The New Statesman report today that Labour MPs including Diane Abbott, Ian Lavery and John McDonnell are planning to vote against capping benefit, when a vote on this issue takes place this Wednesday, “with more to follow”. Abbott told the Statesman that the benefit cap was “part of a political narrative which demonises welfare claimants; most of the public don’t understand that half of welfare claimants are pensioners and that another quarter are in work.”
Ed Balls shocked many in announcing that Labour would not oppose the cap, and, it seems, has no qualms with it at all: “Ed Miliband called for a welfare cap last year, in his speech in June, and we have agreed with the way in which the government has structured the welfare cap, what’s in and what’s out in the next parliament.” Worryingly, George Osborne’s office are already crowing that Balls’s announcement means that Labour has signed up to the Tories’ “updated fiscal mandate”.
The question is how many Labour MPs will go along with the leadership’s warped strategy. You can easily write to your MP through following this link – or, even better, look up their email address on parliament’s website. Below is a short message to send if you can’t think of one of your own: it’s designed to be sent to Labour MPs, and if you’re a Labour member lobbying a Labour MP, it’s worth making this clear. But lobby them whether they’re Labour or another party – we should not stand by while our welfare state is attacked again and again.
Dear [insert MP’s name],
I am writing to urge you to oppose the government’s social security cap and economic strategy at the Commons vote, this Wednesday, 26th March. I agree with Diane Abbott that such a cap would “encourage cuts in benefits, rather than long-term strategies to do things to bring the benefits bill down, like housebuilding, like a rise in the minimum wage”. Unemployment is stagnant at 2.33 million and many more are reliant on in-work benefits. The government has made it clear that their proposed benefit cap is a part of their (failed) austerity agenda (https://twitter.com/ToryTreasury/status/447681934928650241). Instead, we should heed Ed Balls’s praise for “the benefits of a slower, steadier approach to reducing an even bigger debt.”
I am concerned that supporting this cap is yet another example of Labour allowing Tory and right-wing media narratives about social security to go unchallenged.
[CLP – if writing to a Labour MP]