Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has refused to condemn draconian Tory welfare cuts, in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Ms Kendall ducked questions about whether she supported Tory spending reductions and insisted that “living within our means is essential”.
Chancellor George Osborne recently announced £3bn in ‘efficiency savings’, but has so far failed to provide full details on how the government will slash £12bn from welfare spending. This will be outlined in an ’emergency budget’ in July of this year.
When pressed to give her opinion on the cuts, Ms Kendall said: “Let’s see what the details are. We have yet to see many of the commitments that the Conservatives made during the campaign but fiscal credibility and responsibility, and living within our means is essential, but so to, is making sure we have real growth.”
However, Ms Kendall said Britain’s welfare system is failing those people who can work and those who can’t, adding that welfare reform is needed.
“It’s failing those people who can work but are just not getting the help they need to do so and it’s failing people who can’t work and leaving many in the appalling situation where they can’t live with dignity and respect.”
Welfare campaigners regularly accuse Labour of being “Tory-lite”, or “red Tories”. Appearing to echo those allegations, Labour leadership rival Yvette Cooper last week accused her rivals of “swallowing the Tory manifesto”.
When questioned about this, Ms Kendall told Andrew Marr: “The only thing I’ve swallowed is the sheer scale of defeat that we faced at the election and the huge changes we need to win again. People didn’t trust us with their money and the economy.”
Ms Kendall also appeared to repeat the damaging mantra of the right-wing press. She supported the idea of free movement across the European Union, “but not free movement of benefits”.
Government figures from 2014 show that only 2.5% of working age benefit claimants in the UK were EU nationals, rising to 5% for those coming from outside of the EU. A whopping 92.6% were born in the UK.
The figures counter claims in the right-wing press that Britain’s welfare system is acting as a ‘magnet’ to economic migrants.