Gone: Sajid Javid has quit Boris Johnson’s government, apparently after a power-struggle with Dominic Cummings.
It says everything you need to know about Boris Johnson’s leadership that the big news today (February 13) hasn’t been his own cabinet reshuffle – but a resignation in protest against advisor Dominic Cummings.
We’re being told that Sajid Javid has resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer in protest at being told to fire his team of special advisors.
Apparently the prime minister’s office had told him to use SpAds from Number 10 instead, to “make it all one team”, but he had said no self-respecting minister would have accepted such an ultimatum.
The whisper is that Mr Javid had been clashing with Mr Cummings over the budget, with the former intending to unveil a traditionally-Tory plan and the latter keen to reward former ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that switched to support the Conservatives in last December’s Brexit-dominated election.
Of course, one aspect of that election is the fact that the Tories never produced a costed economic plan; their sums simply didn’t add up.
And it is unlikely that they will add up now, under a joint team as ordered by Number 10, with Johnson yes-man Rishi Sunak named as the new Chancellor.
What can we say about Mr Sunak that isn’t extremely critical? Not a lot.
Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has already put him down twice – in a tweet today and a debate during the election campaign:
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
James Cleverly: He was once described as “the Tories’ go-to eejit when they need someone to tweet absolute nonsense or defend the indefensible”. It seems they no longer feel the need to defend themselves in that way.
It seems James Cleverly’s time at the top is finally running out – and it can’t end soon enough, in This Writer’s view.
Mr Cleverly simply isn’t smart enough to hold a top job in government. Besides, with Boris Johnson as prime minister, we don’t need two idiots with their feet in their mouths at the same time.
Apparently, some think this is harsh treatment after Cleverly presided over a heavy defeat for the Labour Party – but that had very little to do with him.
It seems he’ll be replaced by expenses cheat Maria Miller, who disgraced herself in the Department for Work and Pensions before she disgraced herself over money. It may be that she has learned her lessons in the nearly-six-years since that happened; draw your own conclusions.
Also for the chop, it seems, are many of the women Johnson appointed to make himself look like an equal-opportunities boss, in the run-up to the election.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and welfare boss Therese Coffey (who made a fool of herself by saying food banks were a perfect way to deal with poverty) are apparently on the way out, with sexism apparently on the way back in.
It seems the only way Johnson can be described as supporting equal opportunities is negative:
Members of his own government are just as likely to get the bum’s rush as the rest of us.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
“Now, see here, Jeremy – you’re the new Foreign Secretary and you’d better get used to it!””Yes ma’am! I live to serve, ma’am!”
If this motley crew is the best Theresa May can dredge up to form the latest version of her government, she should throw in the towel now.
Jeremy Hunt – a pathetic, chinless yes-man who, through a mixture of malice and incompetence, has managed to ruin the National Health Service – becomes Foreign Secretary. It is a gift that has been tarnished by the fact that Theresa May reportedly offered it to David Davis in a vain attempt to persuade him not to resign from her government last night – and then tried to lie about it, saying she offered him Andrea Leadsom’s job as Leader of the House of Commons instead.
Matt Hancock – another toadie whose most recent scandal involved the launch of an app in his name which collected contact details, photos and videos, check-ins, and other digital content, even when users had denied permission for it to do so – is the new Health Secretary. How many scandals have there been about Tory health secretaries trying to collect and sell off patients’ information to private companies for unknown purposes?
Jeremy Wright becomes Culture Secretary after making such a huge impression as Attorney General that people think the role is still held by Dominic Grieve.
I had to look up Geoffrey Cox, the new Attorney General, on Wikipedia. It seems he is a barrister, so that’s something. Beyond that, he is notable only for having been involved in an alleged tax avoidance scheme. And now he’s our top lawyer? Hmm!
What a shambles. In fact, that’s what the new government should be dubbed: “Theresa May’s Brexit Shambles.”
Jeremy Hunt was named as foreign secretary to replace Boris Johnson on Monday night, one of three men who supported remain during the referendum campaign who were promoted in an evening reshuffle.
The health secretary was called to Downing Street to be offered the job by Theresa May after a tumultuous day of resignations in response to her soft Brexit plans.
Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, was appointed as Hunt’s successor at health, while Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, is to become culture secretary.
The Tory MP Geoffrey Cox was later named as the new attorney general.
Jeremy Corbyn with Chris Williamson during an election campaign event in Derby in 2017. Williamson decided to resign after he told the Huffington Post council tax should be doubled on higher-value homes, an idea that is not in line with Labour policy [Image: Hannah Mckay/Reuters].
An influx of bright new faces from Labour’s 2017 Parliamentary intake has boosted the party’s shadow cabinet, alongside ‘unity’ appointments and the welcome return of Clive Lewis, in a minor reshuffle that promises to put Theresa May’s disastrous attempt to revitalise her failing Tory government in the shade.
Here are the new appointments (as announced by Skwawkbox):
Shadow Minister for Pensions – Jack Dromey MP
Shadow Minister for Labour – Laura Pidcock MP
Shadow Minister for Planning – Roberta Blackman-Woods MP
Shadow Minister for Social Care and Mental Health – Paula Sherriff MP
Shadow Minister for Buses – Matt Rodda MP
Shadow Minister for the Treasury – Clive Lewis MP
Shadow Minister for the Treasury – Lyn Brown MP
Shadow Minister for Fire – Karen Lee MP
Shadow Minister for International Trade – Judith Cummins MP
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – Chris Matheson MP
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – Laura Smith MP
Shadow Minister for International Development – Dan Carden MP
Shadow Minister for International Development – Preet Gill MP
The changes come after Derby North MP Chris Williamson resigned as shadow fire minister.
Williamson, who is an ardent supporter of the Labour leader, told the Huffington Post that council tax should be doubled on higher-value homes.
The interview, the latest in a series of controversial pronouncements by Williamson, strayed outside his brief and did not reflect party policy.
But it was immediately seized on by the Conservatives, who used an image of Williamson, with the slogan, “I want to double your council tax”, in an online attack ad.
Labour sources said the shadow communities and local government secretary, Andrew Gwynne, was furious. He had not been warned of the article.
In a statement, Gwynne said: “This proposal is not our policy and it won’t be. Unlike this proposal, we recognise that each council area has a different ability to raise income locally and so we will look at that as part of a fair redistribution mechanism, linking social need, health inequality, urban deprivation and rural sparsity.”
It is understood that when the issue was raised with Williamson, rather than agree to confine his public statements to his own policy area, he decided to resign. He is expected to act as a leftwing outrider for the Labour leader from the backbenches.
Bear in mind that the Tory propaganda release twisted Mr Williamson’s words. The plan was never to double everybody’s council tax, as was implied by the Conservative claim.
Shadow minister Chris Williamson said that his radical plan to hike the tax on wealthier properties, while freezing it for less expensive homes, was one answer to “relentless” austerity suffered by local councils.
In an interview with HuffPost UK, Williamson said that his ‘Differential Progressive Council Tax’ proposal would require popular support in local referendums, but said the argument was winnable as it was about local budgets “for the many, not the few”.
The shadow fire minister, who also floated the idea of a “local purchase tax” to help councils raise their own funds, stressed his proposal was not official party policy and would be up to local parties to adopt.
The plan would involve freezing council tax for properties rated in Bands A to C, homes which were valued – in the last rate valuation in 1991 – as worth less than £68,000.
Homes in Band D, worth between £68,000 and £88,000 and considered the ‘average’ by Whitehall, would pay 20% more.
More expensive homes would see progressively higher rates, right up to a 100% increase for the highest band H, which covers properties worth more than £320,000.
The article also made it clear that councils are not satisfied with the Conservative government’s plans for local government:
“Councils across the country are this month setting their tax rates and budgets for the coming year, with many including Tory boroughs set to use new freedoms to increase bills by up to 5.99% to meet social care costs.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is set to confirm plans which councils say offer inadequate funding, with many warning council tax bills will have to go up by up to £200 a year, the highest rise in 14 years.”
So, having rushed to ridicule a left-wing plan that would have humiliated them, the Tories have – yet again – shot themselves in the foot.
The resulting resignation provided Labour with an opportunity to mock the reshuffle carried out by Theresa May at the beginning of the week.
Instead of bringing in a rabble of old faces with tarnished records, Mr Corbyn took the opportunity to bring bright, new faces into his shadow government – and to bring back Clive Lewis, a popular MP who had been falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour, and subsequently exonerated, again in sharp contrast to Tories who appeared to have been promoted into Cabinet positions based on the harm they have done in the past.
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About the only power formally reserved to the PM under the British constitution is the right to hire & fire ministers. But May will now, at the very least, have a chancellor, foreign, health, business & transport secretary she’d rather have in other jobs.
We’ll mention health, business and transport shortly, but let’s just remind ourselves of the records of the people holding the other roles:
Philip Hammond, who remains as Chancellor of the Exchequer, recently blamed a downturn in productivity in the UK economy on people with disabilities. He also recently claimed that there are no unemployed people.
Amber Rudd has kept her job as Home Secretary, where she has worked hard to build a reputation for unlawfully detaining some asylum-seekers, and unlawfully deporting others. Some would suggest that in this area alone, she has broken the law so many times, she should be in one of her own prisons – except there probably isn’t any room for her.
Boris Johnson is still Foreign Secretary, in defiance of reason. This Writer could mention his use of the terms “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”, his offensive quotation of Kipling in Myanmar, the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair, and many more national humiliations. He is a one-man political disaster area.
Quite right too. If a man can’t be rewarded for endangering a British subject in an Iranian prison, joking about people dying in Libya, constantly undermining his Prime Minister and leading the country over a cliff then there’s no justice. https://t.co/WElq7Z1UIf
Sajid Javid continues as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, only with “Housing” added to his title – to emphasize the stress being placed on that aspect of his brief at this time. It is likely that he is also keeping his job partly as a reward for following Mrs May’s lead on homelessness, in defiance of the UK Statistics Agency. He repeated Mrs May’s lie that the Conservatives have cut homelessness by 50 per cent after it peaked under Labour. In fact, Labour cut homelessness drastically but it has been increasing steadily since 2010 due to Conservative policies. Mr Javid was previously infamous for granting licences to export weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite allegations that they were being used to commit war crimes.
Chris Grayling's accidental 30 second 'appointment' as Tory Party chairman speaks volumes as to the state of the @Conservatives. They can't even get a pointless cabinet #reshuffle right, and yet expect to continue governing the country? #ToriesOut2018
According to TheyWorkForYou.com, Mr Bradley, the voice of Tory youth, voted against scrapping university tuition fees; against restoring Education Maintenance Allowance, against maintenance grants and nurses’ bursaries; against ending the public sector pay cap, and against increasing the minimum wage.
Next up is a nasty piece of work This Writer is mentioning out-of-sequence: Greg Clark remained as Business Secretary, for reasons that, I suspect, were not as they were suggested here. But it is interesting that these reasons were put forward. See for yourself:
So the quiet man dug in. Greg Clark stays as Business Secretary. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
So now we know that Mrs May was powerless to move some MPs as she wished. I would suggest that this is because she heads a minority government – her party has no majority in the House of Commons so she needs to rely on every single Conservative MP and cannot afford to upset any of them. The slightest rebellion could end her government – and after the mess she has made of her ministry – it is unlikely the Tories would take office again for many years, if ever.
One person who was happy to be moved was David Gauke, who leapt from the Department for Work and Pensions to replace Mr Lidington as Justice Secretary. Mr Gauke, let’s remember, worked tirelessly to ensure nothing was done to stop tax avoidance while he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Since moving to the DWP, he has worked tirelessly to ensure the introduction of Universal Credit is as painful as possible for benefit claimants.
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon was utterly nonplussed:
Gove, Truss, Lidington and now Gauke. Already the fourth Secretary of State for Justice I've faced. It's almost as if the Prime Minister views this crucial role for our justice system as being just about making up the Cabinet numbers. https://t.co/w9utwjemfi
David Gauke has spent most of the past year defending the Tories' cruel and callous Universal Credit plan and refusing to fix it when it was clear just how much it would hurt those affected. Very worrying for those who hope government's legal aid review will help most vulnerable.
But Justine Greening was Education Secretary! What happened to her?
We’ll come to that.
In the meantime, let’s note that Mr Hinds not only supported tuition fees, but voted to increase them to £9,000. He doesn’t like maintenance grants for students. And he loves academies and ‘free’ schools that are free of local authority control.
And what a representative he is. Mr Cairns has consistently voted to cut funds for local councils, against more powers for those authorities, and against transferring powers to the National Assembly for Wales.
How about a mention for the new Tory Vice-Chair with responsibility for women – Maria Caulfield, who thinks women should not be allowed to make decisions about their own bodies?
Former Tory Chairman Patrick McLaughlin was on his way out the door before the reshuffle got started; he seems to have been asked to take responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous election result. This left a vacancy that was filled by Brandon Lewis. But, oh dear:
Former housing Minister, new Tory Party Chair, and landlord Brandon Lewis, warned against strengthening safety regulations to include sprinklers to properties, he said it would put off house builders. #Grenfell#cabinetreshuffle
Now we’re getting to the meat. Remember Greg Clark, who wouldn’t move from Business? Jeremy Hunt was tipped to be offered that brief, with Anne Milton replacing him (because of her prior experience as a nurse and a junior minister for public health, and absolutely not because she’s married to a bigwig in a private health company – and if you believe that, I’ll tell you another).
#cabinetreshuffle Since we're considering Anne Milton because of her nursing experience, it's a shame Harold Shipman's not available to be Health Sec. He had decades pf experience as a GP & was as good at killing old people as Jeremy Hunt. #NHSCrisis#NHSWinterCrisis
But Ms Milton got into trouble early on Monday, when it was revealed that someone in the Houses of Parliament had altered her Wikipedia entry to hide her inconvenient marital association. So what was happening with Mr Hunt?
Breaking: the reshuffle's big shock – Jeremy Hunt refused a move to BEIS to insist he stay on as Health Sec with a beefed up brief of social care too. https://t.co/9zrScUDg19
Her comes another pearl, though – the extra job that Mr Hunt requested was his already:
Did Theresa May not even realise social care was already supposed to be a responsibility of the Health Secretary? I wonder how much it will cost to change all the logos & stationary?! What a shambles of a botched reshuffle
Mrs May seems to have a blind spot where it comes to people of her own gender. She was extremely reluctant to act on the allegations of sexual harassment against members of her party, and former members of the Cabinet, if you remember.
And then there’s Mrs May’s apparent lack of good character judgement:
A Conservative Party which can find a role for Toby Young but not for Justine Greening is one that can be beaten
At the time, Mr Young was still at the Office for Students, having been defended to the hilt by Tories in a Parliamentary debate. Commentators drew the obvious conclusions.
Justine Greening is a Tory who votes for Tory policies. But this is a party which sidelines a gay woman while finding a place for Toby Young, someone who spews misogyny and homophobia and jokes about masturbating over starving African children. All you ever need to know.
She didn’t have to. In the end, it turns out she chose somebody just as bad; Iain Duncan Smith’s lieutenant in the Coalition Government of 2010-2015:
It's taken nearly nine hours but May has just appointed her first new woman Cabinet minister of the day. No.10: The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of the Rt Hon Esther McVey as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Some wits in the commentariat have been saying he was sacked, rather than being allowed to “fall on his dildo”.
But what’s the final result? Did Mrs May manage to refresh, revitalise and diversify her Cabinet?
All she did was move a few ministers around and swap one female minister for another.
The vast majority of the cabinet remain white males, and most of them are from constituencies in southeast England. Their average age remains above 50. The proportion who had a private education has increased, as has the proportion who attended Oxford or Cambridge – up to more than half of the Cabinet.
So we are left with a government that – more than ever – represents a tiny minority of the country, and rules in favour of that minority.
May's #CabinetReshuffle was billed as being about providing fresh faces within cabinet..
Yesterday, 73% of cabinet ministers were male. Today: 74%
Yesterday, 27% were privately educated. Today: 35%
Ah, but she must have improved the representation of women, right? After all, that’s what Downing Street claimed. Here’s Michael Crick to explain the sleight-of-hand behind that announcement:
Downing Street boasts "there are now more women attending Cabinet", but several of those "attending" are just middle ranking ministers, not full Cabinet members. So there's likely to be a serious pay disparity between the men who attend Cabinet, and the women.
Some concentrated on just one detail – a speech by Ms McVey on December 18, 2013, in which she praised the rise of food banks (meaning she was also praising the increased poverty that caused this phenomenon):
As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for People with Disabilities, she oversaw the dismantling of Remploy as a government-owned employer of disabled people, saying the factories should be “freed from government control” and funding could be better used if spent on helping disabled people into work through individual support. Experience in the years since then has proved this claim to be false. The disability employment gap is widening, with 114 disabled people leaving work for every 100 gaining jobs. And only last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond lied to the nation with a claim that lower productivity in the UK economy was due to disabled people.
In December 2012, Ms McVey boasted that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people would have their benefits cut or removed altogether. She thought it was a good thing.
In January 2013, she did not bother to turn up to a Parliamentary debate on private firm Atos’s handling of the hated Work Capability Assessment of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, even though she was the minister responsible. She left it to Mark Hoban, then-Minister of State at the DWP, who answered only 10 questions out of dozens that were put to him. In August of that year, she sent Mr Hoban out to lie on her behalf again – on the same subject.
She misled Parliament and the public with regard to Disability Living Allowance, the benefit that was replaced by PIP.
In April 2013, she tried to justify the change from DLA to PIP by saying it was an “outdated benefit” for which “around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence.” She also said 71 per cent of claimants were awarded the benefit for life, without checks. These were both lies.In fact, just 10 per cent of claims were based on the 40-page-long form. In 40 per cent of claims a GP’s report was required for a successful claim and in a further 45 per cent of cases further evidence was used, such as information from a social worker or healthcare professional. And six per cent of claimants were called in for a face-to-face assessment. And only 23 per cent of DLA awards were indefinite.
Along with Iain Duncan Smith and the other DWP ministers of the time, she supported the regime of sanctions imposed on those who refused to take part in what was then known as the Work Programme, despite having documentary proof, not only that they don’t work, but that they harm claimants’ families as well as the claimants themselves, and are known to cause suicide. With the others, she supported a change in the law after previous rules were found to be illegal. She procured the suicide of disabled and otherwise disadvantaged benefit claimants.
In October 2013, Ms McVey was rewarded for these lies with a promotion, replacing Mr Hoban as Minister for Employment.
In this job, she started as she meant to go on by praising a fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, even though there had been no corresponding increase in employment. In fact, more people were said to be out of work. The drop in the claimant count could be attributed to several other factors: Sanctions, unpaid Workfare or work-related activity schemes, they may have been forced to apply for sickness or disability benefit, they may have been bullied off-benefit by DWP staff or private assessors employed by the Department, or they may have committed suicide. The DWP refuses to follow up on the fortunes of people it has pushed off-benefit, so we simply don’t know.
The following month, she announced that people on sickness benefits would be required to have regular meetings with the kind of “healthcare professionals” who had been pushing as many sick and disabled people as possible off-benefit, with a view to addressing the barriers that stop them getting into work. The implication was that, as their illnesses were not considered to be barriers to work, they weren’t ill at all but were faking it. Ms McVey described this as giving people “the support they need”. In fact, it was about depriving people of support.
Days later, she was back, praising the Bedroom Tax as a way to “tackle overcrowding and to make better use of our housing stock… We have seen our Housing Benefit bill exceed £24 billion – an increase of 50% in just 10 years – and this had to be brought under control”. There were just two problems with that – the Bedroom Tax doesn’t make better use of housing stock (in fact, it increases the likelihood of houses going empty as families are discouraged from moving in, knowing they’ll be forced out when the children leave) and was always likely to increase costs (people moving into private rented property would receive more benefit, and people who have been evicted because they can’t pay their bills after the Tax was imposed will be a burden on councils, who will have to put them up in more expensive B&B accommodation). Again, she was lying in order to make harming people acceptable to the public.
Mere days after that, Ms McVey was forced to admit that the DWP had been lying about the number of people awarded Employment and Support Allowance on their first attempt, by including those who had requested reconsideration after being denied the benefit.
In December that year, Ms McVey was found to have lied about benefit sanctions. She had said they affected only a small proportion of jobseekers – “The vast, vast majority of people don’t get sanctions” – but when the actual number of sanctions (553,000) was compared with the number of people on JSA (1,480,000) it became clear that this was not true.
It is well worth examining Ms McVey’s contribution to the food bank debate, mentioned in tweets by other commenters which I have quoted (above). This Writer published an article about it at the time, and here‘s what I wrote about what she said:
Esther McVey’s speech showed clearly why she should have remained on breakfast television, where comparatively few people had to put up with her. She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.
She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.
She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).
She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.
She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.
She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.
She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year– but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.
She said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.
She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.
Then, on top of all that, she had the nerve to tell the country, “Rewriting history doesn’t work.” If that is the case, then hers was one of the most pointless speeches in the history of Parliament.
In January 2014, Ms McVey praised a large drop in unemployment claims, without commenting on the fact that there had been a huge leap in the number of people who were without a job but were not claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. I wrote at the time that she had succeeded in making the benefit system the exact opposite of what it was intended to be – pushing people into poverty rather than providing a safety net against it; bullying people into destitution and asking us to celebrate. For those having trouble believing this claim, I provided examples to support it in my article:
“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.”
“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment nine minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.”
“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has “expired” so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.”
“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months.”
Ms McVey next appeared when she spoke in support of a cut in Discretionary Housing Payments, the cash provided for local councils to help people in financial trouble after falling foul of the Bedroom Tax and the so-called welfare cap. She said: “Capping benefits is returning fairness to the welfare system,” and this was another lie, as the cap was set too low. The government claimed an average family income was £26,000, but in fact it was slightly more than £31,000. The reason the cap was set at the lower figure was that, at the more appropriate amount, hardly anybody would have been affected; the system was fair before the Tories (and the Liberal Democrats, as this was in the time of the Coalition government) interfered.
On April 27, 2014, Ms McVey’s Wikipedia entry was edited by, as This Writer described it at the time, “somebody with a social conscience”, as follows:
For a short period earlier today, it seems the entry began: “Esther Louise McVey (born 24 October 1967) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wirral West since 2010, and the Assistant Grim Reaper for Disabled People since 2012, second only to Iain Duncan Smith. She was previously a television presenter and businesswoman before deciding to branch out into professional lying and helping disabled people into the grave.” [Italics mine]
The edits have since been erased but at the time of writing, the entry starts: “Esther “no brains” McVey (born 24 October 1767)”.
Also embarrassing for the Employment Minister is the section on her Twitter faux pas during the memorial service on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster (April 15 this year). It reads: “McVey was criticized by social media users for attacking the Wirral Labour Group in a tweet published at the time a memorial service for the Hillsborough Disaster was being held at Anfield Stadium. She later, in a radio interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, claimed to regret the mistiming of her communication. During this interview, a voice can clearly be heard whispering, ‘Say I didn’t send it’.”
That’s right – she also sent a political tweet during the Hillborough disaster memorial service on April 15, 2014 and then tried to deny having done so.
A later change to the Wikipedia entry stated: “Many opponents believe she is a very unpleasant woman with no understanding of the issues faced by disabled people and seems to be on a vendetta to annihilate them alongside Iain Duncan Smith and supported by the Conservative leading figures.”
Ms McVey launched Help to Work, a scheme that forced jobseekers to sign on every day, commit to six months of voluntary work, or sign up to a training scheme (the last two effectively removing them from the government’s unemployment figures without getting them a job) – or face having their Jobseeker’s Allowance docked for increasing lengths of time. Of course, voluntary work must be offered without coercion, and this aspect of the scheme meant that Ms McVey was forcing UK citizens into slavery.
In June 2014, Ms McVey was criticised for claiming £17,227 on her Parliamentary expenses, to rent a central London flat. Maximum housing benefit at the time was £250 per week – around £100 per week less than she was scrounging for her flat.
She changed the rules of Jobseeker’s Allowance to make it impossible for unemployed people to refuse zero-hour contract jobs, even though such work could make them worse-off than if they were on benefits.
She reneged on a promise to set up an independent investigation into the appropriateness of sanctions.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Ms McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund was unlawful, saying she did not receive a sufficient understanding of the true threat to independent living for ILF users posed by the proposal to close the fund.
In February 2015, Ms McVey appeared before the Commons Work and Pensions committee to give evidence on the effectiveness of benefit sanctions, but failed to demonstrate that there were any reasonable grounds to show that increasing sanction periods was effective, or what effect increasing the sanction periods would have on claimants. Then-chair of the committee, Dame Anne Begg, concluded of Ms McVey: “I take it from your failure to answer the question that you did not do any research.”
In July 2015, after having lost her Wirral West Parliamentary seat in that year’s general election, Ms McVey refused to say how many of the DWP’s 49 secret reviews into benefit-related deaths concluded that the deaths had been associated with the use of benefit sanctions. She said it was “wrong” of Labour’s Debbie Abrahams to “politicise” and “inflame” the issue. It was later revealed that 10 of the 49 people whose deaths had been investigated had been sanctioned – but the DWP did not say how many times each person’s benefit had been sanctioned off of them.
Put all of the above together and you can see that Ms McVey is what the police might call “a right little charmer” – in other words, the nastiest piece of work one could ever hope to meet.
She is a habitual liar, determined to push through policies that cause the maximum harm to citizens of the United Kingdom.
Her behaviour is a matter of public record.
Theresa May knows this – but has appointed her as Work and Pensions Secretary anyway.
Clearly Mrs May wants Ms McVey to do her vile worst. Expect many claimant deaths, followed by multiple mealy-mouthed justifications.
I’ll leave you with a few comments on Ms McVey’s return to the DWP. At the time of writing, it is very late, so I’ll forgo any commentary on them.
Esther McVey's constituents in Wirral West voted her out because of the policies she promoted as Minister for Employment. She was then parachuted into the safe seat of Tatton and then promotes to DWP secretary #CabinetReshufflehttps://t.co/zBnQyoeA6r
For every single person who relies on the state for income, dignity and survival, this is an appalling decision by the Prime Minister. Starting today all of us in @UKLabour will redouble our efforts in the fight for a more compassionate society https://t.co/qBQ1Ls7BqZ
Ms Wayling later corrected herself; she meant that Ms McVey lost her seat in the 2015 election for the reasons she mentioned, and went on to add that Ms McVey had been parachuted into the Tatton seat in 2017, being quickly elevated to the Whips’ office after Michael Fallon’s removal as Defence Secretary, and becoming Work and Pensions Secretary now.
Theresa May has said she intends to remain as prime minister for “as long as people want me”, as she confirmed she was about to conduct a government reshuffle.
Justine Greening, the education secretary, is tipped to be the most prominent casualty in the shake-up, which is expected to start on Monday.
A government reshuffle has been pending since Damian Green was effectively sacked as first secretary of state and Cabinet Office minister before Christmas for not telling the truth about pornography being found on his office computer during a police raid in 2008.
However, May has decided not to do only the minimum required to replace a departing minister, as she did after Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel quit the cabinet in the autumn, but to embark on a full-scale reshuffle intended to refresh the government with new talent.
If Theresa May wants to stay as long as people want her, she should go now; she has already long outstayed her welcome.
As for her aim to “refresh the government with new talent” – fat chance!
She’s ditching Justine Greening for causing the Toby Young controversy.
And it seems she wants to make Guildford MP Anne Milton the new Health Secretary – Anne Milton, whose husband Graham Henderson has connections with Virgin Care, a private health company.
Tory MP Anne Milton is tipped to replace Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary
The litmus test of #TheresaMay ‘s #reshuffle is surely whether she removes: – a #brexit secretary who has repeatedly misled #Parliament – a foreign secretary who has antagonised friends &allies across the world – a trade secretary who doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing #bbcsp
David Cameron and Tory election candidate Chris Davies: A suit full of hot air next to a suit full of nothing at all.
Here’s one to file under “missed opportunities”: David Cameron passed within seven miles of Vox Political central and we didn’t know about it.
He made a surprise visit to the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Radnorshire, to talk about some agricultural scheme – but we don’t need to discuss that. Nor do we need to discuss the fact that the bronze bull statue in nearby Builth Wells town centre was found to have had its tail ripped off shortly after the visit; it would be wrong to suggest that the comedy Prime Minister was responsible but if he starts sporting a uniquely-shaped swagger stick, well, you read it here first.
We don’t even need to discuss the fact that Cameron arrived by helicopter, which is an exorbitantly expensive form of travel. Yr Obdt Srvt was watching a documentary about a Doctor Who serial made in 1969 and featuring a helicopter – just starting the rotors cost £70, which was a lot more money then than it is now! Next time you hear that there isn’t enough money around, bear in mind that this government always has the cash to hire out a pricey chopper!
No, Dear Reader – what was really shocking was the fact that Cameron allowed himself to be photographed with Chris Davies, the Tory Potential Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire – a man who this blog has outed as having no ideas of his own, who parrots the party line from Conservative Central Headquarters and who cannot respond to a reasoned argument against the drivel that he reels off. Not only that but the new Secretary of State for Wales was also at the Showground – his name is Stephen Crabb and he is on record as saying that the role is “emptied and somewhat meaningless”.
Bearing this in mind, those who didn’t attend the event, but would like to recreate the spectacle of David Cameron flanked by Messrs Davies and Crabb, can simply fill a few children’s party balloons with hot air, arrange them in a roughly human shape, and put a suit on them – that’s Cameron – then add two more, empty, suits on either side.
Discussion of empty suits brings us inexorably to the dramatic cabinet reshuffle Cameron carried out last week, in which he replaced his team of tired but recognisable old fools with a gaggle of new fools nobody’s ever heard of. The whole situation is reminiscent of a routine that Ben Elton did back in 1990, when he was still a Leftie comedian.
Still topical: Ben Elton’s ‘cabinet reshuffle’ routine from 1990.
The parallel with today is so close that the routine may be paraphrased to fit the moment:
These days the cabinet minister is a seriously endangered species, constantly culled by the boss… How stands the team today? All the personalities have been de-teamed, and Mr Cameron was rather left with a rack full of empty suits. So he reshuffled Philip Hammond, a suit full of bugger-all from Defence across to the Foreign Office. Then he reshuffled Nicky Morgan, a skirt-suit full of bugger-all who had been at the Treasury for 13 whole weeks. She was reshuffled to Education and is also now Minister for Women and Equalities. A suit full of bugger-all called Wright, who nobody had heard of that morning, became Attorney General. This is the British cabinet we are dealing with; not the local tea club.
Now Nicky Morgan, come on, be honest, six months ago, who’d heard of her? Hardly anyone. Since then she’s been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Education Secretary; nobody can say the girl hasn’t done well because she has. She reminds me of Jedward – everyone’s saying, ‘She may be rubbish but at least she’s trying!’
Who the hell is Jeremy Wright? He’s the Attorney General, that’s who. When he leaves home for work in the morning, even his wife doesn’t recognise him! ‘Bye bye darling – who the hell are you?’ … I confidently expect to see Keith Lemon elevated to cabinet status, with Gary Lineker becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer due to his amazing powers of prediction (“The Germans really fancy their chances, but I don’t see that”). He’ll be joined at the Treasury by financial wizard Jimmy Carr. Katie Hopkins takes over as Iain Duncan Smith so no change there.
This isn’t a party political thing. There have been lots of towering figures in cabinet before. Tebbit! Heseltine! … Lawson! You may not have liked them but at least you’d heard of them! These days, what have you got? The only reason a ‘dramatic’ reshuffle is ‘dramatic’ is because it takes so long to prise all their faces off the team leader’s backside, that’s why! They’re all stuck down there like limpets; they’re clinging on to the mother ship! If they all breathed in at once, they’d turn him inside-out.
That’s why they all speak so strangely – their tongues are all bruised and knotted from the team leader trying to untangle the top Tory tagliatelli flapping about behind.
Cabinet government is one of the safeguards of our precious democracy. It involves discussion, consensus, and it has produced great cabinets on both sides of the House. Churchill – the largest, perhaps the greatest political figure in the last century – a Tory, he was a constant thorn in the side of his boss, Baldwin. Wilson included Tony Benn, even though they were never friends, let’s face it. Heath employed Mrs Thatcher. They all understood that cabinet is a microcosm of democracy – but these days, it’s different. Nobody must dissent in cabinet. And nobodies are exactly what we’ve got.
There was more talent and personality in JLS – and at least they knew when to quit.
It’s goodbye to him: Michael Moore was the only casualty of the government’s Cabinet reshuffle. The others who lost their jobs were all in supporting positions.
This is not as much an article as it is a list of the changes made to the Coalition Cabinet and Labour’s Shadow Cabinet during today’s (October 7) reshuffles.
You will notice immediately that only one name has changed in the Tory-led Coalition Cabinet – Alistair Carmichael has replaced Michael Moore as Secretary of State for Scotland. It is rumoured that this is because Mr Moore had become too cosy with the SNP and the government wanted someone who was a little more likely to put up a fight.
Most of the government’s changes have been among ministers further down the hierarchy – for example Mark Hoban, the Employment Minister who proved he does not understand how the benefit system works, has been replaced by former Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey. Her own replacement has yet to be announced and the full line-up of Coalition ministers is expected to be revealed tomorrow – otherwise, with Parliament resuming its activities, it will be quite hard to continue business.
Over on the Labour benches, the most significant developments are the removal of plastic Tory Liam Byrne from Work & Pensions, and the fact that Andy Burnham is staying at Health.
Byrne’s removal will relieve many voters – especially those concerned with the well-being of the sick and disabled – who feared that DWP policy under him in a future Labour government would be nothing more than a continuation of the disastrous policies of the last few years that have decimated the poorest and least able to defend themselves.
Andy Burnham’s continued stay at Health signals that recent claims by his opposite number, Jeremy Hunt, that he had covered up NHS failings while he was in government, have not gained credence with the Labour leadership. Mr Burnham himself has instructed his lawyers to write to Hunt and demand an apology.
Here’s the list of the new Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet:
Prime Minister – David Cameron
Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg
Chancellor of the Exchequer – George Osborne
Foreign Secretary – William Hague
Home Secretary – Theresa May
Justice Secretary – Chris Grayling
Chief Whip – Sir George Young
Health Secretary – Jeremy Hunt
Business Secretary – Vince Cable
Work and Pensions Secretary – Iain Duncan Smith
Education Secretary – Michael Gove
Defence Secretary – Philip Hammond
Communities and Local Government Secretary – Eric Pickles
Energy and Climate Change Secretary – Ed Davey
Leader of the House of Commons – Andrew Lansley
Transport Secretary – Patrick McLoughlin
Northern Ireland Secretary – Theresa Villiers
International Development Secretary – Justine Greening
Scotland Secretary – Alistair Carmichael
Wales Secretary – David Jones
Environment Secretary – Owen Paterson
Minister Without Portfolio – Kenneth Clarke
Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Danny Alexander
Leader of the House of Lords – Lord Hill
Attorney General – Dominic Grieve
Culture Secretary – Maria Miller
Conservative Party Chairman – Grant Shapps
Shadow Cabinet –
Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party – Ed Miliband
Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Party Chair and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport – Harriet Harman
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer – Ed Balls
Shadow Foreign Secretary and Chair of General Election Strategy – Douglas Alexander
Shadow Home Secretary – Yvette Cooper
Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Minister for London – Sadiq Khan
Opposition Chief Whip – Rosie Winterton
Shadow Secretary of State for Health – Andy Burnham
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills – Chuka Umunna
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – Rachel Reeves
Shadow Secretary of State for Education – Tristram Hunt
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence – Vernon Coaker MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – Hilary Benn
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – Caroline Flint
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and Chair of the National Policy Forum – Angela Eagle
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport – Mary Creagh
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – Ivan Lewis
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development – Jim Murphy
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland – Margaret Curran
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales – Owen Smith
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Maria Eagle
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office – Michael Dugher
Shadow Minister without Portfolio and Deputy Party Chair – Jon Trickett
Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities – Gloria De Piero
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Chris Leslie
Shadow Leader of the House of Lords – Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Lords Chief Whip – Lord Bassam of Brighton
Also attending Shadow Cabinet:
Shadow Minister for Care and Older People – Liz Kendall
Shadow Minister for Housing – Emma Reynolds
Shadow Attorney General – Emily Thornberry
Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office) – Lord Wood of Anfield
Coordinator of the Labour Party Policy Review – Jon Cruddas
Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today – but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?
Today’s the day – doomsday for some, and a new dawn for others. Both the Coalition and Labour are reshuffling their top teams.
We already know some of the names that have stepped down. On the government side, Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary, to make way for fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. Apparently Mr Carmichael, referring to the upcoming referendum on Scotland seceding from the Union, has said he is “up for it”.
At least nobody tried to put a Tory in, to represent a country where that party has no MPs at all. It may seem beyond the realm of possibility but with the Government of Idiots (and I refer to the term in its classical sense) it would not be surprising.
Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith (who was humiliated on the BBC’s Newsnight last year when, as Exchequer Secretary, she struggled to answer questions about the government’s decision to defer a rise in fuel duty. It seems she had been promoted because David Cameron mistakenly believed she was a trained accountant. This does not bode well for today’s decisions) have both stepped down.
The BBC reported that Ms Smith’s resignation letter stated she had been “only 27” when she became an MP and now wanted to “develop other ways of giving public service” – indicating possible disillusionment with the Coalition government and the way it conducts itself.
Transport Minister Simon Burns has also stepped down – but this is to run for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was left vacant by Nigel Evans after he stepped down to fight criminal charges for sexual assault.
All the pundits are saying the government reshuffle will concentrate on mid-level ministers, with every Cabinet-level Tory secure in their position. What a shame.
Meanwhile, over at Labour, the situation is not so clear. Ed Miliband’s decisions have been unrestricted, and speculation has ranged from whether he will increase Shadow Cabinet representative for women, bring back members of Labour’s old guard (unlikely – he would face criticism along predictable lines from the Tories and besides, this seems to be about bringing in new, more attractive faces), promote people who are loyal to him or (my preference) have a Shadow Cabinet Of All Talents – including critics who happen to be very good at their jobs.
Abraham Lincoln had a Cabinet Of All Talents, if I recall correctly. Some consider this to be part of what made him great.
One person who won’t be a part of Labour’s team is former Minister (and then Shadow Minister) for the Disabled, Anne McGuire. who quit last week after five years in the job.
The Stirling MP was praised by disability campaigners such as Sue Marsh who, in an email, described her as “the one true ally we had on Labour’s front bench”.
And blogger Sue Jones wrote: “Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.”
But the former Shadow Minister, who is herself disabled, ran into controversy when she agreed to host a fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party Conference, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform, and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers.
Entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’, the event seems to have been a front for insurance companies to try to influence Labour’s thinking on social security in the future. Similar events were arranged by Reform and staged at both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.
Discussions at the private, round-table policy seminar seem to have centred on ways in which insurance companies could become more involved with social security – what products they could sell to working-class people who fear the loss of income that follows loss of employment.
This is exactly the scenario that the American Unum corporation wanted to create when it was invited into the then-Department of Social Security by Peter Lilley – a weakened state system that either cannot or will not support people in genuine need, particularly the sick and disabled, forcing them to buy insurance policies in the hope that these will top-up their income.
Anne McGuire denied this was the intent of the exercise but it is significant that neoliberal New Labour did nothing to prevent the advance of this agenda during its years in power, including the period she spent as Minister for the Disabled.
People who have suffered under the current benefit regime are demanding – ever more stridently – that Labour should mount a strong attack on the practices of the Department for Work and Pensions, as run by Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies, Mark Hoban and Esther McVey.
Part of this demand is that private organisations such as Unum and Atos, which administers work capability assessments, should be kicked out, and a new, fairer system of determining disability benefits based on a claimant’s medical condition and needs, rather than the greed of private enterprise, should be brought in.
There has been no hope of this with plastic Tory Liam Byrne as Shadow Work and Pensions spokesman, but rumour has it he could be shunted out and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Is this a good move?
The omens are not wonderful. She is yet another alumnus of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford (another notable example of that course’s graduates is David Cameron). Her background is in business. She once interviewed for a job with tax avoiders Goldman Sachs (but turned down the job offer) and has been named by The Guardian as one of several MPs who use unpaid interns.
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