Theresa May has confirmed that former housing minister Dominic Raab will be taking over as Brexit secretary. But not everyone is celebrating the appointment.
Raab, who steps into David Davis’s position after his resignation, has a history of troubling comments.
In 2017, the MP for Esher and Walton incurred a massive backlash after appearing to play down the seriousness of food bank use.
On an episode of the BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire show, Raab claimed the rising use of food banks was not down to poverty. Responding to a question from the audience, he said:
Look, in terms of the food bank issue, I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data.
What they tend to find is the typical user of a food bank is not someone who’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cashflow problem episodically.
Raab doubled down on his comments, claiming he was simply presenting the Trussell Trust data.
On the show, there were immediate boos and jeers from the audience. But the backlash to Raab’s views did not stop there.
A spokesperson for the Trussell Trust rubbished the claims. They said the main reasons for food bank referral are “delays and changes to benefit payments”, as well as “low income issues”.
Hugh McNeill, manager of Coventry Foodbank, wrote in response to Raab’s comments:
If you do not have enough money to build up savings to fall back on, to create a financial buffer for when something unexpected such as redundancy or sickness hits or a benefit payment is delayed, then you are a lot more likely to fall into a sudden crisis which leaves you unable to afford food. That isn’t a cashflow problem. It’s a symptom of a structural issue that needs addressing.
His political opponents also attacked the claims. Liberal Democrat Tim Farron claimed the comments were “stupid and deeply offensive”.
“Childish wish list”
Raab followed the foodbank comments with arguably an even more controversial outburst on the very same programme. The MP told a disability activist that reversing cuts on the most vulnerable people in society was just a “childish wish list”.
The harrowing response came after an emotional question from disability activist Fiona, who said the 2017 election was a matter of “life and death”.
You can watch the exchange below:
The reaction to Raab’s appointment has been mixed at best for Theresa May. She now faces more pressure than ever, and the Brexit end-game still looks no clearer than it has at any point over the past two years. Appointing someone who doesn’t even understand that poverty drives food-bank use is not the most encouraging sign.
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