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…
Labour leadership candidates are grandstanding along to the Twitter hashtag #fakeDWPstories. Showing the judgement that keeps them in opposition, they are claiming that examples in a leaflet explaining how benefit sanctions work are examples of lying by Iain Duncan Smith. Emily Thornberry – a trained lawyer – even went so far as to accuse IDS personally of making up quotes. Simply untrue, as she must realise…
He of course has ministerial responsibility for his department, which Guido is certain he would accept. This leaflet, in the minds of Labour’s twitterati, is a resignation matter. Let’s review what has happened; the DWP has produced a leaflet to help benefits claimants avoid being sanctioned, using illustrative examples. This is normal for publicity materials, not unethical, not lies. Perhaps it might have been better to have had an asterisked footnote stating as such on the original version of the leaflet. That might just be a valid criticism.
The Labour Party of course is not above doing exactly the same – fake bone X-rays and fake nurses have all illustrated their poster marketing. The famous Tory poster saying “Labour isn’t working” – that too was a fake queue of Tory activists. They are simply marketing images, not examples of reportage, nothing more, nothing less…
The hashtag did produce a few laughs:
— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) August 18, 2015
Labour leadership candidates are once again implicitly putting themselves on the wrong side of the voters – who strongly believe that those who can work and don’t try to find work, should not be paid benefits. Research produced by Jon Cruddas for the inquiry into why they lost the election showed that the belief that the Labour Party was on the side of benefit claimants rather than workers was strong. Hard working traditional Labour voters believe it more strongly than any other group…
Meet Liz Bradshaw. Liz is very upset with the Labour MPs who abstained on last night’s welfare vote. In fact, she is “asbsolutely disgusted”:
When she’s not sharing her passionate views on Facebook, what does Liz do? According to her LinkedIn, she works as a “parliamentary adviser” and “head of office” for Margaret Hodge:
That would be the same Margaret Hodge who abstained last night. Or, as Liz so eloquently put it, “allowed legislation to pass that will mean more children in this country go hungry… for purely political purposes“. Take it this “parliamentary adviser” will be doing the honourable thing and resigning?
“Don’t Panic“, Norman Smith told Victoria Derbyshire this morning before he launched into a remarkable accurate interpretive dance analysis of the Labour Party’s rift over the Welfare Bill vote.
Best thing on the show yet.
Counting pensions as an old age ‘benefit’ has provided lefties with data-based ammunition against small state conservatives who want to slash the welfare bill. Looking at the graph below, targeting proportionally tiny housing benefits or tax credits looks futile – superficially at least – when 42% of the ‘welfare’ budget is spent on pensions:
You can see why lefties love using this statistic – it grossly skews the welfare bill to make it look like we hardly spend anything on the things their opponents want to cut.
So what does the welfare budget look like if we take pensions out of the equation?
This truer reflection of the welfare budget sees the other slices of the pie double in size.
30% of the non-pensions budget is spent on family benefits, income support and tax credits, some £45 billion.
Housing makes up closer to 20%, £26 billion.
A much clearer illustration of what we spend on welfare than lefties and the ONS would have us believe…
Awkward, via PA:
Iain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after running up more than £1,000 in expenses debts, it can be revealed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was among more a dozen MPs subject to action by the Commons watchdog after failing to show spending was valid.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) issues MPs with credit cards for to pay for items such as travel and accommodation.
The politicians then have to prove the spending was genuine by the end of the month, or they build up debts to the watchdog.
What would the DWP have to say about such a flagrant breach of the rules?
Seems pretty serious: Higher.
Hardly the first time that the words ‘IDS’ and ‘expenses’ have been heard in the same sentence…
Certainly a case for suspending hand outs.
UPDATE: Team IDS get in touch:
“Iain has not had his card suspended. IPSA have confirmed twice in writing that this issue was an error on their part. To be clear no money is owed”
Yet IPSA still insist the credit card was switched off and that they stand by their original claim entirely. So who’s telling the truth?