When Esther McVey, deservedly dumped by the electorate of Wirral West in 2015, but later gifted the ultra-safe seat of Tatton and this year inexplicably made minister for work and pensions, addressed the empty hall that was this year’s Tory Party conference, she told anyone not asleep that stories of budget cuts were “Fake News”.
What a difference a few days make. Now, on the eve of the Budget, the reality of Universal Credit, the benefit reform for which Ms McVey is responsible - now there’s a thought to make the poor and vulnerable shudder - has been laid bare. And it is grim news: many claimants, including, yes, the poorest and most vulnerable, will lose out. Ms McVey eventually admitted it during a BBC interview. After all the pretence otherwise.
The Beeb has now reported “She told the BBC some people would lose out because the government had made ‘tough’ spending decisions in 2015 … But she insisted the most vulnerable would be protected … Challenged over one estimate that three million people would be about £1,800 a year worse-off, Ms McVey told the BBC: ‘I have said we made tough decisions and some people will be worse off.’”
But don’t worry, all you happy claimants, because generous Esther also said “Some people could be worse off on this benefit. But a thousand people every day since 2010 have gone in to work … If those people can work, what they will be losing is benefits, but what they have got now is work. Work will be paying. Their wage will be increasing”.
Yeah, right. The sheer detachment from reality is just staggering. And the “£200 a month worse off” could be an under-estimate, as one Tweeter noted. “If the Tories are unpopular now, just wait until after Universal Credit is rolled out. Because if you're working and get working tax credits, you're in for a big shock and are going to lose up to £400 a month”.
The Tory spin is not helping them, either: “Just heard on the radio a Tory MP say: ‘Universal Credit claimants will NOT be worse off, they will simply be receiving less money’ Have I missed something here?” Probably not. The Guardian’s Marina Hyde observed “I need my asbestos gloves to handle this take” after seeing Tory MP Johnny Mercer saying the problem with UC was “the bad press it gets”.
And Kevin Maguire of the Mirror berated Ms McVey “Oh Esther. You didn’t tell the truth at the Conservative conference” with good reason, as one case study shows. “Joseph Macmillan, 56, was ruled fit to work because he could make a cup of tea, died with just £8 in bank account! He was to appeal in July but had to postpone as he was too ill! He also had: heart problems, diabetes, anxiety, pancreatitis, depression & Cancer!”
Rachael Cousins showed that this cruelty was not a one-off. “I’ve just read about Amy, a diabetic woman, who had her benefits sanctioned and was told to contact a Food Bank because she couldn’t afford to eat. They had nothing for diabetics. Amy died after slipping into a coma, her partner has accused the Tories of killing her. She was 27”.
Now, although the Tory press is largely ignoring it, the i Paper has put the UC problems on the front page, and unless Spreadsheet Phil rides to the rescue, the Tories are in trouble.
Esther McVey and gratuitous cruelty. Funny how the two keep coming together.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at