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Embattled: Harriet Harman.

Embattled: Harriet Harman.

The Parliamentary Labour Party turned against interim leader Harriet Harman when she called on members to support her claim that they should not oppose the Conservative Government’s plan to cut tax credits, thereby increasing poverty – including child poverty.

At a PLP meeting yesterday, 20 members spoke against her call for the party to abstain on the government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill next week. Only five supported her refusal to table reasoned amendments.

And it seems likely that she was set to face more anger at a Shadow Cabinet meeting this morning.

According to George Eaton in The New Statesman:

  • Labour whips expect 60-80 MPs to vote against the welfare bill in defiance of Harman’s stance.
  • There was “no consensus on the child tax credit changes”.
  • Harman’s critics will be looking to her replacements for a clear commitment to pursue a different course.

The article states that rebel Andy MacDonald said the Tories’ proposed two-child limit on tax credits was a regression to the days of “Mao Tse-Tung and King Herod”.

And Frank Field, former welfare reform minister and current work and pensions select committee chair, shouted at Harman that Labour had to defend the “three million strivers” who faced losing £1,000 from tax credit cuts.

Harman is said to have warned the meeting that “If we oppose everything, people will not hear those things we are opposing and why”. Clearly, then, she is in favour of the kind of “triangulation” this blog was discussing yesterday. It represents an abandonment of principles – don’t forget that Labour introduced tax credits – that This Blog cannot support.

Harman is also said to have pointed out that Labour voted against 13 social security bills in the last Parliament but that only its rejection of the bedroom tax was noticed. In fact, this is probably over-optimistic. How many times have commenters to this blog and others claimed that Labour MPs sat on their thumbs throughout the whole of the Coalition Parliament and failed to oppose any of the changes? Those people were, of course, absolutely wrongVox Political has chronicled Labour’s opposition to the Tories’ dismantling of social security in considerable detail, but it seems the public prefer a juicy lie to the hard facts.

In fact, this demonstrates very clearly that Labour should oppose more Tory policies. Yes, campaign against the lowering of Employment and Support Allowance, the scrapping of maintenance grants for poor students, the abolition of child poverty targets and tax credit cuts such as the reduction in the income threshold – but don’t abandon children to poverty and destitution; that is not the Labour way.

One thought that is of particular concern to This Writer concerns what will happen to young people who become impoverished as a result of the Tory plan. What will they have to do in order to survive? At a time when child abuse is high on the polical agenda – the inquiry into historical child sex crimes has only just opened – it seems this Conservative Government is opening the door for further such incidents – aided by an interim Labour leader who has faced accusations of her own in regard to such matters.

Doesn’t it?

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