THE BLOG

IDS Survives Cabinet Cull But McVey Promotion Means Nothing to Unemployed

15/07/2014 12:46 BST | Updated 14/09/2014 10:59 BST

Hated work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith survived the Tory night of the long knives to keep his cabinet job.

But in a move which is more about presentation than policy, employment minister and Smith deputy Esther McVey will also attend cabinet meetings.

Two representing employment around the table might look like Cameron signalling renewed significance for this area, but it is really about his 'women problem'.

With only ten months to go until the next election, and much criticism of the fact that only four women have previously been allowed at cabinet, the Prime Minister has decided to sack many of the old lags and flood the room with new blood.

So out go heavyweights including Ken Clarke, Michael Gove, and William Hague, as well as a raft of more junior ministers, and in come Nicky Morgan, Liz Truss and, yes, Esther McVey.

It has been suggested that the government has recently run out of things to do, achieving most of what it wanted in the first four years and now marking time until the next election.

This doesn't come anywhere near capturing how unemployed and other poor people have suffered as the rich have been favoured with tax cuts and new opportunities to benefit from lucrative public contracts.

But Cameron appears to have put his party on a war footing, sacrificing any attempt at making a better Britain on the altar of a year-long election fight.

Two of those apparently sacked heavyweights, Gove and Hague, are likely to spend the next year fighting for success in 2015, a far more important Cameron aim than attending a cabinet with nothing to discuss.

Their appointments could actually be seen as promotions rather than sackings on this basis, and the presence of more women at cabinet could be seen as evidence that Cameron no longer sees it as of any great value.

Two attending from the department of work and pensions looks less and less like evidence that policy is about to change, or more scrutiny given to department failures like universal credit and the work programme, and more and more like another woman was added with no real duties just so Cameron could have a photo of himself surrounded by ladies for the election leaflet.

While McVey would have been no upgrade on Smith - she oversaw a raft of benefit cuts for disabled people while minister for them, and since her appointment as employment minister has repeated the trick - a break from Smith's welfare state hatred would only have been welcomed by unemployed people.

His benefit cuts, huge sanction increases and other impoverishing measures have made life impossible for those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs and need state help, many after paying national insurance for years.

They have found that Smith is not keen on keeping his end of the bargain, providing inadequate welfare payments at best grudgingly while attempting to criminalise their status, including requiring unpaid work and community service, previously only handed down as a sentence by a magistrate or judge to thieves and the violent.

A new broom would have provided at least hope of relief from these assaults, even one cast from the same material as the old broom.

Cameron has shown his lack of care or regard for unemployed people yet again.