The Liberal Democrats have urged the Coalition government to take action on sharply rising homelessness by making the nation’s pavements more comfortable to lie down on.
Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams led the calls during a debate in the Lords. ‘We Liberal Democrats are entirely content with the Government’s plan to cut everything drastically and immediately, potentially making thousands more people homeless,’ she said. ‘The obvious answer to this problem is to pave the nation’s cities not with concrete, which I understand is terribly hard and uncomfortable, but with some nice cushions, perhaps in red or even green velour, and some nice throws in a range of fabrics. If Britain’s pavements were more comfortable to lie down on, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a trauma for people to lose their jobs and homes and prospects.’
The Chancellor, George Osborne, was said to be ‘sympathetic’ to the idea. ‘This is a compassionate proposal from our junior Coalition partners,’ he said. ‘Once or twice I’ve dropped the keys to my Bentley after having had one too many glasses of Chateauneuf-du-Pape at a gala reception in Mayfair or somewhere. If they fell onto some nice soft cushions it would save my chauffeur from going down on his hands and knees on the grimy pavement, wouldn’t it now? And it would be an awfully good boost for the soft furnishings industry. Is John Lewis a party donor? Can somebody ask him if he’d like a knighthood or a peerage?’
Under further questioning, the Chancellor agreed that the underlying problem was the rising level of homelessness. ‘Oh absolutely, homelessness is a terrible thing – it’s going to make me look like an awful Chancellor, for instance.’