Labour’s acting leader was pilloried on Sunday for failing to provide meaningful opposition to the Tory cuts detailed in George’s Osborne’s recent budget. Harriet Harman said that the party would accept some of the radical welfare cuts imposed by the Tory regime, her capitulation coming as experts rounded on the government for austerity measures that are “aimed at the poorest.”
Harman said that Labour should acknowledge its election defeat, a beating she attributed to a lack of trust on the economy. She added that defeat at the polls meant her party could not adopt a position of "blanket opposition" and as such Labour would accept the household benefits cap and the chancellor’s decision to limit support through tax credits and universal credits to two children.
Labour party interim leader Harriet Harman speaks to reporters and supporters on May 18, 2015 in London, England
Speaking on BBC1’s Sunday Politics, Harman said her party needed to regain trust on the issue of financial responsibility. "I think we won't oppose the Welfare Bill. We won't oppose the household benefit cap. I mean, for example, what they brought forward in relation to restricting benefits and tax credits for people... with three or more children," she said.
She continued: "[What] we've got to do is listen to what people around the country said to us and recognise that we didn't get elected, again, and this wasn't a blip, this was the second time we haven't got elected, and actually what people don't want us to do is they don't want us to do blanket opposition, they want us to actually be specific about what we are going to be challenging and holding the Government to account on, but more than that, they want us to listen to their concerns and we've got to recognise why it was that the Tories are in government and not us."
Harman said Labour didn't win because people "love the Tories" but because they didn't "trust" Labour "on the economy and on benefits.”
Harman’s comments come amid consternation from the IFS who said the poor would lose out more than the rich from the budget, noting that Osborne's claim that it would pave the way to a "higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare" Britain was erroneous.
Reacting to Harman’s appearance on the BBC, Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn, who is running on an anti-austerity plank, said, “families are suffering enough." He said: "If it is proposed that Labour MPs are being asked to vote for the government's plans to cut benefits to families 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 with the welfare if children are at stake."