After the defeat for the government over its welfare reforms, we have to do everything we can to sweep it away

On Wednesday afternoon in Parliament after an opposition debate on Universal Credit not a single Tory MP voted in favour of its own flagship policy. Labour’s motion calling on the Government to halt its implementation was carried unanimously by 299 votes to 0.

In an impassioned debate opposition MPs drew attention to the inequity of claimants having to wait 6 weeks for payments. Laura Pidcock, MP for North West Durham, noted that a single person under 25 gets a ‘loan’ of £126 for six weeks, or £3 a day, and pointedly asked who in parliament could live on that?

Earlier at Prime Minister’s questions Pidcock had Theresa May flustered and reeling when she asked, “Is the rollout a matter of gross incompetence or calculated cruely?”

And in a coruscating attack on the Tories’ notion that UC ‘incentivises’ people back to work, MSP Mhairi Black angrily commented that, “This government can’t even incentivise its own Scottish Tory MPs to turn up! Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work.”

Despite a succession of Tories stepping up to speak in favour of immediate implementation, however, not a single MP voted against pausing the introduction of universal credit. The Tories instructed their MPs to abstain in an effort to prevent a vote, but Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston defiantly opposed the whip and voted for the Labour motion.

Despite this massive defeat for the government, however, Theresa May has refused to pause the rollout of universal credit. Which begs the question posed by a Labour party member: what are we going to do to get rid of this evil government?

This is a government afraid to vote for its own policies because of fear of losing, and which then refuses to be bound by decision. It is a very sad day for democracy. But as Owen Jones says, “this is the weakest, most farcical government Britain has had in generations.” The Tory government is in office but not in power, so we have to do everything we can to sweep it away.

In her recent interview with Owen Jones, Laura Pidcock rightly identified that victories have to happen in the workplaces and there has to be pressure on the streets.

And at the recent People’s Assembly rally in Manchester during the Tory Party conference Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said “When Labour goes into government we all go into government because we are a movement.”

He is right, but only if we ensure there is a pre-existing mass movement when that moment arrives. Which is why he also called on people to organise at the grassroots to implement change. We agree

It will take a mass popular movement to make this happen. And the more victories we can win through strikes and protests the more we will weaken the government. As Laura Pidcock noted at the LRC fringe meeting at Labour conference, there is an inextricable link between street protests, resistance in the workplace and what parliament can deliver.

So we need to continue to protest, continue to build the movements and continue to support and encourage workers in their trade union struggles. But we also need to ensure that we make the end of the Tory government a central demand in all our campaigns.

Tony Dowling

Tony Dowling is a teacher, socialist, trade unionist, antifascist, anti-war & anti-cuts activist. He is currently chair of North East People's Assembly and a member of Counterfire.

Tagged under: