It’s been an extraordinary few weeks in parliament. Following a week described by my Last Word predecessor John McTernan as ‘Labour’s worst ever’ this week has been similarly difficult.
The widely anticipated comprehensive spending review was, as such set piece events so often are, something of an anti-climax. Humiliating and damaging U-turns by George Osborne over cuts to tax credits and police numbers hid a series of damaging cuts to social care; the removal of bursaries for student nurses in the midst of an unprecedented recruitment crisis; and very little to support the rhetoric behind the Northern Powerhouse.
Labour’s response to the statement was characterised by John McDonnell’s surprising use of Mao’s Little Red Book. As another former advisor to Brown and Blair, Theo Bertram, observed on Twitter, ‘You get one tiny gap for a sound bite in opposition. And Labour – entirely through our own volition – made it Mao’.
There has been such an avalanche of commentary regarding this extraordinary event, that I will leave it there, except to observe that this was the day that George Osborne admitted he had got it wrong again and thanks to Labour, nobody noticed.
For shame. Hours later the Resolution Foundation crunched the numbers to discover that low income families with children on Universal Credit will lose, on average £1,300 by 2020. The searing pain of cuts to tax credits has not been removed, it has simply been postponed.
Five million conversations
A late invitation to a Millbank book launch in the company of hardy friends brought me to the newly published Iain Watson book of the last general election campaign ‘Five million conversations: How labour lost an election and rediscovered its roots’. It’s stunningly good and I urge you to buy it.
David Cameron’s response to the foreign affairs select committee in which he makes the government’s case for British involvement in the Syrian crisis was brought to the House of Commons this week. The case for intervention – made clearly and well – is still incomplete.
In response, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of brief but important questions and all eyes now rest upon parliament. Cameron has made it clear that no motion will be brought to the Commons unless he is confident of winning the vote. Corbyn has yet to make it clear whether or not there will be a free vote on the Labour benches and there will be Tory opposition to involvement too. The response was incomplete because of the failure to acknowledge that, should any United Kingdom action in Syria take place, Britain will have to revise the number of refugees from Syria that it is prepared to accept.
It is my sincere hope that the patient thought and studied analysis shown in preparing a case for Britain’s involvement in Syria extends to a better, more compassionate and comprehensive approach towards Syrian refugees than we have so far seen. Low politics must not prevail.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
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