This unlikely rebellion could derail Osborne’s planned disability cuts

Osborne faces a defeat over disability cuts
Bex Sumner

George Osborne faces an “open rebellion” by Tory MPs over his planned cuts to disability benefits, which were confirmed in Wednesday’s budget. Now Labour is suggesting it will push the matter to a Commons vote, meaning the cuts will almost certainly be defeated.

Dozens of Conservative MPs are “deeply concerned” about George Osborne’s planned cuts to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Tory MP Andrew Percy has warned. He told The Evening Standard:

There are scores of Tory MPs who are deeply concerned about this – certainly far more than the Government’s majority. It would be fair to say there is open rebellion and I would say there is zero chance of getting it through.

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Before the budget, 20 Conservative MPs wrote to the Chancellor, asking him to spare people with disabilities from further cuts. He ignored them.

Osborne’s cuts to PIP will take £4.4bn by 2020 from disabled people who need help to get dressed or go to the toilet. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 370,000 disabled people will lose an average of £3,500 a year. The announcement came just days after Osborne forced through cuts of £30 a week to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

On 17 March, Percy spoke out, saying the PIP cut “hits exactly the wrong people” and “sends out the wrong message about the priorities of the government”.

Another rebel, Jason McCartney MP, who voted against cuts to ESA, told The Mirror:

I think it’s really important that we support people who have disabilities… As a good friend of Andrew Percy I will be supporting him in this.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has called the cuts “beyond cruel” and “morally reprehensible”. He said Osborne had:

put the interests of the richest in this country in advance of those who are most vulnerable – that’s unacceptable.

Labour has now indicated it will push the matter to a Commons vote. If it does, and Tory backbenchers continue to rebel, the government is likely to face a humiliating defeat.

Osborne’s budget has been widely derided in the media. BBC reporters have called him out for missing his own targets and breaking his own rulesThe Sun’s front page slammed him for the sugar tax. And a Financial Times journalist has lampooned his entire economic plan.

But it’s the disability cuts that have most outraged many, particularly as they were confirmed in the same budget that handed a £2.7bn capital gains tax cut to the rich. After the budget, one Conservative disability campaigner resigned and sabotaged his own party’s website in protest. And on 17 March, a disability charity dropped London mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith as its patron after he voted in favour of the cuts. Now Osborne faces a major rebellion from the government’s own backbenches.

It is not the only rebellion brewing for Osborne. Tory MPs are also threatening to rebel over the “tampon tax”. While both rebellions are to be applauded, a cynic might note that both are being driven by eurosceptic MPs – and they may have more to do with ending George Osborne’s leadership ambitions than with standing up for women and people with disabilities. But whatever the motives behind the PIP rebellion, it could be welcome news for 370,000 disabled people.

Get Involved!

Sign the official petition to reverse the ESA cut.

– Support Disabled People Against the Cuts.

– Join the Health, Homes and Jobs march against austerity on 16th April.

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Featured image via Gareth Milner/Flickr and Yukiko Matsuoka/Flickr.

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