​Blatant contradiction: Labour backs kids benefits cuts, pledges to fight child poverty

Britain's opposition Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman (Reuters / Neil Hall)
The Labour party will support Chancellor George Osborne’s planned welfare cuts affecting children while fighting the government’s plan to abolish child poverty targets, it has emerged.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Neil on Sunday, acting Labour leader Harriet Harman backed Osborne’s harsh austerity measures. Her stance left the BBC interviewer perplexed, as he struggled to find areas where the two politicians disagree.

In a bid to explain her position, Harman said Labour would not offer “blanket opposition” to the Chancellor’s cuts. She insisted the party would seek to block certain measures such as Tory plans to abolish child poverty targets.

Labour MP Dianne Abbot has criticized the blatant contradiction in Harman’s statements, pointing out that cuts in welfare contribute to child poverty.

Harman told the BBC on Sunday that Labour would not seek to oppose Osborne’s crack down on welfare spending.

READ MORE: Osborne’s ‘regressive’ budget leaves 3mn households £1,000 worse off per year – IFS

We won't oppose the welfare bill, we won't oppose the benefits cap, restricting benefits and tax credits to people with three or more children,” she said.

She added that “people don't want us to do blanket opposition. They want us to be specific."

Harman insisted Labour would only oppose some changes to tax credits as well as the “abolition of child poverty targets.”

The acting Labour leader’s contradictory statement has not been lost on left-wing voices in the party.

Writing in the Guardian on Monday, Diane Abbot asked: “How did a party that once promised to end child poverty in a generation become one that will shrug and vote for measures which will force tens of thousands of children into poverty?"

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington went on to attack the benefits cap announced in Osborne’s budget last week, which will limit the amount of state support a person can receive to £23,000 within London and £20,000 outside London.

The benefits cap is a totally arbitrary way of cutting welfare. It has very little to do with evidence-based policy making,” she wrote.

But it has everything to do with feeding a narrative that says millions of ‘scroungers’ are idling around making more on benefit than they would if they worked.”

READ MORE: Austerity ‘condemns’ children to poverty – report to UN

Labour adviser John McTernan was also critical of Harman’s pledge to back welfare cuts affecting children, suggesting the party doesn’t understand its own supporters.

Huge error! The voters were not telling Labour that they wanted more child poverty,” he said on Twitter.

Labour leadership favorite Andy Burnham implicitly criticized Harman when he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program on Monday that he would oppose welfare cuts.

We should oppose those changes. That’s how Labour makes itself relevant. Labour wins when Labour speaks for everyone, for the whole and that’s what it will do under my leadership,” he said.

However, Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall came out in support of Harman’s stance on Monday.

Kendall said she wouldn’t oppose some benefits cuts, including the cap on household benefit income, but insisted the reforms be accompanied by the introduction of a “genuine” living wage.

I think many parents who are not on tax credits have to make difficult decisions about how many kids they can have and how many kids they can afford,” she said.