Labour will force a Commons vote on Lord Freud’s future after David Cameron refused to dismiss him as welfare minister for his suggestion that some disabled workers are not worth the minimum wage, according to The Guardian.
The Conservative peer has been allowed to remain in his job after apologising for the comment, but Labour will table a motion of no confidence to be voted on later this month.
Separately, the Independent on Sundayreported that a second government minister had made contentious comments over the role of disabled people in the workplace. Andrew Selous, a justice minister, was said to have told a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference that “disabled people work harder because they’re grateful to have a job”.
Let’s answer the headline question straight away – because Tories think he’s right.
David Cameron might have said the words spoken by David Freud were not government policy but they certainly seem to be the policy of Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP for Thurrock, who tweeted:
As a social Darwinist (along with all Tories these days, it seems), it is to be hoped that she appreciated the justice of what happened to her next, as the Twitterverse tore her comment to shreds and then started picking the bones of the carcass. Here’s a representative example:
Some got more to the point:
Responding to a criticism that entitlement to the minimum wage should be tied to the ability to do a job to a normal standard or speed, the response was:
Meanwhile, here on Vox Political, our poll on whether Freud should get the boot, despite having apologised, has been hugely popular. At the time of writing, there have been 1,890 responses. Of these, 1,834 called for his resignation (97.04 per cent), 51 said he should stay (2.7 per cent) and five didn’t know (0 per cent) [all percentages have been rounded up or down, which is why this poll appears to have a 100.1 per cent response].
The result seems decisive. The British people have spoken.
“I would like to offer a full and unreserved apology. I was foolish to accept the premise of the question. To be clear, all disabled people should be paid at least the minimum wage, without exception, and I accept that it is offensive to suggest anything else.
“I care passionately about disabled people. I am proud to have played a full part in a government that is fully committed to helping disabled people overcome the many barriers they face in finding employment. That is why through Universal Credit – which I referred to in my response – we have increased overall spending on disabled households by £250m, offered the most generous work allowance ever, and increased the disability addition to £360 per month.
“I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people.”
Those of you who are disabled will no doubt be extremely interested – if not entertained – by the second paragraph of the above, in which Lord Freud fantasizes about his role in the Conservative-led Coalition’s policies of impoverishing them and forcing them towards death in the gutter or suicide before they get that far.
It is easy to see how ‘Lord Fraud’ got his nickname.
Labour were quick to get this infographic out to the public.
One of Labour’s biggest mistakes when in government – the employment of David Fraud – sorry, Freud – could soon be rectified after he made a disastrous comment at the Conservative Party conference.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today (October 15), he was revealed to have said on September 30: “There is a group… where actually… they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually” [make it possible for them to do so].
Labour leader Ed Miliband, challenging David Cameron to act on the remarks, said they represented the Tories’ “worst instincts”.
Cameron’s response – that these “were not the views of anyone in government” – was appallingly weak. Clearly they were: Lord Freud is, after all, a member of the government.
Commentators across the UK, watching the exchange on TV or the Internet, were quick to comment on the fact that Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Freud’s boss, was seen scuttling out of the House of Commons before PMQs ended.
Freud entered frontline politics when in 2006 he was appointed by Tony Blair to review social security, and devised the now-hated system which features expanded private-sector involvement and forces people on incapacity benefits to try to find a way back into “economic activity”.
In 2008 he was rehired to advise James Purnell, and helped produce a white paper requiring most people receiving benefits to participate in some form of mandatory work activity, as it is now known.
Then in February 2009, he joined the Conservative Party. That should have been a strong indicator to Labour that they had been harbouring a viper in their midst, and should have been all the reason needed to rip out his social security changes and put in something more humane. Alas, Labour missed the chance.
He was given a life peerage as Baron Freud in June that year and became a welfare minister in 2010, when the Coalition sidled into office.
Freud was quickly in trouble with the public for misrepresenting the level of fraud in welfare claims – perhaps this is where his own nickname, ‘Lord Fraud’ originates. He said fraud was very high, when in fact the amount was – and remains – negligible. This did not stop the Conservative-led DWP from instituting punitive measures against benefit claimants, ostensibly to minimise a problem that involved less than one per cent of claimants.
His list of misdemeanours is long, and some of the others are detailed in the articles mentioned below.
Are we to witness a long-overdue sacking, perhaps?
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