Archive | July, 2015

The Opposite of Opposition

22 Jul

Andrew Gwynne is a Labour MP.  One of those who ‘abstained’ in the vote on the ‘Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015’.  But instead of being so ashamed of his party’s cowardice that he’s crawled under a rock, he’s now proudly blogging about how abstention is opposition.

Next week, we have to assume, he’ll be writing about how freedom is slavery…

He’s a clever bloke, so he sets out a very plausible argument.  This is that the Bill includes some nice things that Labour wanted to vote for, along with some things that were bad.  So Labour would be falling into a terrible media trap if they just voted against it. Labour therefore tabled a ‘reasoned amendment’, in order to explain this and avoid being mistreated in the media.

If that was all he’d said, he’d still be a coward who helped the Tories secure a massive majority for a cuts package because he was scared of what the papers would say if he didn’t.  And because he was deluded about the way the media would respond to the sight of Labour making policy according to what Rupert Murdoch ordered.  But on top of that, he lied.

The Bill, according to him, doesn’t include cuts to tax credits:

…we will vote against the tax credit cuts which will make 3 million low and middle income working families worse off. These measures are not in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill – they will be in Statutory Instruments in the autumn, and Labour will oppose them.

But it says here that tax credits are indeed part of the Bill.  That’s the House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It says it, to be precise, in the summary on page five, and on every single page of chapter six. Chapter six is about tax credits.  And the cuts to be made to them in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Now, if Andrew Gwynne is telling the truth, then that briefing paper was inaccurate and the researcher who wrote it was incompetent.  Beyond incompetent, given that the error was repeated over a chapter.

The idea that Gwynne seized on in order to justify abstention (‘statutory instruments’) refers to the fact that some of the spending cuts are to be achieved ‘by regulations’ (page 77 of the Briefing Paper), but treats it as an afterthought.  I’d suggest that’s because the author (Steven Kennedy, btw) believes that once a Bill is passed in parliament, then regulations relating to it are likely to pass without any problem. Especially given that the government has a significant majority, and that those regulations could be included as addenda in similarly complex bills that Labour won’t have the bottle or brains to oppose.

Oh, and because clauses eleven and twelve of the bill explicitly set limits on child tax credit and universal credit to families with children.  Gwynne – like the mainstream of the Labour Party – simply abstained from a vote against cuts, and there is no getting out of it.

As well as openly lying, he likes a bit of misleading diversion.  Hence he talks at length about all the amendments the Labour Party tabled to the Bill.  You could get the impression that it’s impossible to table an amendment if you’ve voted against a Bill.

That’s not true.  Not even remotely.  It couldn’t be true, because it reverses the order in which votes actually happen.  The votes on amendments actually happen first – otherwise MPs would be voting on laws without knowing what was in them. And if that happened everybody would know it wasn’t a democracy.

Funnily enough, he’s not the only Labour MP to try to sell this version of the “we’re so clever, we tabled some amendments instead” argument.  Here‘s the only remaining Scottish Labour MP outlining the same idea, whilst trying to get the usual dig in at the SNP for doing “opposition for opposition’s sake”.

That’s a pretty rubbish kind of dig – given that on this issue the SNP and the DUP voted the same way. Indeed, it’s so rubbish an insult, it’s more accurate turned on its feet and applied to the Labour Party.

Which believes in nothing higher than Collaboration, for Collaboration’s Sake.