Harriet Harman is wrong: the Conservatives don’t have a mandate to cut child tax credits

Listen to the voters by all means. But recognise that they aren't calling for a cut in child tax credits


As it is apt to do, Twitter went into meltdown yesterday at the announcement by Labour interim leader Harriet Harman that the party would not oppose the Conservative proposal to limit tax credits to two children.

Harman also stated that Labour would not oppose other specifics in chancellor George Osborne’s planned cap on household welfare benefits.

Some of the backlash came from Harman’s contemporaries in the race to be the next Labour leader. Three of the four leadership candidates have so far come out in opposition to the limiting of tax credits to two children, with only Liz Kendall yet to set out her position.

In justifying Labour’s apparent support for Osborne’s plan to cut tax credits, Harman claimed that Labour could not tell the public they were wrong after two general election defeats:

“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.”

In other words, the Conservatives have a mandate from the voters to cut tax credits (and benefits more generally) and therefore the Labour party should ‘listen’ (i.e. vote them through).

The problem is that this analysis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

It’s certainly arguable, regrettably, that the voters have given the government a mandate for swingeing departmental cuts – the chancellor has even rowed back to some extent on the scale of cuts he promised earlier this year. But there’s no mandate for cutting tax credits for those with children.

First of all quite simply because George Osborne did not tell the electorate prior to the election that he would cut child tax credits – in fact during the pre-election television debates David Cameron promised not to cut child tax credits.

The other reason we should not assume the Tories have a mandate to cut child tax credits is because fresh polling indicates that the public are against cuts to tax credits for those with children.

According to a survey done by Sky News last week, while the public back a cut in the amount of benefits that a household can receive from £26,000 to £23,000, they don’t support a cut in tax credits for those with children. The survey found that 63 per cent of people were opposed to cutting tax credits for those with children. The same number also opposed cutting benefits for disabled people who are working.

So no, there isn’t a public mandate for cutting child tax credits. And while it’s probably correct to say that in many policy areas the public are, regrettably, not in the same place as the Labour party, tax credits for children are not one of them.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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65 Responses to “Harriet Harman is wrong: the Conservatives don’t have a mandate to cut child tax credits”

  1. David Lindsay

    I reckon that Harman might be cleverer than she seems, although I admit that that is setting the bar pretty low. She came up through the Hard Left, and you never quite lose that. She is of the same generation as Jeremy Corbyn, and in their early years in Parliament they were on all of the same sides. Deep down, in her heart of hearts…

  2. Cole

    Actually there was a swing to Labour among C2 and DE voters in May. It’s untrue that the working class have abandoned Labour.

  3. Cole

    But why should I subsidise your large family?

  4. Philip Leicester

    When the flippin heck is Labour going to realise we have the worst democratic deficit in Europe (neglecting the #ThisisaCoup incident). The Tories have no manadate because they’re not supported by the majority of the electorate. If Labours response to a victory awarded by 24% of eligible voters is to switch their policy so that the 100,000 voters in the swing seats might vote for them next time then they might as will give up and cede all responsibility for opposition in England and Wales to Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbot, Caroline Lucas and the three Plaid Cymru members. This would be a good thing! Embrace democracy you silly little party and start to believe in something again FFS.

  5. Philip Leicester

    Erm, Tories 36%, the rest 64%
    It’s the election system stupid

  6. Flo

    You’re not… If you think you are then I’ll send you my correct bank details as you’ve clearly been paying in to the wrong account…

    Why do you think you’re subsidising my family?

  7. Flo

    I’ve yet to meet anyone else with a large family that doesn’t work hard.. I’ve seen 16 kids and counting though. Can’t help but think they’re a minority though!

  8. Mike Stallard

    In the gym today, I watched the Labour Candidates parading their wares. lots of old men were unimpressed. All I could see was a lot of very rich, well educated people in expensive suits jockeying for position. Their schtick seemed to be pretending to look after the vulnerable with more taxes.
    I live among working class people and I can tell you we do not feel vulnerable. We like our independence. We do not need mothering. We wouldn’t mind a tax break here and there and some competition in our schools either.
    And then there is the whole problem of the massive amounts given away to people who we all know do not deserve it.

  9. Mike Stallard

    And how does he feel about the European Constitutional Convention then and the plans for More Europe when the unitary, democratic federal state is up and running by 2025? Firmly in the hands of the unelected and unaccountable Commissioners and their President?

  10. dave whixley

    What Harriet Harman said had much valued to the subject, I think the problem is that immigration and benefits have become swear words to many people. The press and the tories have spent years flogging this idea and now UKIP have found it a easy road to stir up the country. As a party that has been there for everyone specially the poor and needed we must stand up and point out not everyone is out to live off the backs of others, we are a nation who believe in justice for everyone. This view may be eroding away but it surely has not let the heart of our party. The NHS and the poor are paying the UK price of the a global recession yet the lie is growing that all those in need are riding on the backs off th the nation. Not sure how we do it but the nation needs to know the truth, immigration has helped us prosper but some have abused this welfare has made us a great nation but some have again abused this so why go and label everyone with this tag of benefits scroungers.
    As Harriet said we have to look at what the nation is saying and alter as needed but some battles are going to be about the message no matter who you are and where you are we are the party that listens and cares, we are the party that speaks and acts for on the nation’s behalf. This may be following a different path but the same message if you are hurting we are here to make a difference to look at the pain and stand to better all not just those few that back a parties bank account whilst investigating their money in foreign bank accounts so to avoid tax that the rest of us pay and still invest in the UK.

  11. Matt Booth

    Tories ~24% of the population, 76% unrepresented in Parliament.

  12. Tony

    The Conservatives steadfastly refused during the election to state what they would cut.
    On the wider issue here.
    “We have to follow the voters”
    Frankie Boyle recently said:
    “You’re a political party. You’re not asking people what they want fetching from the shops!”.

  13. GhostofJimMorisson

    I’ve no bloody idea pal, perhaps you should ask him.

  14. Mike Stallard

    Jim Morrison, perhaps you might trouble to answer my question?
    If the Labour Movement is to survive (doubtful) we need to be as trenchant as Mr Corbin was when he spoke of tabloid journalism questions on TV. The witty put-down is no longer enough.

  15. Mike Stallard

    It is not that easy, is it.
    What effect do you think Mrs Sturgeon had on the result?
    What effect do you think all the bleating about bedroom tax had on people who live next door to welfare scroungers?
    What effect do you think the fragrantly caring’n’sharin’ Labour Leadership had on people who are independent, proud to look after themselves and anxious to get on in life?

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