Esther McVey’s harsh verdict on women who were forced into sex work after the Tory government’s cruel Universal Credit left them struggling to survive should tell you everything you need to know about her.
The fact that she was parachuted into her current constituency – Tatton – after the people of Wirral West kicked her out in 2015 tells you everything you need to know about the Conservative government; Theresa May – and now Boris Johnson – considered her brand of heartlessness exactly what they wanted.
Words that she spoke as Work and Pensions secretary have come back to haunt her after they were included in a harrowing report detailing the lengths to which the Tories have forced people – mostly women – to go in order to feed themselves and find shelter.
The facts of what these women have had to do, after the Conservatives imposed a ‘benefit’ system that punishes people rather than helping them, is bad enough.
But the Tory response when confronted by these facts shows that they really are, as Aneurin Bevan described them, lower than vermin.
In its report on the scandal, the Commons Work and Pensions committee stated: “The former Secretary of State, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, suggested that the Department’s Work Coaches (frontline Jobcentre staff) might tell ‘these ladies’ that there are ‘record’ numbers of job vacancies in the UK and ‘perhaps there are other jobs on offer’.”
It seems she does not consider such work to be as humiliating, demeaning and de-valuing as the rest of us. Speculate for yourself on whether her comments are borne of experience – although it seems far more likely that she was merely parading her own offensive ignorance.
It was after receiving this comment from Ms McVey that the committee launched a full inquiry into the scandal – and the official response from the Department for Work and Pensions was, again, abominable.
In a written submission described by the committee as “defensive, dismissive and trite”, the DWP described reports linking universal credit and survival sex as “anecdote” and said the benefits system could not be “robustly attributed as a sole cause” of the issue.
These Tory-employed civil servants were suggesting that women wanted to prostitute themselves, simply to survive.
Now, after being forced to face the evidence published by the committee, Department heads have reluctantly changed their tune – but only as far as saying there was a need for better understanding of the issue.
Where are the apologies – from both the DWP and Ms McVey? Do they not realise that their behaviour in this matter has been enormously offensive?
No. They don’t care. They won’t be looking for votes from Universal Credit claimants in any forthcoming election.
And after that? Perhaps there will be other jobs on offer.
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