In my previous article, I discussed the outrageous responses that the Department for Work and Pensions minister and petty tyrant, Sarah Newton presented to Shadow Disabilities Minister Marsha De Cordova, who had once again raised the fact that the United Nations (UN) had found “grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights” in the UK.
The Labour MP also said yesterday in parliament: “This government’s policies have created a hostile environment causing grave violations on disabled people.”
Newton responded to these serious and valid concerns by an act of scandalised denial, outrage, vindictiveness, blaming the messengers, telling lies and by using gaslighting tactics.
Gaslighting is an intentional, malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to manipulate others, creating self-doubt and insecurity. Its aim is to redesign and edit people’s experiences and accounts of reality, replacing them with someone’s own preferred and more convenient version, by persistently altering the perceptions of others, to confuse and disorientate them. Like all abuse, it’s based on the need for power, control, and very often, concealment. It’s far more damaging than simply lying, because it is intended to control, hurt and silence others. It’s a strategy very commonly used by psychopaths, bullies, despots and the Conservatives to ensure they get their own way.
The government often use doublespeak – language shifts entailing words such as “reform”, “fair”, “support” and “help”- to disguise the horrible impacts of their extraordinarily draconian welfare policies and austerity programme, and to divert public attention. People who object to the harms that Conservative policies cause are told they are “scaremongering”. This is a form of gaslighting. It indicates that the government have no intention of changing their punitive policy approach or remedying the harms and distress they have caused.
The Conservatives have shown very strong tendencies towards socially illiberal and authoritarian attitudes over the past seven years. Furthermore, they aren’t exactly a party that designs policies to bring delight to the majority of ordinary citizens. Ministers regularly use a form of Orwellian Torysplaining and scapegoating to attempt to discredit and invalidate citizens’ experiences of increasing economic hardships and vulnerability – particularly those of marginalised groups – caused directly by punitive Conservative policies. This is certainly an abuse of political power.
The Conservatives have a long track record of determined authoritarianism and telling lies. See for example A list of official rebukes for Tory lies and Dishonest ways of being dishonest: an exploration of Conservative euphemisms.
Today, cabinet minister and creature of habit, Esther McVey was rebuked for
telling lies ‘misrepresenting’ the National Audit Office’s (NAO) very critical report on the roll-out of Universal Credit with a series of ‘inaccurate’ claims to MPs. The NAO is the government’s spending watchdog.
The NAO took the highly unusual step after the work and pensions secretary dismissed the catalogue of failings outlined by auditors last month in their report into the government’s flagship welfare programme.
In his open letter to McVey, which is likely to raise questions about her future as a cabinet minister, the Auditor General, Sir Amyas Morse, said that elements of her statement to Parliament on the report were
lies “incorrect and unproven.”
He said it was “odd” that McVey told MPs that the NAO did not take into account recent changes in the administration of universal credit, when the report had in fact been “fully agreed” with senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions only days earlier.
Sir Amyas added that McVey’s claim that the NAO was concerned that Universal Credit was rolling out too slowly was “not correct”.
The NAO report concluded that the new system – being gradually introduced to replace a number of benefits – was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.
The authors of the report also accused the government of not showing sufficient sensitivity towards some claimants and failing to monitor how many are having problems with the programme, or have suffered hardship.
In his letter, Sir Amyas told McVey: “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your Department. It is based on the most accurate and up-to-date information from your Department. Your Department confirmed this to me in writing on Wednesday June 6 and we then reached final agreement on the report on Friday June 8.
“Her assurance, in response to the report, that Universal Credit was working was also “not proven.”
He continued: “It is odd that by Friday June 15 you felt able to say that the NAO ‘did not take into account the impact of our recent changes’.
“You reiterated these statements on July 2 but we have seen no evidence of such impacts nor fresh information.”
Sir Amyas added: “Your statement on July 2 that the NAO was concerned Universal Credit is currently ‘rolling out too slowly’ and needs to ‘continue at a faster rate’ is also not correct.”
And he told McVey: “Your statement in response to my report, claiming that Universal Credit is working, has not been proven.
“The Department has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties and hardship. What we do know from the Department’s surveys is that although 83% of claimants responding said they were satisfied with the Department’s customer service, 40% of them said they were experiencing financial difficulties and 25% said they couldn’t make an online claim.
“We also know that 20% of claimants are not paid in full on time and that the Department cannot measure the exact number of additional people in employment as a result of Universal Credit.”
The Auditor General said that he had written to McVey on June 27 asking for a meeting to discuss her comments, and was publishing his open letter “reluctantly” because he had not yet been able to see her. McVey has a history of showing disdain for democractic norms and the protocols and mechanisms of transparency and accountability.
Now the Work and Pensions Secretary is facing calls to resign, after admitting that she had
told lies “inadvertently misled” parliament.
You can hear her full statement here. She doesn’t look appropriately humble, sincere or ashamed, however:
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