A block of flats in Bath - the government plans to reduce the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour is "sympathetic" to reducing benefit cap to £23,000, says Harman

Acting leader's statement shows how the Tories have shifted the terms of debate on welfare. 

Harriet Harman's well-crafted response to the Queen's Speech will enhance her reputation as one of Labour's finest parliamentarians. David Cameron and herself, she declared, had one thing in common: "We're both, by our own admission, interim leaders". Of the SNP's attempt to occupy Dennis Skinner's seat, she warned: "The lion might be roaring in Scotland but don't mess with the Beast of Bolsover". Ayesha Hazarika, Harman's long-standing aide and a former stand-up comedian, is likely to have had a hand in those lines. 

Owing to her status as acting leader, there was little notable political content in Harman's address. She warned of "a fragile economy, a fragile constitution and sadly, fragile public services too" and repeated the traditional mantra that "you cannot trust the Tories on the NHS" ("You'll see," she said in response to Conservative jeers).

But Harman broke new ground when she announced that Labour was "sympathetic" to the government's plan to reduce the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. That Harman felt it necessary to make this immediately clear shows how George Osborne has succeeded in shifting the terms of debate on welfare - the centre ground has moved. Labour has resolved that it cannot afford to oppose such a measure on moral grounds - any objections must be purely pragmatic. In his subsequent speech, Cameron seized on Harman's words, declaring that if Labour believed in "aspiration" (as its leadership candidates continually proclaim) it would support his plan to lower the cap and use the savings to fund apprenticeships.

Should the party vote with the Conservatives it will face the opposition of the SNP (which has vowed to resist all of the Tories' welfare cuts) and a significant number of its own backbenchers. But Harman did warn that the government would have to ensure that a lower cap "doesn’t put children into poverty, increase homelessness, or end up costing more than it saves". She said that this could be achieved by making sure that "The jobs are there for people to move into; the childcare is there, particularly for lone parents; and there are adequate funds for discretionary housing payments." Should the government refuse to meet these conditions it will be hard for Labour to justify supporting the measure. The danger, as in the case of the previous benefit cap vote, is that it ends up in a deadly halfway house: neither fully supporting nor fully opposing welfare cuts - and alienating all at once. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Supreme Court gives MPs a vote on Brexit – but who are the real winners?

The Supreme Court ruled that Parliament must have a say in starting the process of Brexit. But this may be a hollow victory for Labour. 

The Supreme Court has ruled by a majority of 8 to 3 that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament, as leaving the European Union represents a change of a source of UK law, and a loss of rights by UK citizens, which can only be authorised by the legislature, not the executive. (You can read the full judgement here).

But crucially, they have unanimously ruled that the devolved parliaments do not need to vote before the government triggers Article 50.

Which as far as Brexit is concerned, doesn't change very much. There is a comfortable majority to trigger Article 50 in both Houses of Parliament. It will highlight Labour's agonies over just how to navigate the Brexit vote and to keep its coalition together, but as long as Brexit is top of the agenda, that will be the case.

And don't think that Brexit will vanish any time soon. As one senior Liberal Democrat pointed out, "it took Greenland three years to leave - and all they had to talk about was fish". We will be disentangling ourselves from the European Union for years, and very possibly for decades. Labour's Brexit problem has a long  way yet to run.

While the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will not be able to stop or delay Brexit, that their rights have been unanimously ruled against will be a boon to Sinn Féin in the elections in March, and a longterm asset to the SNP as well. The most important part of all this: that the ruling will be seen in some parts of Northern Ireland as an unpicking of the Good Friday Agreement. That issue hasn't gone away, you know. 

But it's Theresa May who today's judgement really tells you something about. She could very easily have shrugged off the High Court's judgement as one of those things and passed Article 50 through the Houses of Parliament by now. (Not least because the High Court judgement didn't weaken the powers of the executive or require the devolved legislatures, both of which she risked by carrying on the fight.)

If you take one thing from that, take this: the narrative that the PM is indecisive or cautious has more than a few holes in it. Just ask George Osborne, Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan and Ed Vaizey: most party leaders would have refrained from purging an entire faction overnight, but not May.

Far from being risk-averse, the PM is prone to a fight. And in this case, she's merely suffered delay, rather than disaster. But it may be that far from being undone by caution, it will be her hotblooded streak that brings about the end of Theresa May.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.