Politics: Shy benefits rebels make way for `Tone's clones'

A predicted Commons rebellion over cuts in lone parents' benefits failed to materialise last night as unhappy backbenchers stayed away. Fran Abrams, Political Correspondent, watched as loyal Labour MPs queued up to support the Government line.

Labour rebels stayed away in droves from yesterday's debate on benefits and welfare reform. Instead, the benches were packed with eager, newly- elected MPs anxious to win Brownie points from party whips.

Earlier in the day, Downing Street had ruled out suggestions that it might delay the implementation of the cuts, clearly relishing the opportunity to display strength in the face of left-wing protests.

There could still be a rebellion when the Government's measures are put to the vote next Wednesday. But last night's Conservative motion attacking ministers for implementing the previous government's cuts won no support from Labour.

At times, the lack of opposition on the Labour side was almost comical. "Tone's clones" rose one after another to support the Government until the shadow social security spokesman, Iain Duncan Smith, accused the whips of having orchestrated their efforts.

There were even claims that Ken Livingstone, a vocal opponent of the changes, had phoned to say he would have been present but had twisted his ankle on the Tube, though these could not be confirmed. Others simply went missing without explanation.

Among the new Labour recruits who packed the chamber to back the beleaguered Secretary of State for Social Security, Harriet Harman, was Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley.

"I am very proud that new Labour is beginning to prioritise work over welfare, opportunity over waste. This government will face up to the growing numbers of women who need and want to work," she said.

A stream of others were anxious to intervene during Mr Duncan Smith's speech, each apparently armed by the whips with a piece of information on his earlier pronouncements on welfare or on the Conservative government's record.

Mr Duncan Smith accused Helen Brinton, the ultra-loyal MP for Peterborough, of having been given an "intervention list" by the whips.

When in opposition, Labour front benchers had gone around the country making wild promises, including pledges to reverse lone parent benefit cuts, and they should now be held to account, he argued.

"It wasn't so much a case of a wet Wednesday in Dudley as a UK-wide programme of empty promises seven days a week. No wonder the backbenchers have smelt a rat," he said.

The only dissent on the government side came from the left-winger, Dennis Skinner.

"Some lone parents don't want to work. They want to look after their children and therefore should not be penalised because they take that honourable stance," he said.

Ms Harman announced a conference to be held next month on a national childcare strategy - a measure which appeared to have been hastily arranged, as no date or venue had been fixed for the event.

"Too many lone mothers have been written off to a life of dependency on income support. Lone mothers want to work for the same reason as married women work - for a better standard of living for their children," she said.

The only opposition came from the Liberal Democrats. Their spokesman, David Rendel, said the Government could afford to reverse the cuts.

The Government won the vote by 336 to 131.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions