Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Tory Government U-turns
by Ian Sinclair
16 July 2016
In his latest Guardian column, Owen Jones argues that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has been “reduced to an ineffective pressure group”. This chimes with a lot of the criticism coming from the Labour MPs opposed to his leadership, Tory politicians and much of the mainstream media – that Corbyn is unable to lead an effective opposition to the Tory Government, and therefore should step down.
In contrast, the historical record shows Labour under Corbyn has defeated the Government on a number of important issues, forcing U-turns at various points. Of course, these victories are not down to Corbyn alone but the whole of the Labour Party and wider Labour movement, often working with civil society groups and other political parties. And, of course, there could always be more defeats for the Government – something that would be more likely if Labour MPs supported their elected leader. I list the victories below so discussion on this topic can be informed by evidence and fact, rather than baseless assertions:
Saudi Arabia prison contract. Guardian, 13 October 2015: “Downing Street has announced that the government is to cancel a £5.9m contract to provide a training programme for prisons in Saudi Arabia… The pressure on Cameron to cancel the Saudi contract escalated when Jeremy Corbyn called on him in his first party conference speech as Labour leader to block the bid to provide training for the very prison system that would carry out the execution of the pro-democracy protester Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr.”
Police cuts. Labour List, 25 November 2015: “George Osborne today caved into pressure from Labour and announced U-turns on both tax credits and cuts to police budgets. Both issues have been major attack lines for Labour in recent months”.
Tax credits. Morning Star, 26 November 2015: “Chancellor George Osborne was forced into a humiliating climbdown yesterday over his toxic plans to slash tax credits. The Tory appeared to make a complete U-turn on the cuts in his Autumn Statement after a campaign led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. It saved three million families, who were set to lose £1,300 on average from next April, from being plunged further into poverty.”
Housing benefit cuts. Mirror, 27 January 2016: “The Tories have performed a humiliating climbdown on a cruel benefit cut which threatened to force OAPs, veterans and abused women out of supported accommodation. Housing minister Brandon Lewis was forced to the House of Commons to announce the 1% cut in rent for housing providers that support vulnerable people would be delayed for a year… Labour dragged the Housing Minister to the commons during an Opposition Day debate on housing benefit cuts and supported housing.”
Child poverty indicators. Guardian, 26 February 2016: “The government has been forced into retreat after agreeing that it should continue to report lack of money as a measure of child poverty. Ministers wanted to remove a statutory duty to publish levels of UK household income as part of the welfare reform and work bill but have now accepted, after a battle with the House of Lords, that the material deprivation measures should remain protected…. Owen Smith MP, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said…’Efforts led by the Labour party, our peers, the bishop of Durham and the charity sector have together forced the Tories to climb down on their bid to cover their tracks on child poverty.’”
Sunday opening hours. Independent, 9 March 2016: “David Cameron has suffered a damaging Commons defeat after Conservative rebels teamed up with Labour and SNP MPs to throw out plans to allow supermarkets and large stores in England and Wales to open longer on Sundays.”
Trade Union Bill. Labour List, 17 March 2016: “The Conservatives’ anti-trade union plans suffered a setback last night as they suffered a ‘resounding defeat’ in House of Lords votes. Peers voted against aspects of the Trade Union Bill that would see Labour’s funding take a serious hit, as well as stalling proposals to implement 50 per cent threshold on strike ballots until an independent review has considered electronic balloting, which the Tories oppose… In January, Labour and Lib Dem members of the House of Lords agreed to work together to oppose these reforms, following a decades-long agreement that major changes to party funding must have cross-party support. Both parties voted for the amendment last night, as well as crossbench peers and two Tory rebels.”
Disability cuts. Metro, 18 March 2016: “George Osborne could be about to perform a rather embarrassing U-turn on the cuts to disability benefits… Jeremy Corbyn said Labour is ready to combine with Conservative rebels to inflict what would be a humiliating defeat for the Government, unless ministers back down. The Labour leader said 200,000 of the 640,000 people hit by the changes would lose out altogether as a result of the Government’s plans, which would take £4 billion out of the benefit over the course of the parliament.”
Academies. Labour List, 7 May 2016: “The Government has suffered a ‘humiliating climb-down’ on their controversial plans to turn all schools into academies, burying their U-turn among election announcements across the country yesterday… Lucy Powell said… ‘It is welcome news that the Tory Government has finally listened to Labour and the alliance of head teachers, parents and local government who opposed these plans, and dropped the forced academisation of all schools.’”
Child refugees. Huffington Post, 10 May 2016: “Recently David Cameron has been forced to back down from his plans to ignore helpless Syrian child refugees living without parents in camps. A plan put forward by Labour peer Lord Dubs to resettle child refugees was originally refused by David Cameron, but because of pressure from Labour and rebelling backbench Conservative MPs, he was forced to concede to morality.”