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Sunday, Jun 20, 2021

A Universal Credit u-turn seems inevitable

A Universal Credit u-turn seems inevitable

Labour's opposition day motion calling on the government not to drop the £20 uplift in Universal Credit has just passed in the Commons – because the government abstained on the vote.

This was expected, but what was more of a surprise was that there was a vote at all: no one was there to oppose the motion, to the extent that the tellers were all Labour MPs, who had all voted for the motion (normally two tellers are from the ayes and two from the noes). So why was there a division at all?

As usual, the Speaker asked for those who supported the motion to say 'aye', which they did, and then for those who opposed it to say no'. Strangely, there were shouts of 'no!' from MPs who then went on to support the motion. Shortly after the result, Tory William Wragg complained in a point of order that Labour whips had hidden behind their face masks to secretly shout 'no!'

These sorts of shenanigans aren't new, and the reason anyone from Labour bothered to push it to a vote was so that the party could claim the Tories didn't even bother to show up to a debate on such an important issue (something Keir Starmer tweeted, apparently unaware of the irony of this complaint coming from a man who took the party leadership largely as a result of some very adept fence-sitting during the Corbyn era and who has since abstained on a fair few matters).

More useful, though, were the repeated assurances given by the two ministers responding to the debate, Will Quince and Steve Barclay, that there were ‘active’ discussions between Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey and the Treasury about ‘how best to continue to support’ those affected.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is concerned about the hefty price tag of around £6 billion of maintaining the uplift. But he is also a man who has long understood the importance of not alienating colleagues. So expect a change of policy sooner rather than later.


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