Today Labour is calling for Esther McVey to be sanctioned, in typical Department of Work and Pensions style, after misleading MPs over the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit. The Work and Pensions Secretary was forced to apologise to the Commons last week because the National Audit Office pointed out she had misrepresented the findings of the parliamentary body’s report on the chaotic welfare reforms. There were cross-party demands for her resignation as the NAO said she had only admitted to only one of her three ‘mistakes’.
Labour has now put down a motion of censure that would see four weeks of her pay docked. McVey’s opposite, Margaret Greenwood, said: “Universal Credit’s roll out has caused real hardship for many people. It has pushed people into debt, rent arrears and forced some to rely on foodbanks. Esther McVey needs to get her act together, pause the roll out and come up with a plan to address the serious flaws in Universal Credit.”
As for non-parliamentary news, former Director of Governance at Labour HQ John Stolliday had his leaving do yesterday. The outgoing head of compliance certainly spoke his mind. Stolliday described the opposition as one that “provides no alternative”, only “tired slogans”, and has “nothing to say on the biggest issue of the day — Brexit”. Outlining an “existential crisis” within the Labour Party, he was voicing what most Corbynsceptic MPs say in private, as Paul Waugh notes, but Corbynites reacted to the speech extracts shared on Twitter with a collective eye roll. Questioning whether under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour has become merely a “party of protest” is widely considered on the left to be a tired criticism. It is also one that has lost its potency, they say, when Corbyn is accused of not protesting enough over Brexit and was condemned for his absence at the People’s Vote march.
Last night a mini-reshuffle to fill vacancies took place, which saw Justin Madders provide maternity cover for Laura Pidcock as shadow labour minister, while two MPs of the 2017 intake – Jo Platt and Mike Amesbury – took up the roles of shadow minister for the cabinet office and shadow employment minister respectively. But the appointment that has created headlines is that of Naz Shah, now a shadow equalities minister. As you may remember, Shah was suspended in 2016 over social media posts deemed antisemitic including one that suggested Israel should be relocated to the United States.
This controversial hire comes at a time when Labour figures are still warring over whether the party has adopted the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in its new code of conduct. On Sunday, Keir Starmer came down on the side of ‘it hasn’t’ when he confirmed to Andrew Marr his view that all IHRA examples of antisemitism should be adopted in the new guidelines.