In a House of Commons welfare bill vote, Jeremy Corbyn is the only Labour leadership candidate to have voted against the welfare bill. Evidently, he is the only credible candidate for leader.
The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens and DUP all oppose the controversial welfare bill but Labour leadership candidates Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall toed the party line and abstained from voting. This is despite Burnham, Kendall and Cooper claiming that Labour needs to ‘fight against Tory cuts’.
Corbyn claimed that the proposed legislation would create even bigger holes in the welfare state, with the result that more people, namely children, would descend into poverty.
It remains to be seen if Corbyn will benefit in the leadership ballot from his outright opposition to the bill, but most senior Labour figures agreed that the party, in particular Burnham, Kendall and Cooper, had badly mishandled its response to the bill. However, judging by comments from the public on their respective campaign pages, members of the public are overwhelmingly disappointed and angry at their decision to abstain, with many saying they have changed their first preference to Corbyn as a result.
On Andy Burnham’s Facebook page, he posted a message to his followers starting with
It was a motion I had been calling for, because I have been clear all along – we cannot simply abstain on a Bill that will penalise working families and increase child poverty.
Not only is this completely misleading, it is hypocritical. He is playing a game of semantics, making it seem as though he too voted against the bill, yet he was one of the MPs that he claimed ‘simply cannot abstain’.
The whips followed the thinking of Harriet Harman, who encouraged Labour MPs to abstain and not to vote against the bill in order to express its support for the government’s reduction of the household welfare benefit cap, believing that this is what the electorate wants following Labour’s heavy loss in May.
Harman argued that her amendment, which Burnham, Kendall and Cooper said they would reject, was close to rejection of the entire bill. The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens and DUP all said they would reject the bill in its entirety.
Stephen Timms, who is standing in for the shadow work and pensions secretary, has said:
The deficit has to be eliminated. We believe in controlling the costs of social security so that it is fair on the working people who pay for it, so it is there for the people who need it.
However, Timms said that while the opposition supported a number of measures in the bill, the legislation did ‘very bad things as well’.
In relation to the child poverty target, Timms claimed the government;
Aren’t now just changing the definition. They aren’t interested in stopping child poverty – just stopping people talking about it.
Only 48 Labour MPs defied Harman’s whip and voted against the bill, including Diane Abbot, Sadiq Khan and Labour backbencher John McDonnell, who made his distaste for proposed welfare bill clear when he told the house that he would ‘swim through vomit’ to oppose it.
Interestingly, Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead also did not appear on the list. A full list of Labour MPs who voted against the bill can be seen here.
Regardless of your views on Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, it is impossible to deny that he is the only candidate who is prepared to stand for his principles and act on behalf of his constituents. If Labour wants to be the party of opposition to the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn is evidently the only credible candidate.