Straight after PMQs we had a statement from James Purnell on the Welfare Reform White Paper. I was sitting next to Rob Marris, and as we were the last two people to be called the House was treated to the spectacle of the two of us bobbing up and down for an hour, trying to catch the Speaker's eye and looking absolutely ridiculous; he's a good 18 inches taller than me.
Yesterday (Tuesday) lunchtime I got a call from a journalist, saying the Tories were going around telling the press that there was going to be a sizeable Labour rebellion on this and only the Tory votes would save them. Strange then that the Tory spokesman, Chris Grayling, asked a senior Labour backbencher Tuesday night if he thought there was going to be a rebellion and looked very disappointed when he was told no. Not that we have rebellions - or votes - on White Papers anyway.
The White Paper is in part based on the Gregg review. That would be Professor Paul Gregg of Bristol University's Institute of Public Affairs. It would also be the same Paul Gregg I last saw at UK Decay's reunion gig in Luton last summer. Funny to think that the lad who lent me his Scritti Politti picture disc of 'Jacques Derrida' twenty-five years ago is now a Professor. He'd probably say the same about me becoming an MP.
Anyway, the statement is good stuff, although I share the concerns expressed by Roger Berry that some vulnerable people - e.g. people with mental health problems, or people with serious disabilities or illnesses - might be alarmed by the press coverage which gives the impression they'll all be frogmarched into work, no matter what their problems. Also concerned about people with fluctuating illnesses, like ME. And what happens if people simply won't be 'better off' in work, because of a host of complicating factors. Lots of detail to be thrashed out, and much of it depends on the sensitivity and competence of Job Centre staff (and there being enough of them to have time to display their sensitivity and competence). I'm meeting Job Centre staff and other people working in this sector in Bristol on Friday to discuss, and am going to get really stuck into this. I want us to get it right.