Sefton Borough’s two Labour MPs have split over the Tories controversial Welfare Bill in what has been described as a mess and a shambles. Bootle’s Peter Dowd has joined Southport Lib Dem John Pugh and the other Lib Dems in opposing the Bill whereas Sefton Central’s Bill Esterson abstained.
The Bill was voted through to its next stage by 184 votes – precisely the same number as the 184 Labour MP who didn’t vote on it. So it would have been defeated if all the Labour MPs had voted against it.
Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham MP has been widely-accused of “flip-flopping” after refusing to join the Labour rebels despite insisting he was opposed to the welfare cuts set out by George Osborne in the Budget.
Mr Burnham said that he had to follow Harriet Harman, Labour’s interim leader, by only abstaining on the bill because he “wasn’t prepared to split the party and make the job of opposition even harder”.
“This was still a compromise position and it wasn’t a strong enough position for me,” he said, but refused to vote as he said his heart and mind dictated.
While Mr Burnham has been quoted as saying that thie present situation in the Labour Party is ” a mess”, SNP deputy Leader Stewart Hosie is describing it as “an absolute shambles.” He says of the leaderless Labour Party:
“Their official line was to not oppose a welfare plan which I don’t think a single Labour voter would have supported. We’re seeing the same chaos emerging today when they don’t even have a reasoned amendment against a Finance Bill.”
Labour’s Treasury spokesperson Shabana Mahmood has since confirmed that her party intends to abstain on the Finance Bill – enacting the recent budget which Labour pays lip service to criticising – but will not vote against this measure.
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