There was an interesting debate held in the House of Commons this week which to us at Wirral Leaks explains everything you need to know about politics (and especially local politics).
Margaret Greenwood ,Wirral West MP and Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions raised the issue of ‘The Secretary of State’s Handling of Universal Credit’
As you know – or at least you should know – is that that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is Tatton MP Esther McVey who,of course was Margaret Greenwood’s predecessor as MP for Wirral West.
So everything was perfectly set for a political catfight. And as we know no catfight is complete without Birkenhead MP Frank Field getting his catty claws out. He didn’t disappoint – well he did, that’s what he always does as far as we’re concerned, but you know what we mean!
Here is our take on the debate but you can read it for yourself here
Greenwood opens up with :
I beg to move,
That this House
censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Tatton, for her handling of the roll-out of universal credit and her response to the NAO report, Rolling Out Universal Credit;
notes that the Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey of claimants published on 8 June 2018 showed that 40 per cent of claimants were experiencing financial hardship even nine months into a claim and that 20 per cent of claimants were unable to make a claim online;
further censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for not pausing the roll-out of universal credit in the light of this evidence;
and calls on the Government to reduce the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions’ ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.
And goes on to ask :
McVey then goes on to a) show up Greenwood for the naive political amateur that she is and b) demonstrate the essential modern political prerequisite for an MP – shameless hardfacedness.
The answer is no, they will not be apologising.
As it is about apologies today—and, as I said, I made my apology straight away—let us go back to another apology. I was hoping that the shadow Chancellor would be here today, because I was waiting for years for an apology for the lynching comment against me. Of course, we never got that apology. As the Opposition spokesperson knows all about that campaign in Wirral West, perhaps she would like to apologise on behalf of her party.
McVey completely wrongfoots Greenwood by attacking Labour Party Deputy leader John McDonnell which means the Blessed Margaret can only come up with the feeble response:
The point that the Secretary of State makes had nothing to do with my campaign in Wirral West in 2015.
Of course it doesn’t and that is exactly the point! – and McVey is now allowed to plough on furrowing her own path rather than digging her own grave. However no political pantomime is complete without a Wicked Godfather . Enter stage right Birkenhead MP Frank Field:
An apology: I was in the House when somebody repeated that campaign phrase against the Secretary of State. I was stunned by what was said, and I hope that she will forgive me for not getting up immediately to object to it. I apologise for my total failure to respond as a human being when that was said, and I hope that she forgives me if I do not actually recite what was said, because such nastiness and evil is not directed just at her; it is directed at my hon. Friend Ms Eagle, the neighbouring constituency to the one that the Secretary of State fought. What is occurring is a disgrace. How we stop it, I do not know, but we can at least apologise when it occurs. I am grateful that the right hon. Lady raised it today so that my saying that would be in order.
FFS! Frankenfield spare us the melodramatics . However what follows is a case of Esther and Frank sitting in a tree ,K-I-S-S-I-N-G …or perhaps not!
McVey responds :
I know those words are heartfelt, and I accept that apology. It took a long time for people to come forward. I would have liked those on the Opposition Front Bench to have done so, because they represent the Labour party, and I know that such a thing is not at the heart of the Labour party.
We started off with a ding-dong in the Chamber today. I do not necessarily think that we are at our best in Parliament when we have a ding-dong like that. People watching outside do not understand the real reasons why we, on both sides of the House, came into politics. I put this on the record now: let us work cross-party to get universal credit right. Let us work with third sector organisations to get it right. Let us reach out and get it right, because it affects so many millions of people. We are doing our best, and lots more people are in work, but we can do more. Let us do it together.
Meanwhile whilst Wallasey MP Angela Eagle gets completely sidelined in the debate allowing for this following lovey-dovey exchange between McVey and Field :
One last point: Back Benchers can apologise only for our own action or inaction. That is my apology.
In this debate, one wonders what truth is and what facts are. When reading the NAO report, I reached totally different conclusions to the Secretary of State. I thought the message was that the Comptroller and Auditor General was perplexed beyond belief that he could not recommend to go back or to go forward. There was a clear recommendation that we should pause, and I ask the Secretary of State for that pause—not never to resume the roll-out, but to at least to ensure that we are not inflicting unnecessary suffering, horror and hunger on our constituents, which Opposition Members have certainly registered, and which must have been registered by Members on the other side of the House.
Yes, indeed, but I am really anxious to respond to the Secretary of State’s wish that we work together. The building block of working together is to take that key sentence from the NAO report, whatever else it said, about a pause—not to scrap universal credit, but to have a pause—to make sure that in three respects we are not party to inflicting untold misery, horror and hunger on our constituents.
The first is that we do not continue the roll-out until we have universal support. We do not have universal support in the way in which all of us understand the word universal.
Secondly, on real-time information, the experience in my constituency—it must be the experience in other constituencies as well—is that real-time information is neither real nor on time. That is causing the most incredible problems with people’s claims. Might we have a pause until we make sure the Revenue can service the Secretary of State’s Department in a way that we need for a successful continuation of the roll-out of universal credit?
Thirdly, on debt, on which the Secretary of State could decide today, debts of yesteryear are being found and charged to people on universal credit. The repayment of those debts is overwhelming people. I am not saying that people should not pay their debts, but do we not think that feeding one’s children, and ensuring the rent is paid and the heating is on, ought to be at least equal in importance to the repayment of debt? Might I therefore make a plea to the Secretary of State that she looks at the rules—not to scrap the repayment of debt, but the amount that is reclaimed—on debts that most of us will have forgotten?
Again, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for saying that. I want to reassure him. I have not been in post that long to get to grips with absolutely everything on UC, but debt and how it is repaid is precisely what I am focusing on at the moment.
That is wonderful news, but after the right hon. Lady has considered debt and decided on it there is the business about real-time information. This is not under her control as the information is supplied to her by another Department. It is not real and it is not on time, so perhaps she could look at that as the next item on the list. There is also the crucial business of universal support. I tried to claim, but I could not do it in the time. A lot of us need that support to make sure we can make a claim successfully. If we are going to work cross-party on this, there has to be give on the other side as well as on this side.
So there you have it – Greenwood’s motion gets tossed into the bog and Field and McVey carry on with their love in, with Frankenfield seemingly having no political/ideological differences with McVey about Universal Credit but merely expressing frustration at the bureaucratic processes associated with its implementation.As far as we’re concerned he was more keen about getting his bitchy digs in about the Labour leadership than ‘the untold misery, horror and hunger’ of Universal Credit . And as for Frankenfield giving way willingly – we’re best saying nothing!
All we will say is that if Field donned a blonde wig and a pair of kitten heels would we be able to tell the difference between him and McVey when it comes to Universal Credit ?