The Welfare Reform and Work Bill has, as expected, passed its second reading in the House of Commons, with 48 Labour MPs defying their party whip and voting against, while Harriet Harman and the rest of the party abstained. We will bring you a full list of rebels as soon as it is available and it will be interesting to see how many new MPs (from a rather left-wing 2015 intake) have joined the rebels. The size of the rebellion is not particularly surprising given the number of MPs who had signed up to Helen Goodman’s rebel reasoned amendment (which was not called, and Harman’s official amendment failed to pass, as expected).
The row in Labour means that the rebels have had their way, even if they didn’t persuade their leadership to change its stance. The party appears, from the outside, furious about welfare cuts, rather than offering a nuanced stance on the Welfare Bill, as Harman had hoped. Those who were defending her decision this evening in increasingly heated exchanges with colleagues and left-wing Labourites outside Parliament were being loyal and were trying valiantly to advance the argument that the party must listen to what voters said back in May. But the loyalists’ arguments were in vain: at the very best the party has communicated to the public that it is split between pragmatists and idealists, and at worst as though it is having a confusing and vitriolic fight with itself.