Greens MP Caroline Lucas has accused the Tories of being the “nasty party” after it told backbenchers to abstain from a vote to keep a £20 top-up to Universal Credit.
Lucas accused the government of being “perfectly happy” for the price of the pandemic to be paid for by “some of the poorest people who are least able to do so”.
Appearing on BBC 2’s Politics Live, the MP for Brighton Pavilion said: “This follows a whole series of catastrophes in terms of the way they’ve been dealing with some of the people who need the support the most and I’m thinking of the whole fiasco around free school meals.
“It does seem that they lurch from one crisis to the next. The narrative that is being written up, really, is that this is a nasty party again. That this is a party that is perfectly happy for the price of the Covid pandemic to be paid for by some of the poorest people who are least able to do so.”
Lucas called on so-called “Red Wall” Tory MPs to pressure the government into keeping the Universal Credit top-up, which could see families lose £1,000 a year.
“They need to do it very fast. This is an important issue,” the MP said.
Her comments come as parliament faces a vote on whether the payment, introduced at the outset of Covid-19, should become permanent.
MPs will also vote on extending the free school meals programme.
Labour has scheduled a vote for Monday afternoon but Boris Johnson has already instructed his MPs to abstain.
Johnson went on to claim the vote, which also includes extending free school meals, was being used by Labour supporters to incite hatred.
In a WhatsApp message to his backbench, Johnson accused Labour of playing politics” and “inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying (of a kind seen sadly across the Atlantic)”.
He added: “After the shameful way in which they used their army of Momentum trolls last time to misrepresent the outcome and to lie about its meaning and frankly to intimidate and threaten colleagues – especially female colleagues – I have decided not to give them that opportunity.”
Labour has called the move “pathetic”.
Johnson was also facing pressure from the 65 Conservative MPs in the Northern Research Group (NRG) who said ending the increase in April as planned would be “devastating”.