Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

“No” or “Wet” Blanket Opposition

Harriet Harman announced that Labour would not oppose Gideon’s Government’s proposals to hack away at benefits.

We’re not going to do blanket opposition because we’ve heard all around the country that whilst people have got concerns, particularly about the standard of living for low income families in work, they don’t want just… blanket opposition to what the government are proposing on welfare.

But Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn said he could not support this.

Fellow candidate Andy Burnham said the government had “no mandate” for the cuts to tax credits.

And another candidate, Yvette Cooper, said Labour should strongly oppose the cuts.
BBC News Website 13 July 2015 : Harriet Harman: Labour to back child tax credit curbs

I can understand that an opposition should not automatically oppose everything that a government proposes, but these welfare cuts attack the very people (children in poverty, those unable to work due to illness or disability) that the Labour party used to stand for.

What happened? Ms Harman put forward an amendment saying the party “declines to give a Second Reading” (i.e. they were not in favour of the cuts – looking like “blanket opposition”). They voted for their amendment – and lost. Then they abstained on the main government motion when they had a real chance to decline to give the bill a Second Reading – “wet blanket opposition”.

Abstaining implies that they don’t care one way or the other. Perhaps that is what “slightly used” Labour actually feel.

  • Harriett Harman – abstained
  • Liz Kendall – abstained
  • Yvette Cooper – abstained
  • Andy Burnham – abstained
  • Jeremy Corbyn – voted against

Elsewhere in other opposition parties, the new Lib Dem leader  Tim Farron, indicating that at least his party was back on the job said

500,000 people would see their Employment and Support Allowance cut by a third, a move which he said “demonised people with disabilities and mental health conditions”.
BBC News Website 20 July 2015 : Labour leader Harriet Harman faces welfare bill revolt

The Liberals opposed the bill (all 8 present and voting against).

The SNP also opposed the bill being quite clear where their priorities and values lay.

SNP MPs wish to work with a progressive alliance across the UK against the Tories’ plans to make millions of families poorer,” she [Hannah Bardell] said. “It is not enough for Labour simply to abstain on the welfare reform bill – they must join us in voting against it.
BBC News Website 20 July 2015 : Labour leader Harriet Harman faces welfare bill revolt

So do Labour “not care” one way or the other? It’s confusing:

“We can’t simply say to the public ‘you were wrong, we’re going to carry on saying what we said before the election’, we have to listen to that…

“We’re not going to do blanket opposition because we’ve heard all around the country that whilst people have got concerns, particularly about the standard of living for low income families in work, they don’t want just… blanket opposition to what the government are proposing on welfare.”
BBC News Website 13 July 2015 : Harriet Harman: Labour to back child tax credit curbs

Well, are Labour going to be true to their values, or are they going to swing in the wind – weather-vane style?

If your traditional support no longer share your values you are in a difficult position.

If you are “all about power”, I guess you change your values to chase the prejudices of that sector of the public that you think will put you back in power.

If you are about values, whilst you may not want to “carry on saying what [you] said before the election”, you may want to think of a better way to explain your values – or you fold your tent.

Is it time for Labour to accept the “Conservative Consensus” and fold their tent? Some parts of the Labour Party seem to think that they can accept “Gideon’s World” and yet have a role in that world. But that is not what most people think of as the Labour Party.

If you ape the Conservative Party – your supporters may decide to vote for the real thing – ask a few ex-Lib Dem MPs.

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One thought on ““No” or “Wet” Blanket Opposition

  1. Pingback: Labour Pains | Outside the marginals

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