as ecstatic about key policies as Nick Clegg might try to argue.

Ever since she went AWOL on the day of a vote on the benefit cap, Teather was a rebellion waiting to happen. She had already expressed public opposition to that cap on benefits up to £26,000 for workless families: today she announced she will rebel for the first time against the government at tomorrow’s second reading of the Welfare Uprating Bill. She told the World at One:

 ‘I feel deeply anxious about the policy and I will be voting against the Bill tomorrow very reluctantly and with a very heavy heart.’

Teather’s critics would argue that if she cared that much about the Coalition’s benefit cuts, she should have made a stand while in government and resign on principle to vote against the £26,000 benefit cap instead of sounding off at meetings and boasting in private that she was trying to wash her hands of policies she didn’t like by avoiding votes.

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But now she is on the backbenches, the former schools minister is focused on fighting for survival in her Brent Central constituency, where she has a majority of 1,345. The Lib Dem leadership may well sympathise with her concerns about her constituency. But announcing her rebellion on the lunchtime news when David Cameron and Clegg are due to praise the Coalition at 2.30 isn’t a particularly charitable move. I understand that very poor relations between Teather and Clegg contributed to her exit in the reshuffle: they’re unlikely to improve now.

You can listen to the full interview here:

P.S. Teather refused to say on WATO whether she would be joined by any other Liberal Democrats in voting against the government tomorrow. One of the more likely rebels is Sir Bob Russell (who was presumably not knighted for services to party loyalty, given he’s voted out of line with his party 28 times since the Coalition formed), who was the first politician to describe the housing benefit cuts as ‘cleansing’.

But Russell tells me that he is staying loyal tomorrow. He says:

‘I will be supporting the government. This is not a cut: there is still going to be an increase. If it hadn’t been for the Lib Dems, this probably would have been a freeze or a cut, so the Lib Dems have made their mark and made it much better than it would have been.’

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Show comments

    Is Sarah Teather anything other than a self publicist? It would be interesting to know on what basis she was made a minister?

  • anyfool

    Whatever this political nonentity says is irrelevant as she is looking for fresh employment opportunities in 2015 and anything this immature little girl says should be looked upon in that context.

  • Charlie the Chump

    Ms Hardmans’ contact list seems to be 99% libdem


      Unfortunately this seems to be true!

      • Rhoda Klapp

        She’s low on the totem pole, that’s why she has to cover this kind of story. However it makes me feel regretful about calling Clegg a non-entity a while back. Unless there is a class of negative entity to cover this Teather person, in which case I can classify them both.

        • CharlieleChump

          Negative entity, nice concept, fits with anti-matter and dark energy; I suppose Prescott would have the mass to become a political black hole.

      • CharlieleChump

        Time she got out more then, new friends, less pointless posts?


          It’s not difficult to make contact with interesting people on the right who are willing to contribute. I don’t think there is much incentive to do so at the Spectator.

  • Chris lancashire

    You can always rely on at least one politician (however minor) to put ego and self interest ahead of the national interest. By any measure, the benefits cap is a fairly mild measure given the state of the nation’s finances and is a step towards beginning to rein back an unaffordable benefits bill.
    When and if she loses her seat she will not be missed from the national stage.

    • Archimedes

      If I’m honest, I think I’d prefer to keep Teather in the Commons, rather than give her the opportunity to pursue that illustrious career in stand up comedy.

      • CharlieleChump

        64k p.a. for that prat?? No


          Not worth 32k p.a.

  • ToryOAP

    This useless student politician prat of a girl makes the idiot-boy Owen Jones look mature. Why on earth was she ever made a minister and who on earth gives a flying f*ck what her views are? Can this veritable organ stop indulging in Guardinasta-type reporting of non-entities and give us some political meat to cheer us up please?

    • dalai guevara

      The message here is that the coalition stew has been overcooked – to mush, in fact.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …like your head?

        • dalai guevara

          …and I have outdated power engineers like you for dessert.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …wait… you know how to use a knife and fork?

            • dalai guevara

              For dessert? Who taught you table manners?

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …wait… you can find your way to sit at a table?


                  It’s not worth corresponding with a troll.

  • Austin Barry

    If Teather is concerned about her constituency she should move to Respect where she stands a reasonable chance of being re-elected.

    • telemachus

      Misogynist Respect will not have her
      Read the words of anti rape campaigner Galloway
      She will have to go back to her chemists shop

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yahoooooo! Head ’em off boys! Head ’em off! Yahooooo!

  • Noa

    This is mildly embarrassing for the two headed pantomime horse that is supposed to be braying this afternoon.

    Expect more constituency challenged underlings to rebel, of both left and right, as the horse prepares for its simultaneous exit from both sides of the stage.

    • telemachus

      She is a rebel by instinct
      Viz her maiden speech
      I feel intense frustration when we talk of widening participation, only then to debate introducing a policy which would deter the very students we hope to attract. Fear of debt is as real to many people as real debt.

      Top-up and tuition fees are serious issues of concern to my constituents. All the evidence suggests that fear of debt will deter those from lower income families and ethnic minority communities. This is particularly the case for Muslims – a large community in my constituency – where attitudes to debt are very different.

      Fundamentally, I believe that this is about whether we want to encourage a world class education system, or a class based education system where students choose universities according to their ability to pay, and universities are judged on the level of their fees.

      That is not a system I am comfortable with. It is an issue of great concern to my constituents, and many millions of people around this country. I hope honourable members will oppose the measures when the time comes.

      • Austin Barry

        “This is particularly the case for Muslims – a large community in my constituency – where attitudes to debt are very different.”

        Perhaps Muslims would be better served by moving to an Islamic country if they find the squalid niceties of the infidel financial system so offensive.


          Since there are many Muslim countries, which are far advanced beyond us towards the blessings of Islamic domination this would surely not be considered repressive. It would be a win-win outcome.

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