‘Embarrassed’ Conservative MPs appear to have abandoned the government during a debate on Universal Credit.
“Clearly nobody can justify Universal Credit”
On 16 November, as The Skwawkboxreported, Shadow Secretary for International Trade Barry Gardiner noticed something strange about the Conservative benches:
In 20 years I have never before seen every Tory backbencher refuse to sit behind their front bench but move across the aisle. Clearly nobody can justify Universal Credit#PauseAndFix Sadly not allowed to photograph in chamber
Gardiner points out that Conservative backbench MPs conventionally sit behind the government to show solidarity in parliament. But the key Jeremy Corbyn ally suggests that Universal Credit is so toxic that Conservative MPs refused to sit near frontbench ministers who were defending it.
In fact, Gardiner claims that Conservative MPs actively ‘moved across the aisle’. Universal Credit, the government’s flagship six-in-one welfare overhaul, has faced widespreadcriticism since the ruling party began rolling it out.
Inside the Commons debate
The following images from the Commons, captured by The Canary, appear to chime with Gardiner’s observations. During the previous debate, a number of Conservative backbenchers (back left) were behind government ministers:
But then, Commons discussion moved onto Universal Credit. And every Conservative backbencher – bar one – sits away from the government front bench:
Conservative MPs then bring defeat on the government
Indeed, some Conservative backbenchers have long showed opposition to the rollout of Universal Credit. And that rebellion reared its head on 16 November. Facing a revolt, the government was later defeated on a Universal Credit vote. MPs voted unanimously to reduce the payment waiting time from six to four weeks. Knowing defeat was unavoidable, the government abstained on the vote.
Ministers have been given four days to slash the delay in payments. The long waiting times mean that new Universal Credit claimants won’t receive a payment until after Christmas. Ahead of the holidays, this is worrying for many in Britain. 60,000 households, including over 40,000 children, will apply for Universal Credit between now and Christmas, estimates the Peabody Trust.
Aside from the problems with the rollout of Universal Credit, the welfare overhaul itself represents a huge cut for many ordinary families. Universal Credit will plunge another one million children into poverty by 2022, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.
Packaged as an efficient reform, Universal Credit is actually just more vicious austerity. No wonder even Conservative MPs appear reluctant to stand with, or even sit near, the government on this issue.
– Sign the 38 Degrees petition to pause Universal Credit.
– Write to your MP, asking them to support scrapping Universal Credit.
– Read more stories from The Canary about Universal Credit.
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