Welfare reforms – Commons vote reveals a Labour Party in disarray

jeremy_corbyn07:26 Tuesday 21st July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The Government’s welfare reforms have passed their first hurdle in the House of Commons. 48 Labour MPs though voted against the package, which includes cuts to benefits and tax credits. This is against the advice of the Labour Party’s Acting Leader Harriet Harman. One of these rebels was the Leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Another was Cambridge’s new MP Daniel Zeichner. Our Political Correspondent Paul Rowley joins me now. What do you make of this rebellion then Paul?

PAUL ROWLEY: It’s absolutely devastating for the Labour Party Dotty, when they’re already going through a tortuous leadership contest. They’ve been well and truly shafted I think is the word, or kebabbed by George Osborne the Chancellor. These welfare reforms which were part of his Budget are controversial. They include making £12 billion worth of cuts, but they do include an increase in the Minimum Wage, so that makes it difficult for Labour to oppose it. But strategically they’re all over the place. Acting Leader Harriet Harman initially said she didn’t want MPs to vote against the programme. It prompted a revolt by some senior figures, so the compromise was they were due to abstain last night, with the intention of seeking changes as this Bill makes its way through Parliament. Now there were expected to be some rebels, but not 48 of them, which is a fifth of the parliamentary party, including one of the Leadership contenders Jeremy Corbyn, and three of the candidates who want to be the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy and Diane Abbott.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So where does it leave the Labour Party, other than obviously looking a bit of a mess?
PAUL ROWLEY: They’re in disarray. More worryingly for them is that 18 of the rebels, and you’ve just mentioned one of them, more than a third of them, only entered Parliament at the General Election two months ago. So for Daniel Zeichner in Cambridge, one of his first acts at Westminster is to vote against his party. Normally people rebel after they’ve been here for years. They’re incredibly loyal when they first sign up. And when you’ve got a newcomer like him rebelling, and then an oldtimer in a way like Helen Goodman, one of the most loyal of Labour MPs, a former Minister, she voted against her party last night for the first time, I think it shows how divided they are. One MP was telling me he thinks they’re going through ‘a nervous breakdown’ frankly, still coming to terms with their General Election defeat. And instead of there being an outcry this morning Dotty over £12 billion worth of benefit cuts to an estimated 13 million families, many of whom are working, the story this morning is of the Labour Party in disarray.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. Not good PR for the Labour Party is it? Paul thank you very much. That’s our Political Correspondent Paul Rowley.