Actor Chris Addison has sent an open letter to Esther McVey, stepping up pressure for her to resign

A split screen of Chris Addison and Esther McVey

Chris Addison – comedian, actor, and star of political comedy The Thick of It – has sent a powerful open letter to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey:

A “more formal approach”

McVey previously misled parliament about the findings of the National Audit Office’s scathing report into the DWP’s flagship policy, Universal Credit. She apologised for “inadvertently misleading” parliament.

Addison clearly doesn’t think her apology cut the mustard. He initially sent McVey a series of tweets:

Read on...

Due to a lack of response, he has now opted for a “more formal approach”:

The letter

In the letter, Addison writes:

It’s clear, now that we are almost three weeks gone from your appearing in Parliament to apologise for grossly misrepresenting the NAO’s report on Universal Credit, that you have justified to yourself that your actions don’t require resignation.

He then lays out the ministerial code. This includes that:

Holders of public office should be truthful.

Addison concludes that McVey’s admission that she misrepresented parliament could mean one of two things. Either she “knowingly did so”, meaning she has no option but to resign, or her:

reading of what was an exceptionally important document was so incredibly wayward that it calls into question your competence as the head of the governmental department whose operations affect millions of people in real need.

He states that her actions risk a “poisoning of our political culture” – a point that clearly resonated with others:

What would the DWP do?

Addison also asks McVey if it’s fair that her punishment differs so wildly from those of benefits claimants:

If a benefit claimant “inadvertently misled” the DWP they would be sanctioned and expected to explain themselves. You, as head of that department, have “inadvertently misled” Parliament and yet you have neither been sanctioned nor explained yourself. Is it fair that you be held to a lower standard than those whose lives your department deals with?

However, people on social media aren’t holding out much hope that these double standards will be addressed:

A litany of disasters

As work and pensions secretary, McVey has overseen a litany of disasters. These include:

  • The DWP forcing families to pay weeks of rent for their deceased relatives.
  • The news that local authorities are having to spend record amounts to make up for DWP cuts.
  • The DWP’s two child benefit limit has affected nearly 71,000 families. Some households are losing up to £2,780 a year.
  • The National Audit Office’s report concluded Universal Credit is causing claimants hardship and isn’t currently offering value for money.

The DWP’s continued incompetence gives credence to Addison’s point. Even if we believe McVey’s claim that she “inadvertently” misled parliament, the fact she couldn’t comprehend an incredibly important report raises serious questions about her suitability for her job.

Either way, she needs to be shown the door.

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