Sebastian Payne

Liz Kendall offers tentative support for cutting benefits for EU migrants

Liz Kendall offers tentative support for cutting benefits for EU migrants
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Liz Kendall's turn on the Andrew Marr sofa was slightly shaky and vague on details. She continued on the theme of being the 'change everything' candidate but failed on clarify what she would do differently to the Tories and her fellow leadership candidates. When asked by Marr if she was the candidate Yvette Cooper suggested had 'swallowed' the Tory manifesto, Kendall noted the level of change Labour needs:

‘The only thing I’ve swallowed is the sheer scale of the defeat that we faced at the election and the huge changes we need to win again. People didn’t trust us with their money or on the economy and we didn’t set out a positive enough vision for the country that everyone could feel apart of.’

Marr also probed Kendall on whether she supports the government’s welfare reforms. She admitted that ‘we need to reform welfare’ but failed to offer any more specifics:

‘Let’s see what the Conservatives come out with in their budget. I’m not going to provide a budget response to a budget that’s not even been delivered. But it’s vital that fiscal credibility is at the heart of all we do because people need to trust us with their money to win — but there’s nothing progressive about spending more on debt interest payments.’

This poses a problem for Kendall. She is running on a ticket of fiscal responsibility, but has yet to offer any specifics on where she would cut. Her campaign would argue that there's plenty of time and their policy argument is still being crafted. But on TV interviews, it risks making her look uncertain and evasive.

She did hint at one policy commitment: tentative support for David Cameron’s bid to cut benefits for EU migrants. ‘I’m in favour of free movement of people but not free movement of benefits’, she told Marr. Although Labour previously promised to withhold migrants' jobseekers benefits for two years, would she back the Tories' proposals to restrict migrant benefits for four years?

‘That’s definitely something we should look at — but this is a far bigger debate. Are we really going to spend this period in the run up to the referendum discussing whether it’s about tax credits for Polish workers alone?’

Her lack of firm positions adds to the idea that Kendall is too inexperienced to lead the party. When Marr asked if she was tough enough to sit in a room opposite Vladimir Putin, she veered close to responding with Ed Miliband's ‘hell, yeah’:

‘Yes, I do. And the question for this leadership election is not what jobs people have had in the past, but who will face up to what we need to do to win in 2020 to change our country.’

Kendall will make it onto the leadership ballot paper, but her campaign has plenty more work to do if to convince the Labour party that her hopey-changey rhetoric actually has some centrist, reforming policies behind it. As the underdog candidate in this race, maintaining momentum with each media appearance is vital. Although it was not a car crash, this interview did not propel Kendall's bid forwards.