Coffee House

Liam Byrne’s pitch to keep hold of his job

21 August 2013

5:15 PM

21 August 2013

5:15 PM

It can hardly be a coincidence that one of the few Labour figures to bother giving a speech on policy in the middle of Tumbleweed Time is a shadow minister who looks increasingly likely to get the chop. Liam Byrne’s speech today was partly his attempt to get a good last-minute appraisal from the media and Labour party itself before Ed Miliband embarks on his autumn reshuffle, and partly an attempt to lift the party itself out of the doldrums by talking about what Labour would really do.

While Labour clearly needs to move on from lying in wait for the government to muck up now that green shoots are poking up all over the place, Byrne suspects there is more to be gained from waiting for a few disasters on his patch. The grand theme of his speech was that Iain Duncan Smith is mucking everything up, and that only Labour can swoop in and save him. After listing at some length all the things that the Work and Pensions department is making a mess of, he made that typical Labour offer that comes when there is no hope of calling for a judge-led inquiry: cross-party talks:

‘Today I say enough is enough. Universal Credit is a good ida in principle but the implementation is a disaster. We all want this project to succeed, so today I am writing to the DWP to ask that cross-party talks begin with civil servants so that we can see exactly how bad things are and what’s needed to fix them. If Iain Duncan Smith won’t save Universal Credit, then Labour will have to prepare to clean up his mess.’


Someone at DWP is currently filing this under Offers You Must Refuse, but Byrne is mimicking the language of his colleagues by talking about cleaning up the mess of the current administration.

He also came as close as he possibly could today to confirming what James first reported in July: that Labour plans to scrap the bedroom tax if it comes to power in 2015. Byrne said: ‘It should be dropped, and dropped now.’

There is a reason for this heavy hinting. Labour has a credibility problem with voters on welfare, and used to see Byrne as the solution to that. His speech today was entitled ‘Fiscal Discipline in Social Security: DWP under Labour in 2015’ in an attempt to show that Labour does indeed have a responsible attitude to welfare. But Byrne’s own, more pressing, problem is that he lacks credibility in the Labour party, with colleagues and members fretting that he doesn’t represent the sort of authentic Labour vision for welfare that they can support. So he needs to show his party that he is worth keeping because he has the same worries about welfare policies that they do. Whether his pitch to keep hold of his job has been successful will become clear this autumn.

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Show comments
  • Timmo111

    The disabled with specially adapted homes should be excempt from the so called bedroom tax.

  • swatnan

    Drop the Bedroom tax now and bring in something similar? There is stiil a problem here about underused homes and empty homes which needs to be addressed, which the coalition hasn’t addressed properly.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Fester speaks. What has Morticia (Rachel Reeves) got to say?

    They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
    Mysterious and spooky,
    They’re all together ooky,
    The Labour Family.

  • Chris lancashire

    Labour’s hypocrisy is jaw-dropping. From the mam who gave us “there is no money left” comes the promise of more spending. Beggar off Byrne.

  • nonsequiturcouk

    The tactic of repeating a claim back is one of those psychological tricks used predominantly by the left. They question the questioner on something so obviously wrong, so relentlessly that a) people believe it and b) the person its aimed at becomes frustrated, and thus appears to have their position weakened.

    I get a lot of the left trying this trick with me but I’m very fast on pulling them up on straw man or non-sequitur arguments.

    I’ve been studying this for a while and have started to put together some notes on dealing with it, although my focus in my article is your children and education, the strategy is the same across the political fraudsters, as I talk about here

    Always ready to talk to people with more experience in these matters – feel free to contact me if you can help.

  • Russell

    Byrne has the nerve to suggest that Labour could help sort out the mess they left behind with the Welfare system beggars belief.

    To then suggest that people on welfare in council housing should have accommodation provided to them with more bedrooms than they need for no charge whilst people in private accommodation will have to continue paying for extra bedrooms again demonstrates how out of touch Byrne and Labour are.
    Blunkett, Darling & Byrne now on the list of hopefuls to fill Milibands shadow front bench with ‘experienced and competent politicians’, and the news that Abbott is thinking of standing to be London Mayor! good grief, you couldn’t make it up.

  • Ron Todd

    Labour either has to admit it will increase welfare spending or concede that the f the Tory’s reforms are at least moving in the right direction.

    It would not be plausible to say they will increase welfare and fund it from ‘efficiency savings’ . Efficiency savings like a bonfire of the quangoes has been promised many times and never delivered.