Monday, 21 April 2008

Good to be back?

A break from Westminster appears to have done little to improve the mood of some Labour MPs.

Two weeks spent with constituents cross and puzzled by a Labour Government's decision to put up the tax bills of low-paid people has left many backbenchers rather agitated ahead of local elections next week.

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is refusing to re-write the Budget, but is sending signals ahead of next Monday's crunch vote that the Government will do more for the poor.

Will that be enough? One well-placed Government source suggests the issue will be "quietly defused" with the promise of future help.

He may be right. Rebellion leader Frank Field is often seen as a maverick around whom rebels beyond the usual suspects are unlikely to coalesce.

But damage has been done. The Government may win the vote but there's no disguising the unhappiness among many Labour MPs less than a year into Gordon Brown's premiership.

1650 update: Yvette Cooper has opened the debate on the Budget with a less than convincing defence of the changes. Her main argument is that the losers this year are better off than they were under the Tories 11 years ago.

She promised that the Chancellor would return to the issue in future pre-Budget Reports and Budgets. Her colleagues sitting behind her looked less than comfortable.

Would-be Labour rebels may take a little more persuading between now and next Monday.

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