From the archives: Theresa May rolls out new unemployment benefits, but only for jobless Tory MPs

May "cannot hang on"
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The Canary is looking back at some of its most-read content, after we reached our 20,000th article. Here, in June 2017 we looked at Theresa May giving golden handshakes to jobless ex-Tory MPs – days after the election. This article was read by over 300,000 people. 

Theresa May plans to roll out new unemployment benefits, but only for Conservative MPs who lost their seats. At a meeting with the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, the sitting Prime Minister promised to give financial support to Conservative candidates out of a job.

One MP leaving the meeting said:

She was very concerned about people who have lost their seats. The party is going to help them, some of them are in dire financial situations. She did say sorry, several times. She apologised for colleagues losing their seats, for making the call about the early election

On 8 June, May’s MPs faced a battering, including her top team. Home Secretary Amber Rudd managed to hang on by a handful of votes. But many other ministers weren’t so lucky. Nine of May’s government ministers lost their seats to a resurgent Labour.

Austerity for everyone, except us

The Conservatives have spent seven years presiding over austerity for the most vulnerable people in society. The change in the benefit system to Universal Credit represented a huge cut in unemployment allowance, among other benefits, for millions. The Tories have also ruthlessly slashed disabled people’s unemployment benefits.

But May is now rushing to financially “help” Conservative colleagues who are out of a job. Twitter responded accordingly to the double standard:

Read on...

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There were 30,000 excess deaths in 2015 alone as a result of Conservative cuts, according to an Oxford University report. A disabled activist challenged May’s new Justice Minister, Dominic Raab, during the campaign. Raab said supporting disabled people was a “childish wish list”, unless you’ve got a “strong economy”. But apparently, supporting newly unemployed Conservative MPs is fine.

Counter-productive cuts

Then, Raab wheeled out the well-rehearsed Conservative justification for the cruelty:

The raw truth is that the money’s got to come from somewhere.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a test that the government uses to determine whether a disabled person is ‘fit for work’. Contrary to Raab’s response, the WCA has actually cost the government far more to administer than it has saved in reduced numbers of benefit claimants. In short, it actually costs the taxpayer money to put people through such trauma. Yet disabled people still had their unemployment benefits cut. Meanwhile, Conservative MPs are set to be financially supported after losing their seats.

In reality, investing in disabled and sick people is not even a cost to the taxpayer. Welfare spending is not consumption, but an investment that powers the economy. As renowned economist Ha-Joon Chang lays out in The Guardian:

Increased spending on disability benefits and care for older people helps carers to have more time and less stress, making them more productive workers.

So welfare spending of this kind increases productivity and can empower disabled people to contribute to their communities. Still, May and the Conservatives have cut their support relentlessly.

But when Conservative MPs lose their jobs and need a helping hand, the money’s there. Such double standards were likely a big player in losing the Conservatives their majority.

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