Acting party leader, Harriet Harman, has said Labour should “listen” to the electorate and “not oppose” Tory benefit cuts. Activists and candidates in the leadership race – apart from unpopular Blairite Liz Kendall – have reacted with revulsion to the comments, appearing to confirm the party is drifting left.
Cutting tax credits for families with more than two children has proven particularly divisive, with one Labour MP saying the policy is akin to “eugenics”.
Harman told the BBC on Sunday: “We won’t appose the welfare bill; we won’t oppose the household benefit cap; we’re going to be understanding the point about people with more than three children (receiving extra benefits).”
She added “We have got to recognise why the Tories are in government and not us; which is not because people love the Tories particularly, but because they didn’t trust us on the economy and on benefits.”
Leadership contenders Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper followed Jeremy Corbyn and party activists in denouncing the uncharacteristically pragmatic suggestion from Harman.
Many believed Miliband lost the election because he was too far to the left, and now many suspect hard left radical, Islamist sympathiser and surprise entry Jeremy Corbyn (who has unexpectedly jumped into second place) of pulling the leadership debate even further away from the centre ground.
Almost 14k people have signed Jeremy Corbyn’s petition against Harman-backed plans to limit child tax credit http://t.co/mOA1Ev1AQI
— Emily Ashton (@elashton) July 13, 2015
“I want to support what Harriet said, we have to listen to what people have said to us, that they didn’t trust us and we have to change,” agreed Liz Kendall, the only Blairite candidate and lone figure on the centre ground, who has fallen into a distant last place in the race.
“Many parents who aren’t on tax credits have to make difficult decisions about how many kids they have and how many kids they can afford,” she added.
Meanwhile, Stephen Kinnock MP, son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, said that Harman should U-turn and that limiting child tax credits to two children is “awfully reminiscent of some kind of eugenics policy”.
David Cameron firmly denied he would slash tax credits during the election. However, the Tories also said they would not raise the minimum wage, which they did in the budget last week, supposedly to counter the loss of income working families will experience due to tax credit changes.
The Tories are moving into the centre ground, happy to watch Labour repeat the mistakes of the election as they lurch even further to the left. This, it would seem, leaves plenty of space on the right for an insurgent UKIP to fill.