Interim Manager Harman’s Balancing Act

Published: 15 July 2015

Instead of going largely unnoticed by simply going through the motions of fierce opposition to everything in the Commons, Harman has said she doesn’t want to bind the hands of the next leader.

If this debate makes the party think hard before it sleepwalks into a default position on welfare that has been hard to sell to the country then that’s a useful exercise.

Roundly criticised for urging labour to abstain from voting on the government’s welfare reform bill, deputy leader harriet harman is in fact weathering the storm faced by any interim boss.

In the wake of two election defeats, Harriet Harman has stepped forward as leader of the opposition while the Labour Party elects a new figurehead. Harman is the longest continuously serving female MP in the House of Commons. But despite holding a slew of government and opposition posts during her career, these acting-leader assignments – with Labour spirits at their lowest – have in some ways been her biggest tests.

The challenge has been highlighted by Harman’s approach to the government’s Welfare Reform Bill. If passed, the Bill would cap benefits for families and make deep cuts to tax credits: the policy brainchild of Gordon Brown.

It’s easy to assume that the job of the opposition is to vote against the government. So a gap-filling leader could get by largely unnoticed by simply going through the motions of fierce opposition to everything in the Commons. Instead, Harman has said she doesn’t want to bind the hands of the next leader. As such, her preference is to abstain, which leaves room for manoeuvre further down the line. Of course, this argument could be applied to any debate in Parliament, and if the opposition abstains on everything, it does raise the question as to why an interim leader is necessary at all.

To read the full article, visit CMI here.

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