Boris Johnson compares Labour 'trolls' to Trump supporters 'inciting hatred' as he accuses them of 'intimidating and threatening' Tory MPs over free school meals and Universal Credit votes

  • Universal Credit payments have been increased by £20 a week during pandemic
  • Increase set to expire in April and ministers are under pressure to extend policy
  • Labour will force a vote on the issue as well as on free school meals tomorrow
  • But Boris Johnson told Tories to abstain and accused Labour of 'playing politics'Boris Johnson has accused Labour 'trolls' of 'intimidating and threatening' Tory MPs on the crunch issues of Universal Credit and free school meals. 

    Labour is set to force symbolic votes on the two issues in the House of Commons tomorrow but Mr Johnson has instructed his Conservative MPs to abstain. 

    He reportedly said similar votes in the past had been 'misrepresented' and he did not want to risk that happening again. 

    Labour will hold opposition day debates in a bid to force the Government to keep a £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit in place and to demand the extension of the free school meals programme. 

    The votes that follow the debates are not binding but Mr Johnson has told Tory MPs that he is wary of what could happen if his colleagues were to vote against the motions.

    Boris Johnson has instructed Tory MPs to abstain when Labour forces votes on Universal Credit and free school meals tomorrow

    Boris Johnson has instructed Tory MPs to abstain when Labour forces votes on Universal Credit and free school meals tomorrow 

    According to The Sun, Mr Johnson told Tory MPs in a WhatsApp message sent today that he knew many would be 'thirsting to give battle' to Labour.

    He continued: '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.' 

    Mr Johnson accused Labour of 'playing politics' and of 'inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying (of a kind seen sadly across the Atlantic)'.

    It came as Dominic Raab hinted that families may have to wait until the Budget on March 3 to find out if the uplift in the value of Universal Credit will continue. 

    The Government has increased the value of payments during the coronavirus crisis, but the boost is due to expire in April. 

    Mr Raab said this morning that the extra money was intended as a 'temporary measure' and the Budget would provide a 'chance to look at this in the round'.       

    The Government is under growing pressure from campaigners, Labour and some of its own MPs to commit to keeping the extra money in place. 

    Reports suggest that Mr Sunak could replace the increase with a one-off payment worth £500. The £20-a-week increase is worth £1,000 a year to families.Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said a one-off payment would be a 'terrible policy'. 

    He told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: 'First of all, if you go ahead with this cut you are reducing out-of-work support, unemployment benefits to their lowest real-terms level since 1992 at a time when unemployment is about to peak.

    'The reason that a one-off payment is a bad policy is because whilst we're talking about six million families being affected, those families will change throughout the year – some will go back into work, some will come out – we've had at times in the pandemic 200,000 new claimants coming onto the system in a single month.

    'So, a one-off payment, a snap shot, completely fails to support those people. There is simply no reason that this cut should take place in April.'

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