Esther McVey is on the payroll to defend workfare

Esther McVey popped up on Twitter today in passionate defense of workfare. She’s been the Conservative MP for Wirral West since May 2010. As their MP, she’s supposed to represent her constituents.

In the constituencies of Wirral South and Wirral West, long-term youth unemployment rose by 100% last year.

Job seeking conditions are equally as dire for the over-50s: in Wirral South, long-term unemployment in this category was double the national average, and in Birkenhead it was nearly three times at 66.7%. (Letter to Wirral Globe, 14th February 2012)

But McVey is also the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chris Grayling as Minister of State for Employment. So while not getting a minister’s salary, she’s bound by the Ministerial Code in some respects.

Sarah Woollaston writes about her decision to refuse a post as PPS:

When I was asked if I would like to become a minister’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), it sounded like a promotion – until I looked at the job description. It is in fact something of a Faustian pact: in return for the vague illusion of having the minister’s ear, I would have had to resign from the health select committee, agree to never speak on health matters and to always vote with the government. It turns out that about 150 out of 364 coalition MPs are on the so-called “payroll vote”, meaning that because of positions they hold, they have agreed to always vote with the government. Included among those 150 are around 45 who work as a PPS.

How could I justify taking such a role to my constituents in Totnes? How could I have looked them in the eye if I had signed away the ability to speak about the very subject for which I was elected? Ministers should have collective responsibility, but why the need to silence their PPS? When the number of MPs shrinks to 600, the impact of the payroll vote will be even more serious.

It is a kind of creeping patronage, as the suggestion is made that no one can become a minister without first doing time as a PPS. It was the same under Labour: one MP told me that it was the most miserable experience of their life, always on the edge of a career advancement that never comes, constrained from speaking out but holding fire in the hope that one day they could have a real voice as a minister themselves.

With so many big companies realising that being publicly associated with Chris Grayling’s slave labour programme is bad for business, the Government has evidently called all hands to defend the indefensible – so a PPS must spend her Saturday evening desperately tweeting confused lies about workfare, and the Telegraph must publish claims that all of us who are opposed to workfare are Socialist Worker Party members.

Dearie me. No.

(At least they didn’t repeat Chris Grayling’s confused idea that if his email address was included in the cc line, that meant his account had been hacked. No, the Daily Mail did that.)

I bet Ms McVey never thought that the road to someday becoming a Tory Minister would entail spending hours on Twitter on Saturday, tweeting hopelessly that:

Esther McVey has worked in the family business (which is demolition and site clearance, apparently) while doing postgrad course in radio journalism at City University, London. It would have been after this that she did her “work experience”? Or as part of her postgrad course?

Repeatedly, there’s the (false) claim that “50%” leave workfare for employment, that it is “voluntary”, that it provides useful experience….

That claim has been fact-checked. There’s no evidence that for 18-24s, going on a DWP work experience scheme helps them to get a job.

Even an attempt to get a hashtag trending:

She claims she would happily do six weeks unpaid work at Tescos:

I had a brief exchange with her:

But not, apparently, by ensuring they get paid work.

Yes, it has “been hailed as the best scheme so far”. By Tory MPs. Especially Chris Grayling.

The actual experience of people who have had to go on the “work programme” is … somewhat different. As for the sick and disabled, whom Philip Davies said last year should work for less than minimum wage,

their experience is described by a woman who is awaiting a heart operation, has “3-4 blackouts per day and has an unstoppable sleep disorder whereby I fall asleep standing up or even chatting”, writes:

If you are not sent to the work programme mandatorily you may get offered the chance to join during a work focussed interview with the DWP. At this stage it is entirely up to you if you want to join. What the DWP or programme provider do not tell you is if you start the work programme after 1 week it becomes mandatory for 2 years. If you try to leave they will sanction your benefits.

I have found the work programme a waste of time and money. I was given an induction with 25 other people who were all claiming ESA. I would think perhaps 3-4 people were anyway near able to contemplate working. One man was sat in a corner attached to an oxygen mask looking extremely ill. He told me he had to attend as he could not afford for them to stop his money if he didnt.

The programme providers are at their wits ends with this scheme. The people they are being sent are so far from the workplace due to health problems its just wasting their time and ours.

True that.

Update, 4th September

Esther McVey has been rewarded for her long evenings slaving over social media by being made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (juniormost of the three tiers of government minister) at the Department for Work and Pensions. She’s also the Minister of Disabled People.

The only references I’ve found to her knowing anything about the issues are:

  • Article by Esther McVey blaming Remploy management for closure of her local Remploy
  • Esther McVey in debate in the House of Commons 31st January 2012 on social mobility:
  • Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing this matter to the House. I hope she will comment on social mobility for people who are disabled, and on the need for public transport to enable them to go where they want to be. Does she agree, and will she comment?

    Esther McVey: I will make one comment, because I worked with people who were able-bodied, and with others who were not so able-bodied. One in particular who was a huge inspiration to me was a young girl called Shelly Woods, who I hope will get an Olympic gold in the Paralympics. She was supported by other people and thought she could achieve, even though she had always wanted to do sport as an able-bodied person. She became paralysed in an accident playing hide and seek, when she fell out of a tree, and has lived both as an able-bodied person and as someone who is not able-bodied. Her story was poignant, and she talked about the vital strength and support of teachers and family members. I do not know whether I can give a clear answer to the hon. Gentleman’s point—I am sure that the Minister can—but I hear what he says; the support he speaks of is needed.


Filed under Politics, Poverty

5 responses to “Esther McVey is on the payroll to defend workfare

  1. Andy Mayer

    Why is it that if we don’t agree with the Tory way of doing thing’s that we are left wing militants ?, i get sick of hearing the same old thing from these Tory dick head’s, i am working class and proud of it, i am NOT left wing, i believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and JSA is NOT fair pay. The sooner this government get’s thrown out the better, i lived through the Thatcher year’s, and this is becoming rapidly worse.

  2. Pingback: Disgusting! As Tories Lurch to the Right, Criminal Jeremy Hunt Takes Over Health | Andy Worthington

  3. Ron

    I was speculating this morning, on Twitter, whether McVey would be another party puppet like Miller, or actually represent the interests of disabled people honestly – seems I have my answer, and we get screwed all over again. Rarely have I read such a torrent of bovine ordure.

  4. Pingback: Tory Minister for Disabled People Supports Unpaid Work Scheme Workfare » PotteriesEYE

  5. Daz

    May i congratulate Ron for his comment, i absolutely agree with him whole-heartedly and managing to conjure up the words “Bovine ordure” was fantastic. It just about describes everything about this government and the propaganda machine that keeps churning out said bovine ordure.
    Weirdly Der Fuhrer, (multi millionaire), claimed DLA and should be ashamed of his treatment of disabled people.

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