By Martin Kelly
A Scottish Labour MP has been accused of misleading a member of the public after appearing to claim that he had voted against the controversial Bedroom Tax.
Whilst attending Saturday’s anti-Bedroom tax demo in Glasgow, Labour MP Ian Davidson was approached by a protestor who asked if he had abstained from the vote, something the MP for Glasgow South West denied.
Asked how he had voted, Mr Davidson replied: “I voted No” adding “I voted against the government”.
The exchange, which was captured on video, then became heated as the Labour MP angrily walked off, insisting that the member of the public had “got it wrong”.
However, online critics have pounced on the Labour MP’s claim that he voted No by pointing to the official House of Commons records showing Mr Davidson was amongst several high profile Scottish Labour MPs who did not take part in the vote.
Also not listed amongst those who voted when the Bedroom Tax legislation was proposed last October, was head of the anti-independence coalition Alistair Darling and former Labour party leader Gordon Brown.
The confrontation between Mr Davidson and the protestor has led to some confusion within Labour ranks with one MP insisting his colleague did indeed vote against the legislation, whilst another leading activist has complained that Mr Davidson has been misunderstood and that he was referring to a different vote.
Tweeting, Labour MP Tom Harris who represents Glasgow South, said: “Both @IanDavidsonMP and I voted against the actual legislation, but were absent from the Opp [Opposition] Day debate.”
However, official records appear to contradict Mr Harris’s claim and show that Mr Davidson, along with Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, was absent at the vote which proposed the new legislation and was also absent at a subsequent amendment calling for the legislation to be scrapped.
Another leading Scottish Labour figure, activist Duncan Hothersall, has suggested that Mr Davidson and the protestor were both in fact referring to the Workfare vote and not the Bedroom Tax vote.
In a post published on the Wings over Scotland blog, Mr Hothersall describes being “confused” by the video.
Explaining that he had to watch it again, he added: “And it struck me that while I would have naturally assumed the vote in question was the Bedroom Tax vote – given the event at which the question was asked – both Davidson and the questioner seem to be talking about the recent workfare vote in which Labour MPs were whipped to abstain, but Davidson actually voted no.”
The workfare vote saw the Labour party refuse to oppose emergency legislation that removed rights from benefits claimants forced to work for free. The new legislation was drafted by the Conservative led government after it had lost a court case brought by 24 year old university graduate Cait Reilly, who had faced losing benefits if she refused to stack shelves without pay at Poundland.
The ruling meant the UK government faced a £130 million payout to benefit claimants, something the emergency legislation blocked.
The confrontation between the protestor and Ian Davidson follows confusion over Labour’s stance on the Bedroom Tax.
In a recent TV interview, Labour MP Helen Goodman confirmed that Labour agreed that the cost of Housing Benefit had to be reduced. She also appeared to endorse the Bedroom Tax in principle, arguing that rather than scrapping it completely, it should instead be limited to people who refuse to move to smaller accommodation if it is available.
In Scotland, Labour councils and the party leadership are at odds over demands from Scottish Labour for the Scottish government to introduce a new law that would prevent tenants from being evicted if they fall into arrears because of the legislation.
However some Labour local authorities have come out against such a nationwide policy and two Labour run councils have blocked moves to introduce an anti-eviction policy, something all SNP run councils have pledged.
The Bedroom tax comes into force tomorrow and will see an estimated 105,000 households across Scotland losing an average £600 a year.
[On Sunday morning Newsnet Scotland emailed Mr Davidson seeking clarification over the comments he made in the video. Thus far, despite an acknowledgement of receipt, we have received no response to our question.]