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Harriet Harman seems to have caused confusion by mixing Labour's lack of opposition for the Welfare Reform and Work Bill with the party leadership's reaction to the proposed cut in tax credits.

Harriet Harman seems to have caused confusion by mixing Labour’s lack of opposition for the Welfare Reform and Work Bill with the party leadership’s reaction to the proposed cut in tax credits.

A Labour MP named Helen Hayes contacted This Writer on Twitter after the disastrous vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, asking me to read a blog article explaining her reasons for abstaining after our party’s “reasoned amendment” failed.

According to this piece, it seems she found reason to support certain parts of the Bill, namely the provision of three million new apprenticeships, support for troubled families and reduced rents for council tenants.

She opposed the abolition of child poverty targets, the reduction of Employment and Support Allowance, and the shrinking of the benefit cap in London.

She voted for the Labour leadership’s “reasoned amendment”, in which changes to the Bill were proposed alongside reasons for it. When this failed, she said she abstained because she wanted the elements she supported to be enacted.

She went on to point out that the Bill will not become law until it has been discussed, line by line, in the Committee Stage, sent to the House of Lords for detailed consideration there, and returned to the Commons for its Third Reading.

Finally, she pointed out that the Bill does not include the proposed cuts to tax credits, which are to be implemented in the autumn via a Statutory Instrument which Labour vehemently opposes.

It is impossible for This Writer to agree with Ms Hayes.

Yes – new appenticeships, support for troubled families and reduced council rents are potentially good moves. But the other elements of the Bill are disastrous for the people the affect.

If the Labour leadership had wanted to adopt a principled position, it would have required them to say that the offer is tempting, but the price is too high – and to reject the Bill, as it is, in its entirety.

Ms Hayes suggests, “It would be much harder to hold the government to account for delivering high quality apprenticeships and an effective troubled families programme, if I had voted against the principle of these proposals”.

Yes indeed – but it will now be much harder to stop the government from abolishing child poverty targets, cutting ESA and reducing the benefit cap – across the who of the UK – now that most of the Labour Party allowed those thing to continue along the legislative process unopposed.

Furthermore, This Writer would have been more impressed by Ms Hayes’ article if I had not read almost exactly the same sentiments in words by fellow Labour MPs Andrew Gwynne and Peter Kyle.*

Both of these gentlemen mentioned the elements that Labour supported and rejected, the stages through which the Bill had to progress, Labour’s “reasoned amendment” and further amendments to be made later, and the fact that tax credits are not part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

The elements were arranged in different ways, and each article was clearly written by each individual MP, but it seems clear that they were all working from the same starting point.

Oh look – Karin Smyth, the new Labour MP for Bristol South (This Writer’s original home constituency) has written a piece that is, again, startlingly similar.

Is it paranoia or healthy scepticism that prompts This Writer to suggest that someone in the current Labour leadership has issued a bullet-point list or factsheet to all abstaining MPs, showing them how to defend their indefensible position and claim that they came to this decision by themselves? You decide.

Or perhaps the author of such a document would like to step forward and admit the attempted deception?

*Apologies to the kittysjones blog for using it to highlight this; the articles by these two were the very first blog pieces I read after Helen Hayes’ article, and the similarities were too pronounced to ignore.

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