Labour is trying to clarify its position on welfare reform ahead of tonight’s PLP meeting. Sources say that the party will abstain on the ‘broad brush’ of the Welfare Reform Bill, though it is not yet clear whether the abstention will be on a three-line whip, given a good number of MPs do want to turn up and vote against the legislation.
The abstention will be at the Second Reading of the Bill, but as Harman has already pointed out, the Committee stages come once the new leader has been elected, and so the party may take stronger positions on more issues. ‘Is that a matter for the new leader? Of course it is,’ said a Labour source on the party’s position on individual votes at Committee stage and later.
For the time being, while abstaining on the legislation, the party will campaign against four issues. These are:
Harman will make these points to the PLP this evening. With no permanent leader to be loyal to at the moment, it is likely to be livelier than usual. But the clarification on 'broad brush' issues shows that the interim leader is a little nervous of appearing to tread on the toes of whoever comes after her. Perhaps this also shows that her well-intentioned attempt to make Labour take positions from the start on legislation has backfired because her conclusions don't seem to have matched those of all the leadership candidates.