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Labour in disarray on welfare shake-up as its proposals for tough reform unravel
Labour leader Ed Miliband faces growing mutiny over his soft approachPolls reveal decisive public support for Government's benefit shake-upLiam Byrne rushes out proposals designed to harden up Labour's image
00:28 GMT, 8 April 2013
01:58 GMT, 8 April 2013
Labour was plunged into disarray over welfare yesterday, as its proposals for tough reforms unravelled – and Ed Miliband faced a growing mutiny over his soft approach.
With opinion polls revealing decisive public support for the Government’s benefit shake-up, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne rushed out proposals designed to harden up its image on the issue.
The move came amid growing unease among Labour MPs about the leadership’s stance on welfare reform.
Policy: Labour's work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne rushed out proposals designed to harden up its image on the issue
Mr Miliband will step up criticism of George Osborne and David Cameron today for linking the case of child killer Mick Philpott to the need for reform of Britain’s bloated benefits system.
But many Labour MPs fear the party is in danger of being on the wrong side of public opinion over the issue. One MP yesterday said the Tories were ‘playing Labour like a fiddle in this welfare reform debate’.
Mr Byrne, one of the few Blairite moderates left in the Shadow Cabinet, called for a return to the contributory principle under which those who have worked for years get more generous benefits than those who have not.
He suggested the jobless should go to the back of the queue for council housing.
But the proposals began to unravel within hours, with Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman stressing that the plans were only ideas for ‘discussion’ and were not party policy.
Welfare shake-up: Labour leader Ed Miliband is facing a growing mutiny over his soft approach
And a Labour source acknowledged that
the idea of linking contributions to benefits would be ‘unaffordable’
unless those who had paid in nothing had their handouts slashed – an
idea that would be unacceptable to the trade unions and the Left.
BIG SUPPORT FOR 500-A-WEEK CAP
Two opinion polls yesterday revealed widespread public support for the Government’s welfare reforms.
A YouGov poll for The Sun found that 60 per cent of voters think welfare payments are too generous.
And 79 per cent said they backed the 500-a-week benefits cap, which comes into force today, despite opposition from Labour.
A separate poll for the Labour-supporting Sunday People found that 66 per cent of people agreed with Mr Osborne that Britain’s welfare system is ‘broken’.
And 72 per cent said that under the last Labour government ‘too many people were able to claim benefits they should not have been entitled to’.
Labour MPs are becoming increasingly alarmed by the approach of the
Labour leadership, which has opposed every single piece of welfare
reform put forward by the Coalition.
Former Labour welfare reform minister Frank Field said the party faced a huge challenge on welfare, adding: ‘We have been here before, and we ducked it before.
‘The real question is, as Labour now moves up towards the general election, are we going to have an alternative.’
Loyalist MP Simon Danczuk said Labour needed to talk about how it was going to reform the benefits system rather than just complaining about every cut.
He said. ‘We need to acknowledge some people choose not to work. We all know people who’ve chosen to live on benefits instead of getting a job.’
He went on: ‘Labour should now move from focusing on who loses out on benefits to how they’re going to get those who choose a life on dole into work.'