IN ANY government bar the current one, Esther McVey’s misleading of the House of the Commons — lying, as it’s usually known — would have seen her walk the plank.
Theresa May’s political weakness is McVey’s opportunity. She knows she can brazen out the situation, secure in the awareness that the Prime Minister dreads upsetting factions within her Cabinet for fear of retribution.
McVey doesn’t see she has done anything wrong.
Her approach hasn’t changed since being brought in as Iain Duncan Smith’s employment and disabilities minister in David Cameron’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition lash-up.
She was deployed as Duncan Smith’s attack dog, defending the bedroom tax and declaring no political shame over the surge in numbers of people being forced to go to foodbanks, blaming it on “personal debt, overspending and people living beyond their means.”
There was no recognition of the role played by inadequate take-home pay that leaves families dependent on in-work benefit in acute distress when their benefits are delayed.
She was similarly gung-ho for the Tory scheme to replace disability living allowance with personal independence payments (PIPs), subject to testing by private-sector assessors whose rewards depended on the scale of cuts inflicted on disabled claimants.
No wonder Wirral Trades Council, other trade unionists and Disabled People Against Cuts made it their 2015 general election priority to dump McVey.
And it worked. She was defeated by just over 400 votes by Margaret Greenwood, giving Labour a clean sweep of all Merseyside seats.
Greenwood has since become shadow work and pensions secretary and led calls for McVey’s resignation yesterday.
McVey’s period of unemployment didn’t last long. Nor did she have to submit to means tests to secure benefits. It doesn’t work like that for Tories. Friends have friends.
So it was that the scourge of the poor and disabled was shoe-horned into the job of British Transport Police Authority chief executive by Tory Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Her annual salary of £38,000 might not seem high by normal standards until you realise that it was payable for one day’s work a week.
The rest of her time, while scurrying round looking for a chance to restart her parliamentary career, was devoted to topping up her meagre British Transport Police Authority salary.
She became a special adviser for an “independent private investment office,” known as the Floreat Group, with the brief of helping the ultra-wealthy sort out their special little problems.
Morning Star columnist Solomon Hughes described her job as “helping rich people with everything from investments to tax advice to assisting them with their yachts, planes and personal butlering.”
None of these jobs can have been really important since she was happy to drop them when George Osborne’s blue-chip Tatton constituency came a-calling and she was able to return to her bash-the-poor obsession.
As backbencher Vernon Coaker pointed out yesterday, his constituents who make an innocent mistake when filling in a claim are sanctioned by losing their benefit.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is a serial offender.
The National Audit Office has pulled her up on three “incorrect” and “unproven” assertions, for which she has had to apologise to the House, even while still arguing the toss.
The answer to Coaker’s question over why his constituents might believe “there’s one rule for the minister responsible for this and one rule for them” is because there definitely is.
If she and Theresa May can muster an ounce of decency between them, they should accept that McVey must go now.
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