IS there any point at all to Keir Starmer's Labour party? That is the question that many were left asking themselves after Starmer's interview with Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC on Sunday morning.

During the interview, Starmer insisted that he would not reverse the controversial two-child benefit cap introduced by the Conservatives under then Chancellor George Osborne as part of his austerity measures. The cap prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017.

Osborne claimed that the purpose of the cap was to encourage parents of larger families to find employment or to work longer hours. In fact, research has found that the policy has failed to encourage people into work and has only driven the poorest families even further into poverty. It's a fundamental belief of the Conservatives that the rich need to be bribed but the poor need to be punished.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar makes ridiculous excuse for Labour's two-child benefit cap U-turn

Official statistics confirm that 1.5 million children are growing up in families affected by the two-child limit. This number has been climbing every year as more and more children are born under the policy.

Leading children's charities including the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Barnardo's, and Save the Children – as well as the children’s Commissioners for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – claim that the policy is one of the biggest drivers of rising child poverty – up from 3.6 million children below the poverty line in 2010/11 to 4.2 million in 2021/22. One child in every ten in the UK is now living in poverty. The policy penalises both those who are out of work or unable to work and those who work in low-paid jobs.

CPAG estimates that abolishing the two-child limit would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and a further 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty at a cost of just £1.3 billion. The organisation says that this is the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty. After all, £1.3bn is approximately one third of the windfall profits reported by BP for the first three months of 2023.

The National:

One of the most controversial aspects of the policy is the so called “rape clause”, which allows a woman an exemption from the two-child cap if she can prove that her third or subsequent child is a product of rape or incest.

A new academic report published on Monday, a three-year-long study of the effects of the two-child cap, finds that the case for abolishing it is "overwhelming”. It was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by the University of York, in partnership with the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics.

The research finds that the two-child limit does little to dissuade women from becoming pregnant. The cap is based on the false premise that pregnancies are always planned. Instead, the study shows that the two-child limit results in multiple severe negative impacts that harm parents and their children and that an estimated 50,000 children are pushed into poverty each year as a result of it. The researchers characterise the two-child cap as a "poverty producing policy”.

When Starmer was campaigning for the leadership of the Labour party he vowed to abolish the two-child cap if Labour returned to power. But we in Scotland are painfully familiar with vows from senior Labour politicians.

READ MORE: 'Do another U-turn': First Minister weighs in on Labour two-child benefit cap row

The U-turn on one of the cruelest Tory austerity policies is just the latest in a long line of U-turns from a Labour leader who said recently that he did not care if people think he is a conservative – and who in his interview with Laura Kuenssberg doubled down. Starmer said he is happy to be branded a "fiscal conservative" as he repeatedly refused to commit to greater spending on the NHS and other public services.

The only thing that Starmer is prepared to commit to is being as cruel, punitive and vindictive as the Conservatives. He will not commit to much needed pay rises for vital public sector workers or greater investment in public services.

Starmer's remarks were greeted with horror by those in the Labour party in Scotland who have not had their souls sucked out in the drive to chase after the votes of Brexit-supporting Conservative voters in the north and Midlands of England.

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar speaking during the launch of the Labour party's mission on cheaper green power, setting out policies on clean energy, at Nova Innovation, Edinburgh. Picture date: Monday June 19, 2023. PA Photo. Party leader Sir

Naturally, Starmer was supported by Anas Sarwar (above), who implausibly claimed that abolishing the two-child cap would lead to higher mortgage costs and spook the markets. Way to go to display your real priorities there, Anas.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who was defeated by Sarwar in the contest for a new Scottish branch manager, said that retaining the two-child cap was the "wrong policy" and urged members to fight against Starmer's agenda.

Sarwar's predecessor Richard Leonard also publicly disagreed with Starmer's stance. If Angus MacNeil criticising SNP policy is headline news then so is this. We can look forward to Reporting Scotland giving prominence to a story about the divisions within the Labour party in Scotland, can't we. Surely Glenn Campbell will be all over this. Won't he?

Meanwhile, has anyone seen Jackie Baillie? She once said of the two-child policy: "The cap reminds me of Communist China’s morally abhorrent one-child policy."

The normally vocal and attention-seeking MSP, who seems to have members of the anti-independence media on speed dial, has been uncharacteristically silent. Still she needn't fear being doorstepped by the BBC, that treatment is reserved for the SNP.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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