Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP has written to George Osborne offering to put politics aside and support him if he chooses to reverse the changes to tax credits fairly and in full.
Alongside an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, in which he argued for the cuts to be dropped, he wrote [boldings mine]:
It has only been three months since the Summer Budget when you chose to break the promise that David Cameron made to the British people during the election – that the Tories would not touch tax credits.
We now know that you plan to cut £1,300 from over 3 million families who are in work and doing all they can to pay the bills and get to the end of each month.
Last week you said that you were “comfortable” with this decision, and David Cameron said he was “delighted”, but the British people will not be happy that you are breaking the promise David Cameron gave to them during the election campaign and that working families are having their tax credits cut to pay for tax giveaways to a few wealthy individuals.
Now, you, me and everyone else in Westminster knows that you will have to u-turn on this issue. However, you need to do it in full. It can’t be a fudge. Not some partial reversal that scores cheap headlines, yet leaves people still worse off or lands another burden on middle and low earners or the poorest in our society. You need to drop this policy completely.
I know first-hand that for politicians the fallout from changing policy can be tough. But sometimes you have to be big enough to admit you got it wrong and do the right thing.
So I am appealing to you to put the interests of these 3 million families ahead of any concerns you may have about losing face and ahead of petty party politics. If you do, I promise you personally and publicly that if you u-turn and reverse this decision fairly and in full, I will not attack you for it.
To restore faith in our political system it’s time that politicians stopped making promises at elections that they won’t keep when in power – this is the lesson the Lib Dems learnt the hard way on tuition fees.
For the sake of those 3 million families, and the British people’s trust in politics, please see sense and fully u-turn on your cuts to tax credits.
Mr McDonnell certainly is familiar with the fallout from changing policy. It will be a long time before the media lets us forget his admission that changing Labour’s policy on Osborne’s Charter for Budget Responsibility was “Embarrassing” after he used that word five times in a row in his speech during the Commons debate on the issue.
But it is only the Right-wing media that have latched onto that aspect of Mr McDonnell’s decision. The public at large respected his admission that supporting a stupid policy, just to score political points, would have been equally stupid.
Will Osborne listen? Who knows?
But the country can see that he has been offered a chance to retreat gracefully. If he fails to do that, Labour will not fail to remind us all about it when the next election takes place – and I don’t mean the general election of 2020.
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