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Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West, had asked [15:05:41] Department for Work and Pensions under-secretary Kit Malthouse:
According to government figures released last week, over half a million children are currently in poverty in lone parent families where their parent…is in either full- or part-time work. If the government really believes in making work pay, will the government reverse the cuts to work allowances?
Malthouse got to his feet and replied [15:06:20]:
I know the honourable lady likes to present herself as some kind of latter-day Mahatma, the only person who cares about poverty, but of course that’s not true across the rest of this house. Many of us [here he gestures to the Tory backbenches] have spent many years fighting poverty as councillors and voluntary workers and social workers so it would be helpful to the general tone of debate in this House if it wasn’t quite accusatory.
Greenwood was clearly not convinced, and met his reply with a very impressive single raised eyebrow. As well she might.
Shadow DWP Secretary @MGreenwoodWW makes an incisive point, then asks: "Will the government reverse the cuts to work allowances?" Dismissed as 'pretending to be a latter day Mahatma' by the braying Tory Minister – shows what Tories think about those who campaign against poverty. pic.twitter.com/KmKEMfmm9s
— Theresa Griffin (@TheresaEurope) March 26, 2018
Malthouse’s claim that many Tory MPs “have spent many years fighting poverty doesn’t entirely stand up to scrutiny – and certainly not in his case.
Described by the Evening Standard as ‘an unabashed defender of wealth’ with six directorships, Malthouse does not appear to have spent much of his life worrying about poverty.
Malthouse is a director and majority shareholder of County Finance Group. He is also a former member of Westminster Council, and former Deputy Mayor for Policing in London. In that role, he refused to give up his business interests after missing 40 meetings, insisting that his ‘multiple directorships’ made him a better politician.
In 2016, Malthouse was ‘forced to resign‘ from his position as patron of the MS Society, a multiple sclerosis charity, after voting to cut Employment and Support Allowance by £30 a week. The charity said his support for the vote “prevented him being an effective patron”.
By contrast, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister Margaret Greenwood is a former teacher who has been consistently outspoken about issues of social justice. She has sponsored a private member’s bill which aimed to end the privatisation of the NHS and is a founder member of Defend our NHS, formed in 2011 to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill (now an act).
However, all this is probably not what made Kit Malthouse launch his unwarranted and contemptuous attack. The reason may be much more personal.
In 2015, Greenwood took the seat of Wirral West from Esther McVey, now Malthouse’s boss as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
McVey returned to the Commons in 2017 after being put into the safe seat vacated by George Osborne. But it’s likely that Greenwood’s victory over McVey has not been forgotten – least of all by Kit Malthouse.
You can watch the exchange below: