As part of Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle, Esther McVey was appointed head of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) yesterday (9 January).
Returning to frontline politics in 2017 after losing her parliamentary seat two years prior, the MP for Tatton has been called out by numerous Labour MPs, who simultaneously questioned her suitability for the role. In fact, nearly 18,000 people have already signed a petition to 'Sack Esther McVey'.
Originally not intended for the post, she got the position after the now-former education minister, Justine Greening, rejected an offer from Theresa May to move to the DWP, choosing to resign instead.
Since then, Labour MP Dan Carden has said McVey's promotion would "put fear in the hearts of the vulnerable and disabled" and left the Prime Minister's pledge to fight injustice "in tatters".
The one-time TV presenter began her political career as the MP for Wirral West, a seat she won in 2005 and held until 2015.
Between 2012-2013, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People, then Minister of State at the DWP from 2013-2015, she helped then-Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's department oversee cuts to disability benefits, and what was dubbed the 'bedroom tax'.
The bedroom tax was a controversial move in which the government taxed tenants in social housing for having spare bedrooms. Benefits would be reduced by 14% for one additional room or 25% for two. On average, those affected by the tax lose between £14 and £25 a week and caused widespread anger across the country, The Guardian reported.
The most common criticism against her currently is her speech on food banks on 18 December 2013, where she accused Labour of trying to keep them "its little secret".
In it, she said that it was "right that more people" went to food banks as the country had "to live within its means".
In addition to this, she controversially likened job seekers to bad children who needed telling off.
"What does a teacher do in a school? A teacher would tell you off or give you lines or whatever it is, detentions, but at the same times they are wanting your best interests at heart," she said.
"They are teaching you, they are educating you but at the same time they will also have the ability to sanction you."
Moreover, in 2013, as Minister for the Disabled, McVey cut the Disability Living Allowance under claims that the system was being abused.
The change was delayed for two years but meant more than 300,000 disabled people would have their benefits cut, she said at the time. Another aspect of this was that numerous disabled people had to complete a medical examination to apply instead of filling out a form to weed out fake claims.
Aside from these examples, McVey has been called out for prioritising the economy over the country's welfare needs on multiple occasions.
Parliamentary voting records show Ms McVey has:
- Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
- Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
- Consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- Almost always voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed
- Consistently voted against equal gay rights
One user on Twitter put: "Esther McVey is the new DWP secretary. Disabled folk have learned to accept bad news, indignity, destitution, increased ill-health and worse. But this still manages to be another sickening blow."
With all of these arguments circulating around her appointment, many are far from celebratory.