UK Politics

Labour made 'a mess' of welfare vote, Andy Burnham says

Andy Burnham Image copyright PA
Image caption Andy Burnham has been strongly critical of the Welfare Bill

Labour made "a mess" of its approach to the government's Welfare Bill and is "crying out for leadership", Andy Burnham has said.

The leadership hopeful said he had agreed to abstain on the key vote because he was "not prepared to split the party".

The Commons backed the Welfare Reform and Work Bill by 308 to 124 votes.

Almost 50 Labour rebels defied orders to abstain on plans including limiting child tax credit to two children.

They included leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn and London mayoral candidates Sadiq Khan and David Lammy.

The SNP said it was "disgraceful" that Labour had not joined it in opposing the bill - acting leader Harriet Harman had ordered Labour MPs to abstain in the final vote.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Mr Burnham, who was a critic of the plan to abstain, said he had persuaded Ms Harman to adopt a "compromise" position by putting forward a "reasoned amendment" opposing some of the bill's measures.

That amendment, which would have derailed the legislation, was defeated by 308 votes to 208.

"I still do not believe that that was a strong enough position," Mr Burnham said. "As leader I would have opposed this bill last night."

But he said he was "not prepared to split the party and make the job of opposition even harder".

He added: "It was a mess, wasn't it? The run-up to this vote was a bit of a mess. It is quite clear that this is a party now that is crying out for leadership and that is what I have shown in recent days."


Analysis by Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

Image copyright AP

First Harriet Harman took a stand - saying Labour had to wake up and listen to voters on welfare.

Then she compromised - tabling an amendment designed to sidestep a row. And then almost 50 rebels ignored her instructions.

Were she Labour's permanent leader, her authority would be in tatters.

But it's not about her; she'll be gone by the autumn.

The real question is: could any of her would-be successors persuade the party that welfare must be reformed now?

Would they want, or dare, to try?

Read the full article


Ms Harman had faced criticism for her stance, with many MPs saying she should have been more outspoken in her opposition to curbs on child tax credits and cuts to other in-work benefits.

A total of 48 Labour MPs - including 18 who were elected in May - voted against the measures.

Labour's work and pensions spokesman Stephen Timms told BBC Radio London the rebellion was "smaller than quite a lot of people expected", and included a number of MPs who regularly defy the party whip.

He added: "There were also a number of newer members who broke the whip and I hope as we go into the summer recess they will conclude that they really want to be supporting our party's efforts to replace the current government rather than undermining them."

But one of the new-intake rebels, Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens, told BBC News she did not agree, saying the bill, which include £12bn in welfare cuts, was focusing on working families.

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Media captionThe Labour Party is in "bewilderment" and "emotional trauma" following its election defeat, David Blunkett says

She said she did not criticise any of her colleagues for the way they had voted but that there "may be a new approach" when a new leader is in place in September.

Apart from Mr Corbyn, all the leadership contenders - Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Mr Burnham - followed Ms Harman's lead and abstained.

Ms Stevens said they had "no choice" as they were bound by collective responsibility.

Another new MP, Cat Smith, told the BBC's Daily Politics she had rebelled "with a heavy heart" after raising her concerns over the bill with the party leadership.

"I felt I was not listened to so I did the only thing I thought I could do," she added.

Stephen Kinnock, who followed the party line and abstained, said Labour was "obviously on the back foot" and that the Conservatives were "setting the agenda".

"I hope that as we get a new leader we will be ready in 2016 to get back on the front foot," he added.

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Media captionWelfare cuts and the rocketing cost of rent were leading to a "social cleansing" of central London, said Mr Corbyn

Mr Corbyn denied he was fuelling a split in the Labour Party, saying the revolt had "strengthened" Labour's position against the Conservatives.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme society ought to be "deeply concerned" about child poverty and deprivation levels.

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Media captionStephen Timms: The party must come together

During Treasury Questions in the Commons, Chancellor George Osborne said a "new intake of old Labour MPs" were "dragging" the party "back to the 1980s".

"We know the direction they are heading in - left, left, left - away from the centre ground of British politics and away from support for working people," he added.

Ex-Labour cabinet minister David Blunkett said the party was in "emotional trauma", and was "not debating enough about where we go from here".

"Last night again focused on us being divided," he said, adding that the Welfare Bill was "clearly not a moment for setting out the alternative".

MPs who won their seats in May were "very lucky" and should ask themselves "why others didn't", he added.

Image caption Mr Duncan Smith said welfare would be put on a "sustainable footing".

The bill, which also seeks to lower the overall household benefit cap from £26,000 a year to £20,000 outside of London, and £23,000 in London, as well as to train a further three million apprentices, has now cleared its first parliamentary hurdle and will move on to more detailed scrutiny.

In a passionate debate, Conservative MPs lined up to support the measures.

As well as Labour MPs who did not support the bill, it was opposed by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

SNP employment spokeswoman Hannah Bardell said: "Labour had the perfect opportunity to join the SNP in a progressive coalition to oppose the Tories - but with some honourable exceptions they sat on their hands."

On Twitter, SNP MP Pete Wishart said it was "apparent" that Labour and the SNP together could have defeated the bill.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Labour was beset by "internal fear and loathing" and that the bill would put welfare funding on a "more sustainable footing" while protecting those most in need.

MPs who voted against the bill

Abbott, Diane - Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Abrahams, Debbie - Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

Ahmed-Sheikh, Tasmina - SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire

Anderson, David - Labour MP for Blaydon

Arkless, Richard - SNP MP for Dumfries and Galloway

Bardell, Hannah - SNP MP for Livingston

Black, Mhairi - SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South

Blackford, Ian - SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Blackman, Kirsty - SNP MP for Aberdeen North

Boswell, Philip - SNP MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Brake, Tom - Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington

Brock, Deidre - SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith

Brown, Alan - SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Burgon, Richard - Labour MP for Leeds East

Butler, Dawn - Labour MP for Brent Central

Cameron, Dr Lisa - SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Campbell, Gregory - DUP MP for East Londonderry

Carmichael, Alistair - Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland

Chapman, Douglas - SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife

Cherry, Joanna - SNP MP for Edinburgh South West

Clegg, Nick - Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam

Clwyd, Ann - Labour MP for Cynon Valley

Corbyn, Jeremy - Labour MP for Islington North

Cowan, Ronnie - SNP MP for Inverclyde

Crawley, Angela - SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East

Davies, Geraint - Labour MP for Swansea West

Day, Martyn - SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Docherty, Martin John - SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire

Dodds, Nigel - DUP MP for Belfast North

Donaldson, Jeffrey M - DUP MP for Lagan Valley

Donaldson, Stuart - SNP MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

Dowd, Peter - Labour MP for Bootle

Durkan, Mark - SDLP MP for Foyle

Edwards, Jonathan - Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Farron, Tim - Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

Fellows, Marion - SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw

Ferrier, Margaret - SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Flynn, Paul - Labour MP for Newport West

Gethins, Stephen - SNP MP for North East Fife

Gibson, Patricia - SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran

Glindon, Mary - Labour MP for North Tyneside

Godsiff, Roger - Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green

Goodman, Helen - Labour MP for Bishop Auckland

Grady, Patrick - SNP MP for Glasgow North

Grant, Peter - SNP MP for Glenrothes

Gray, Neil - SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts

Greenwood, Margaret - Labour MP for Wirral West

Haigh, Louise - Labour MP for Sheffield, Heeley

Harris, Carolyn - Labour MP for Swansea East

Hayman, Sue - Labour MP for Workington

Hendry, Drew - SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

Hosie, Stewart - SNP MP for Dundee East

Hussain, Imran - Labour MP for Bradford East

Jones, Gerald - Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Jones, Helen - Labour MP for Warrington North

Kaufman, Sir Gerald - Labour MP for Manchester Gorton

Kerevan, George - SNP MP for East Lothian

Kerr, Calum - SNP MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Khan, Sadiq - Labour MP for Tooting

Kinahan, Danny - UUP MP for South Antrim

Lamb, Norman - Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk

Lammy, David - Labour MP for Tottenham

Lavery, Ian - Labour MP for Wansbeck

Law, Chris - SNP MP for Dundee West

Lewis, Clive - Labour MP for Norwich South

Long Bailey, Rebecca - Labour MP for Salford and Eccles

Lucas, Caroline - Green MP for Brighton, Pavilion

MacNeil, Angus Brendan - SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Marris, Rob - Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West

Maskell, Rachael - Labour MP for York Central

Mc Nally, John - SNP MP for Falkirk

McCaig, Callum - SNP MP for Aberdeen South

McDonald, Andy - Labour MP for Middlesbrough

McDonald, Stewart - SNP MP for Glasgow South

McDonald, Stuart C - SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair - SDLP MP for Belfast South

McDonnell, John - Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington

McGarry, Natalie - SNP MP for Glasgow East

McInnes, Liz - Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton

McLaughlin, Anne - SNP MP for Glasgow North East

Meacher, Michael - Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton

Mearns, Ian - Labour MP for Gateshead

Monaghan, Carol - SNP MP for Glasgow North West

Monaghan, Dr Paul - SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

Moon, Madeleine - Labour MP for Bridgend

Morris, Grahame M - Labour MP for Easington

Mulholland, Greg - Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West

Mullin, Roger - SNP MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Newlands, Gavin - SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Nicolson, John - SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire

O'Hara, Brendan - SNP MP for Argyll and Bute

Osamor, Kate - Labour MP for Edmonton

Oswald, Kirsten - SNP MP for East Renfrewshire

Paisley, Ian - DUP MP for North Antrim

Paterson, Steven - SNP MP for Stirling

Pearce, Teresa - Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead

Pugh, John - Lib Dem MP for Southport

Rimmer, Marie - Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston

Ritchie, Margaret - SDLP MP for South Down

Robertson, Angus - SNP MP for Moray

Salmond, Alex - SNP MP for Gordon

Saville Roberts, Liz - Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Shannon, Jim - DUP MP for Strangford

Sheppard, Tommy - SNP MP for Edinburgh East

Sherriff, Paula - Labour MP for Dewsbury

Siddiq, Tulip - Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn

Skinner, Dennis - Labour MP for Bolsover

Smith, Cat - Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Stephens, Chris - SNP MP for Glasgow South West

Stevens, Jo - Labour MP for Cardiff Central

Stringer, Graham - Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton

Thewliss, Alison - SNP MP for Glasgow Central

Thomson, Michelle - SNP MP for Edinburgh West

Weir, Mike - SNP MP for Angus

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh - SNP MP for Banff and Buchan

Whitford, Dr Philippa - SNP MP for Central Ayrshire

Williams, Hywel - Plaid Cymru MP for Argon

Williams, Mr Mark - Lib Dem MP for Ceredigion

Wilson, Corri - SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Wilson, Sammy - DUP MP for East Antrim

Winnick, David - Labour MP for Walsall North

Wishart, Pete - SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire

Wright, Iain - Labour MP for Hartlepool

Zeichner, Daniel - Labour MP for Cambridge

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