Socialist Worker

Labour leadership races to right with welfare attacks

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2462

Harriet harman

Harriet Harman capitulates to the Tories’ assault on welfare (Pic: Flickr: University of Salford Press Office)

Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman’s announcement that the party will not oppose the Tories’ latest attacks on welfare signals a further lurch to the right. 

She declared in a BBC interview that Labour wouldn’t reject the Tories’ plan to cap welfare payments to families and limit child tax credits to two children. 

Harman argued it was necessary because they lost the May general election. 

She said, “We cannot simply say to the public you were wrong at the election. 

“We’ve got to wake up and recognise that this was not a blip—we’ve had a serious defeat and we must listen to why.”

But those who did vote Labour wanted something different to the Tories. They didn’t expect Labour to drop all opposition if it lost. 

At the very least Labour voters and supporters would expect to see Labour MPs challenge the Tories’ assault. 

Arguments about the lessons of Labour’s general election defeat have dominated its leadership election. 

Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Blairite Liz Kendall have disagreements. 

But all want to shift Labour further away from its links to working class organisation. 

But even Cooper and Burnham recognise that Harman’s statement will be too much for many Labour supporters to swallow and have spoken out against it.

Left wing challenger Jeremy Corbyn lifted many grassroots activists when he got on the ballot paper. 


He immediately condemned Harman’s surrender. 

He said, “I am not willing to vote for policies that will push more children into poverty. 

“Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake.”

Corbyn’s stand against war, racism and cuts has won many grassroots activists. 

Those who are sick of Labour aping the Tories on cuts and racist scapegoating are looking to his campaign as an alternative. 

They see Corbyn’s challenge as part of a project to reclaim Labour for the left.

The Unite union has announced that it would be recommending a vote for Corbyn. 

They also reported that as many as 30,000 Unite members had signed up as registered Labour supporters. 

This allows them to vote in the election. 

The right wing media has gone into a panic about the fact that a left winger is gaining support. 

The Sun on Sunday newspaper devoted two pages to Corbyn. It denounced him as a “dangerous Marxist throwback”. 

But the support Corbyn is winning and the right’s scaremongering cannot hide the reality of what Harman’s action means. 

The leadership know just where they are taking the party—and it is not to the left

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