Boris Johnson says Labour activists using Universal Credit vote to incite hatred

Danielle Sheridan
·4-min read
 Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol earlier this month  - Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol earlier this month - Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Boris Johnson has compared Labour activists to the Capitol Hill protesters, as he said the Universal Credit vote will incite "the worst kind of hatred and bullying".

In a plea to MPs ahead of Monday's vote on Universal Credit and free school meals, which Labour organised to stop a planned cut to UC and Working Tax Credit in April and free school meals for eligible families during holidays, the Prime Minister sought to remind his party of the abuse they were subjected to when free school meals were last voted on.

In a whatsapp message sent to MPs Mr Johnson said: “We can be proud of what we are doing to tackle all the consequences of the pandemic and if labour decides to stop playing politics and to stop inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying (of a kind seen sadly across the Atlantic) then I may think again about legislatively vacuous opposition debates.”

Watch: What is Universal Basic Income?

It comes after a mob of Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol earlier this month, in a bid to overthrow November's presidential election result.

Dozens of protesters broke into the building and roamed the corridors as tens of thousands gathered outside in support of the president’s false claims of election fraud.

Congressmen who had gathered to certify the election results were forced to flee under escort as law enforcement lost control of the situation, in which five people died and at least 60 people were arrested.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I know that many of you are thirsting to give battle and vote against all labour motions but after the shameful way in which they used their army of momentum trolls last time to misrepresent the outcome and to lie about its meaning and frankly to intimidate and threaten colleagues - especially female colleagues - I have decided not to give them that opportunity.”

When Tory MPs voted on free school meals in October last year they were subjected to a torrent of abuse.

Multiple MPs including Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, were banned from their local pubs after landlords were angered by the vote, while The Telegraph revealed in November that Tory MPs and peers had started holding monthly ‘Denis Club’ meetings to counsel each other over the “uptick” in abuse their spouses were receiving.

The husband of one female MP told the meeting his friends "had a go at him" in his local pub over his wife’s stance on free school meals, while another received death threats involving his family.

Meanwhile, Mark Spencer, the chief whip urged MPs over the weekend to abstain from the vote altogether, rather than vote against it and engage Labour's "party political stunt".

He said: “The last time they did this many female MPs faced harassment, intimidation and even death threats in the aftermath. We are focused on supporting those who need it most through the pandemic, and ensuring no child goes hungry.”

It comes as the Northern Research Group called on Mr Sunak to extend the £1,000 uplift to UC, until either restrictions are lifted “or ideally for a further 12 months”.

John Stevenson MP said: “Whilst backbench Conservative MPs are working constructively with the Government to ensure families are supported through this pandemic by extending the UC uplift, Labour are playing politics with people’s livelihoods by using opportunism and non-binding opposition day motions to stoke-up division at a time of national crisis.”

Dominic Raab defended the cut, as he said the £20-a-week increase in UC was a "temporary measure".

The Foreign Secretary told The Andrew Marr Show: "We always said this would be a temporary measure, I think it is right to look at it in the round.

"We have a March budget coming up and I think it is right to have scrutiny right the way through, but this is a political debate rather than the Government's measures which can, I think, be looked at in the round rather than dripped out one by one."

Watch: Why tax rises may be inevitable in Britain