Daily catch-up: ‘It’s a trap for Labour!’ Commons votes on welfare cuts

All the latest on Labour’s nervous breakdown and the Chancellor’s attempt to take advantage of it

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1. The House of Commons votes on cuts to tax credits this evening. Despite George Osborne holding up a big neon sign saying, “It’s a trap for Labour!”, it looks as if many Labour MPs will walk into it.

Harriet Harman has tried to point out that it is probably better not to fall into the Conservatives’ trap and wants Labour MPs to abstain. Many of them will disobey. I admire her steely seriousness of purpose, but I think this may not be the right time and place.

The cuts in tax credits are unnecessary, will increase poverty and will reduce work incentives. The tax credit system may be bloated and unwieldy, but mostly it takes the form of a tax cut for the working poor. Describing tax relief as welfare spending is a clever rhetorical device.

Labour ought to support the principle of fiscal responsibility and some of the cuts, welcome the Chancellor’s conversion to a slower pace of deficit reduction and the Conservatives’ adoption of the Labour policy of a higher minimum wage, but oppose the deep cuts in tax credits.

2. The Chancellor has an article in The Guardian today urging “progressives” to support the Government’s welfare cuts. Too clever by two thirds, if you ask me.

3. The trouble for Labour is that it is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, known among political scientists as a leadership election. I wrote in The Independent on Sunday yesterday that Jeremy Corbyn is not going to win. I suspect that private poll was leaked by Liz Kendall’s campaign to try to shock the sensible wing of the party, but we have no public polls of party members and supporters as yet. YouGov was surveying people last week, but this is either for one of the leadership campaigns or for The Sunday Times, to be published later in the race, which doesn’t end until 12 September.

In the absence of verifiable polls, and apart from the bookmakers’ odds, the only hard data we have on the state of the contest is nominations by constituency parties, which are purely symbolic and a form of displacement activity for hardcore meetings-attenders.

Stephen Bush is collating the latest score here (Corbyn 70, Burnham 67, Cooper 58, Kendall 12). The nominations last time are recorded here.

But the damage by Corbyn and his supporters has already been done.

4. The Top 10 in The New Review, the Independent on Sunday magazine, was Books Disowned By Their Authors.

5. Bear with. I was supposed to be making myself available to a vast new audience on Facebook during the election campaign, but offline life intervened. Now I am trying again. The whole thing is completely baffling, but if you are a Bookface person, go over there and click Like or whatever it is that one is supposed to do in that foreign country. And if anyone can explain how the blessed thing is supposed to work, do let me know.

6. And finally, thanks to Glenny Rodge for this:

“The first rule of Chinese Whispers Club is you never chalk a boot shiny wasp horse cubs.”