laims that Scottish Labour MSPs are afraid to speak out against party policies are “simply not true”, Anas Sarwar has said.
The Scottish Labour leader dismissed the comments from Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon, who said on Thursday that politicians within her party were scared of being deselected as candidates for sharing their views.
The row came after Sir Keir Starmer said it was not his party’s policy to scrap the two-child policy, which sees households in receipt of universal credit with more than two children unable to receive additional funds, with Ms Lennon calling the legislation “abhorrent”.
She said on Twitter: “I know colleagues are scared of deselection, being exiled to backbenches or not winning seats, but if we don’t speak out then who will?
“The two-child benefit cap (aka the rape clause) is abhorrent and must be scrapped. @UKLabour policies must be progressive and humane.”
The policy applies to additional children born after April 6 2017, but has exemptions for those who had children in a multiple birth or children received due to rape or coercion. It has received criticism as women must disclose that they were raped in order to be eligible.
But speaking during a visit to the Scottish Gas Academy in Hamilton, alongside shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, Mr Sarwar said there were no examples of candidates being deselected for their opposition to policy.
He told journalists: “Point me to one deselection, point me to one risk of deselection or one incident in Scotland, that would suggest what has been suggested in that tweet is true.
“It’s simply not true. The only difference that I think there is, is before we didn’t have a Labour party that wanted to win. You’ve now got a Labour party that’s serious about winning and I’m never going to apologise for that.”
Ms Lennon ran as a leadership rival to Mr Sarwar in 2021.
The shadow chancellor also said her party planned a “fundamental review” of universal credit, if elected into government.
The decision not to immediately propose scrapping the two-child benefit cap as a policy is because the party do not want to “make any promises that we can’t keep”, Ms Reeves said on Friday.
She said: “We voted against (the two-child benefit cap) when the Conservatives brought it forward and we recognise as well the huge struggle families are facing at the moment.
“But we are going to inherit, if we win the next election, probably the worst economic inheritance that any government has every been bequeathed by its predecessor.
“That means there are things that we would like to do that we’re not going to be able to do as quickly as we would want.
“I am determined that we have a fully costed and fully funded manifesto and that I don’t make any promises that we can’t keep – but that manifesto is still a way off and we will set out that manifesto closer to the election.”