The news that Sir David Freud is to join the Conservatives as shadow welfare minister may not cause shockwaves outside the political bubble, but as the man behind Labour’s current misguided plans for welfare reform, it is a hugely significant move.
The Welfare Reform Bill, which includes measures such as welfare-to-work, privatisation of job centre services and pushing single mothers into work when their youngest children turn seven, has been hugely controversial amongst those who will have to deal with the fall-out of these mistakes.
These have been generally accepted as a fait accompli because these market-oriented reforms have support from both the Labour government and the Conservatives, despite disquiet from the Labour left.
Any backbench rebellion has little chance of succeeding against the government loyalists and the Conservatives, but Freud’s move to the opposition benches will certainly give impetus to those who want to make significant changes to the Bill as it passes through.
It would be highly embarrassing for the Government to need to rely on Tory support for their reform changes when the Bill comes to report stage and third reading next month.