Labour’s Harriet Harman faces Welfare Bill rebellion


After ordering the party’s MPs to abstain from voting in the Conservatives’ Welfare Bill, Harriet Harman, Labour’s acting leader, faces upheaval

A significant number of Labour MPs are expected to rebel against acting leader Harriet Harman’s order to abstain from voting in the UK Government’s Welfare Bill.

Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor, said Harman’s decision had riled several Labour MPs, adding that 60 had signed a rival amendment opposing the changes.

Alongside a predicted backlash from MPs, the order to abstain has proved unpopular with fellow leadership contenders. Although Kiz Kendall supports the plan, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn have all questioned Harman’s approach.

Corbyn said: “If it is proposed that Labour MPs are being asked to vote for the government’s plans to cut benefits to families, I am not willing to vote for policies that will push more children into poverty. Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake.”

Labour’s interim leader Harriet Harman has warned that after losing two consecutive elections Labour should listen to the will of the electorate and not oppose the UK Government’s proposed Welfare Bill, which includes plans to bring PS12 billion worth of cuts by 2020.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Harman said: “We cannot simply say to the public you were wrong at the election… We’ve got to wake up and recognise that this was not a blip; we’ve had a serious defeat and we must listen to why.”

In an attempt to suppress party rebellion on the matter, Harman proposed an amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The amendment would support slashing the household welfare cap and moving mortgage support from grants to loans, but oppose plans to abolish child poverty targets and alterations to Employment and Support Allowance.

Writing in the Guardian, Conservative Chancellor George Osborne described Harman’s order as “a step forward” adding: “She recognised something else important in a democracy: that oppositions advance only when they stop blaming the public for their defeat and recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to – just as a previous Conservative opposition realised 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.”

The passing of the second reading in the Commons for the Welfare Bill will take place on Monday.

Picture courtesy of Downing Street