Shadow Cabinet Universally Confused About Universal Credit Policy

Ahead of this afternoon’s Commons showdown over Universal Credit, Guido’s been trying to pin down exactly what is Labour’s general welfare policy? Sir Keir is simultaneously calling for the system to be scrapped entirely, yet will be using today’s Opposition Day Debate to demand billions more be injected into a system he sees as not fit for purpose. Can the rest of the Shadow Cabinet clarify Labour’s policy platform?

Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Work and Pensions: Suggests Labour won’t really abolish Universal Credit in full, it will be more a rebranding attempt of the current system:

“‘We use the language of full replacement, because we are clearly opposed to some of the features of it, like the two-child limit and the benefit cap, and we feel the brand is too tarnished”

He does support the principles behind the system though: “there are merits in combining particularly out-of-work support and in-work support and housing benefit at the same time”. Reynolds even heaped praise on the system last year, saying it was ready to support people at the beginning of the crisis…

Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor: A press release from Dodds a fortnight ago describes the current Universal Credit provision – including the £20 a week Covid bonus – as supporting “those on low incomes and out of work”.

Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary: Told the Today Programme a year ago that the “principle” of Universal Credit is “the right one, to simplify the system so that those who rely on it can actually understand it”.

Jim McMahon, Shadow Transport: Tweeted that the “principle” of Universal Credit is “right”.

Luke Pollard, Shadow Environment: Previously called for Universal Credit to be paused and reformed, then flipped to calling for it to be scrapped in 2019, now flip-flopped again to calling for it to be reformed. Pollard doesn’t seem to have a clue what is his party’s policy. To be fair, who can blame him?

It’s not just the Shadow Cabinet that’s confused: Andy Burnham is on record saying simplifying the old welfare system was a sound argument, and former Shadow Work and Pension Secretary (now West Midlands Mayoral candidate) Liam Byrne called it a “good idea”. Guido reckons Jonathan Reynolds’ comment – that Labour policy is more about a rebrand than really scrapping Universal Credit – is closest to the truth, though his language is in truth more about appeasing the hard left of the party than a policy change in the interests of the voters…

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