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Thorning wields whip against backbench

The prime minister has told backbenchers to keep criticism behind closed doors.

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Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is reported to have told her backbenchers today that open criticism of the government’s unemployment benefit reform is unacceptable and such discussions should take place behind closed party doors.

According to DR, the prime minister’s reaction came during a parliamentary group meeting today, in the wake of an OPED article by Jan Johansen MP (SocDem) in which he called on his colleagues to rethink the recent unemployment benefit reform.

Johansen said that for this particular reform, members of the previous centre-right and current centre-left governments had ‘drawn a fundamentalist iron curtain that is resistant to argument’.

His call for a rethink of the reform was supported by five other MPs, one of whom declined to answer questions on leaving the group meeting.

“What was said in there, stays in there,” said Rasmus Horn Langhoff.

But it was clear the prime minister was not amused.

“There was some discussion about unemployment benefit, but it was basically that we do not think it is particularly acceptable that some people go out and discuss unemployment benefit. We think they should keep the discussion in the group,” Thorning-Schmidt said after the meeting.

Asked whether there had been any criticism of the government’s policy she retorted: “No, there was criticism of those who have gone it alone on this issue”.

The six Social Democratic backbenchers - Rasmus Horn Langhoff, Rasmus Prehn, Bjarne Laustsen, Orla Hav, Jan Johansen and Jeppe Kofod – have criticised the government for not doing enough to safeguard the long-term unemployed, who due to the reform are about to drop out of the unemployment benefit system.

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