Despite the Downing Street party scandal, Labour still managed to shame itself

Labour leader Keir Starmer squinting in parliament
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The scandal over Downing Street partying while the rest of us were under coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions is rumbling on. So, you’d think that Keir Starmer’s Labour would want to shame Boris Johnson’s team at every opportunity. But that’s not the case. Because a vote in parliament managed to shame Labour itself.

Labour: the abstaining way

The welfare cap is a limit the government is allowed to spend on social security. FYI – it’s not the same as the so-called benefit cap, which limits how much the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can give a household. On Monday 10 January, there was a parliamentary vote to keep the cap in place and set it at a certain level, and most Labour MPs abstained. This caused uproar among many people, because the welfare cap affects millions of people.

Con-Lib social security restrictions

In 2014, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government introduced the welfare cap. It was part of its Charter for Budget Responsibility. This is a government document saying how much it can spend.

Every so often, parliament reviews the welfare cap. For example, as a House of Commons briefing paper said:

The cap is only formally assessed at the first Budget or first fiscal update of each new Parliament.

The current welfare cap was set in the Spring Budget 2020, and the Treasury said it would apply until 2024/25. It set it at £137.2bn. The Treasury also said this was with a margin of 3%. That is, the government could spend 3% extra or less on either side of £137.2bn. During 2021’s Autumn Budget, however, the Tories said they would be changing the welfare cap again.

Hitting the poorest families

The government has now increased the amount it can spend on social security. The figure is set at £138.3bn, with a margin of 2%. This is a £1.1bn increase, or 0.8%. On the face of it, it seems that the Tories have increased social security spending. But in reality, this is not really the case. For example, when you factor in inflation (the cost of everything we buy), it wipes the Tories’ welfare cap increase out, because Consumer Prices Index inflation rose by 4.6% in the 12 months to November 2021 alone.

Read on...

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Then, you also have the fact that due to the pandemic and changes to DWP policy, there are more people claiming social security. For example, the number of people claiming Universal Credit more than doubled between February 2020 and May 2021. And as of October 2021, this figure had barely changed. So, the 0.8% increase in spending may not even cover that.

The cap also means that if there is a continued increase in social security claimants, the government doesn’t have to increase the welfare budget accordingly. This may inevitably lead to reduced benefit rates for claimants

Get out of jail free card

Within the welfare cap update was a change to how it works. And it’s one that’s potentially more worrying.

The Tory government has updated the terms of the Charter of Budget Responsibility. In it, it has a ‘get out’ clause for the welfare cap. In short, if there is what the government calls a “negative shock” to the economy, it doesn’t have to stick to the welfare cap. That is, if there’s a financial crash (or the pandemic worsens), the Tories can cut spending on social security to below the cap. And while the Tories could use this to increase welfare spending, the party’s track record makes this highly unlikely.

Despite this, most Labour MPs thought it was okay to abstain on 10 January’s vote.

The wrong message

Of course, even if the Labour MPs had voted against the cap, the Tories would still have won. But that’s not really the point. It sends out the message that Labour isn’t fully against the welfare cap. Or, as one SNP MP told the National:

As the UK faces a Tory-made cost-of-living crisis, it is the duty of the opposition to fight for those being directly affected. However, yet again, the Labour Party are posted missing and continue to let down the UK’s working class.

Starmer’s party was completely on the wrong side of the argument here. So, even when the Tory government is under huge pressure, Labour still manages to look uncaring and ‘Tory-lite’. Shameful.

Featured image via Guardian News – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. You mention the Labour Party… I’m glad someone with integrity is starting a new… possible replacement Labour Party. My mother wouldn’t recognise this Labour Party… Keir Starmer has ruined it… half the front bench, if not more do not represent the working people at all… too many career politicians, not enough real people… sad state of affairs.

      1. The Labour party was created to ensure that working class people do not get anywhere close to the levers of power. There is little difference between the current party and that of, say, the pre-war cabinets under Ramsay MacDonald which were more concerned with balancing the budget in the interests of the ruling class than in aiding the vast numbers of poor in the capitalism-caused Great Depression.

    2. Despite the Downing Street party scandal, Labour still managed to shame itself
      NOW-NOW
      It was not all of Labour party at the front bench speaking in
      P.M.Q.T. only Tory light Mr. Starmer giving his personal views
      He will not wish to offend his Tory party mate Boris.
      We voter could also ask was they any Labour M.P. at the private party in garden of No 10 that should come forward now??(tell us)
      But what ever happen Boris Must go now as it’s his party in full power that broke the rules, we all obeyed at L-Down time.
      Concluding
      We must get shut of Tory party next G.E. problem is will Labour be ready to run our country fairly for us all under Mr. Starmer rule?
      We free voter think Not that aided in removing Labour from power back in 2015 G.E. to open door for Tory party that has proven now it also cannot be trusted to run our country failing for us all WHY?
      So, voter has thing stand now Tory party or Labour party are Not fit to run our country next G.E. voting time.
      IT’S A good job us voter will get to pick AGAIN who run our country next G.E.

    3. “As the UK faces a Tory-made cost-of-living crisis, it is the duty of the opposition to fight for those being directly affected. However, yet again, the Labour Party are posted missing and continue to let down the UK’s working class.

      “Starmer’s party was completely on the wrong side of the argument here. So, even when the Tory government is under huge pressure, Labour still manages to look uncaring and ‘Tory-lite’. Shameful.”

      Pick this apart.

      Of course, we ALL KNOW that neoliberal New Labour mollycoddles the wealthy and beats the poorest, they are Tory Wets with fake sincerity from grammar schools, trainees of the Bliars and Clintons who think you can hide naked greed and power-hunger behind a facade of Identity-politics.

      But they don’t WANT us to know this! So they do all ‘focus group’ shit, and they talk about “optics”, and it’s all really about deceiving the Public into thinking there’s a genuine choice at the election.

      And yet here they are not even bothering with this minimum level of normal deception. They don’t seem to care that the Public can see them not caring.

      All we need to see is Herr Starmertrooper bitching off camera about Deplorables!

      The UK would be a far happier place with a “Profit Cap” rather than a “Welfare Cap”. And the economy would run better too.

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