The Welfare Reform and Work Bill passed its first reading in the House of Commons last night with a majority of 184, in spite of the Conservatives having only a 12 seat majority. It was helped on its way by Labour’s decision to abstain in the vote, although almost 50 MPs rebelled and voted against.{jcomments on}

The bill, which will impose 12 billion of cuts in benefits and tax credits, including ending the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance for new claimants, has been the cause of bitter division in the Labour party.

Harriet Harman, acting leader, ordered MPs to abstain in the vote as a way of showing the public that Labour had learnt its lesson from two defeats, that people are in favour of cutting welfare.

The party had laid down a reasoned amendment to the bill which they knew could not succeed, as indeed it didn’t, losing by 308 votes to 208.

Harman’s strategy was to show by way of the amendment that Labour was not in favour of unfair cuts, but then prevent the party being portrayed as for ‘the shirkers not the workers’ by abstaining in the main vote.

The strategy quickly came unravelled as almost a quarter of her MPs defied the whip and voted against the bill. One rebellious MP, John McDonnell, told the Commons:

"I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill and listening to some of the nauseating speeches tonight I think we might have to.”

Other high profile rebels included leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn; London Mayor hopefuls Diane Abbott, Sadiq Khan and David Lammy; Work and Pensions Committee veteran Debbie Abrahams.

In contrast to Labour’s official stance, other opposition parties, including the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green MP, voted against the bill.

According to Labour List, the full list of MPs who voted against the bill is as follows:

Diane Abbott

Debbie Abrahams

David Anderson

Richard Burgon

Dawn Butler

Ann Clwyd

Jeremy Corbyn

Geraint Davies

Peter Dowd

Paul Flynn

Mary Glindon

Roger Godsiff

Helen Goodman

Margaret Greenwood

Louise Haigh

Carolyn Harris

Sue Hayman

Imran Hussain

Gerald Jones

Helen Jones

Sir Gerald Kaufman

Sadiq Khan

David Lammy

Ian Lavery

Clive Lewis

Rebecca Long Bailey

Andy McDonald

John McDonnell

Liz McInnes

Rob Marris

Rachael Maskell

Michael Meacher

Ian Mearns

Madeleine Moon

Grahame Morris

Kate Osamor

Teresa Pearce

Marie Rimmer

Paula Sherriff

Tulip Siddiq

Dennis Skinner

Cat Smith

Jo Stevens

Graham Stringer

David Winnick

Iain Wright

Daniel Zeichner

Kelvin Hopkins (Teller)


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