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Monday, July 13, 2015

Labour in chaos on welfare bill

Having spent five years attacking the Coalition Government and the Liberal Democrats in particular over welfare reform, it is a bit ironic to see that Labour are now proposing to support the majority Tory Government's Welfare Bill containing measures that many people, including the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Party and many Labour MPs think have gone too far.

The Guardian says that efforts by the acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman, to show the party has listened to the electorate and will change its stance on welfare appear to be on the brink of collapse as she faces a backlash from three leadership contenders, and a stormy meeting of Labour MPs later today:

Harman had announced in a BBC Sunday Politics interview that Labour would abstain in a vote on the welfare bill, accept a lower household welfare benefit cap and not oppose limiting child tax credits for families to a couple’s first two children from 2017.

The proposals have been criticised by party activists and some leadership candidates. She is due to address a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday night on the issue. Harman had agreed her stance with some shadow cabinet colleagues, and the item had been discussed by a shadow cabinet meeting at which only one of the leadership contenders – Andy Burnham – was present.

Three of the four leadership candidates – Burnham, Jeremy Corbynand Yvette Cooper – all signalled their opposition to the move, and some of their allies warned Harman she has to act like an interim leader and not make major policy changes. Harman’s aides said the issues had been discussed with the shadow cabinet and she had informed leadership candidates. The aides said votes were imminent on the budget this week and the new welfare bill before the summer recess so some decisions were inescapable.

Burnham raised objections at the shadow cabinet, but Harman reminded the shadow health secretary that Labour had lost two elections.

Labour are now reaping the consequences of their overlong leadership campaign and their own bewilderment at failing to win the General Election. Kneejerk reactions do not really cut it but that is where Labour are at the moment and that does not bode well for their future recovery.
I guess the only solace that Labour can take from their current malaise is that critical Lib Dem comment is irrelevant and inconsequential.
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