LABOUR backbenchers last night convinced the government not to go out and just start punching poor people in the face.
Ministers had planned to spend the summer wandering around shopping centres in gangs while launching viscious, unprovoked attacks on low paid workers and single pensioners.
But after a day of intense negotiations with rebel MPs the prime mininster agreed to a deal which will require poor people to apply for a special badge, giving them partial immunity from a ministerial kicking.
Gordon Brown said last night: "While we have abolished the right not to be punched in the face, we have set up a simple system whereby you will avoid a thumping if you fill in a series of forms, attach proof of income, a four leaf clover and a unicorn's eyelash."
The prime minister added: "I can understand my colleagues' concern, but this policy has always been about helping poor people. Sure, it's about helping them get punched in the face, but isn't that what we've been saying all along?"
He added: "Some colleagues may feel this is out of step with Labour principles, but I would remind them that Keir Hardie loved nothing more than cycling down a Glasgow street, swinging his cricket bat at hungry children."
The reforms will be steered through the Commons by chancellor Alistair Darling who has spent the last two days begging fellow cabinet ministers to smother him with a pillow.