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[Image: Mike Coulson on Twitter.]

We seem to be in a minor constitutional crisis.

Here’s Laura Pidcock to explain it:

So: Parliament has voted, by a majority of 299 votes, to pause the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) until problems it causes claimants are “fixed” to the satisfaction of MPs.

But the decision came after an Opposition Day debate and is not binding on the minority Conservative government, which ordered members of the Conservative Party to abstain.

The government is determined to continue rolling out UC, despite the obvious trauma it is dealing out to residents, fuelling stories in the newspapers like this: Mum-to-be had her Universal Credit payments slashed to a penny a month

This: Private landlords turning away Universal Credit claimants in droves

And this: ‘How could we survive the month on fresh air?’ – the heartbreaking stories of people left crushed emotionally and financially by problems with Universal Credit

And items on TV like this:

The problem is that last night’s vote represents the will of Parliament. Perhaps it isn’t binding, but the government must at least acknowledge that there is an overwhelming demand for a change of policy – and address that demand. This is what Commons Speaker John Bercow was getting at when he said:

Here’s a video clip showing the result and its immediate consequences:

Mr Bercow – rightly – saw a threat to the reputation of the House of Commons in the minority government’s scornful attitude to the result:

And he’s right. The government must respond in a meaningful way. Otherwise, Theresa May lays herself open to Huffpost political editor Paul Waugh’s claim that she has turned Parliament into a “debating society”…

… and to the claim by her own party member, Edward Leigh, that the UK is on “the road to tyranny”.

Mrs May has done nothing.

Meanwhile her own MPs are appearing on television to condemn what is seen as the Conservative Party’s flagship policy:

In a debate today (October 19), Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said “DWP ministers will come back to this place to update the House” on universal credit – but at the time of writing, this has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, discontent is on the rise:

After Valerie Vaz warned: “This is where we make the law. This is not a school debating chamber. This is a disorganised government, disrespectful to the house. I know the government didn’t want to hear about people in rent arrears struggling to feed their families when they’re in work, but that’s the reality when government policy is failing,” a government spokesperson tried to claim that the abstention, and refusal to act on the result of the vote, were not disrespectful:

But do we believe that? No.

The longer the minority government dithers, the more voices will be raised against it.

Here are more comments from the Universal Credit debate, and from Prime Minister’s Questions (in which the issue was also discussed), among other events:

If you thought that was a cracking speech, see this:

 

This is the fact of the matter. As Debbie Abrahams said, Theresa May is in office but not in power. The longer she continues to push forward policies that harm the UK – while ignoring Parliamentary decisions that would help the people of this country – the larger will be her defeat.

Personally, I don’t think it can happen soon enough.


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