Tue 7 July 2020

Following Amber Rudd’s resignation from the Cabinet over the Prime Minister’s plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, a hardline figure has been handed her job at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Just before Parliament was suspended, Boris Johnson appointed one of the most hard-line and divisive women to replace Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Her voting record reveals a tranche of reactionary views, likely to be offensive to the gay community, women, pensioners and non-smokers. She would also like millions of Europeans who live in the UK to have no right to stay here.

Cigar-smoking Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, would like to lift the ban on smoking in public places, bring back limitless betting odds on addictive gambling machines, and is an opponent of gay marriage.

As a former member of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in the past she has defended Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking inquiry and was a staunch supporter of Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and the current CEO of News UK, who she claimed was a victim of “a witch hunt”.

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The MP, who was appointed to the £154,000 job after Amber Rudd resigned over Boris Johnson’s ‘no deal’ Brexit stance, confirms that the Prime Minister now has one of the most right-wing Conservative cabinets since the latter period of Margaret Thatcher’s Government.

Coffey opposed gay marriage in Britain in 2013, following up this year by voting against a Commons measure to extend the right of gay marriage to Northern Ireland. She also supports parents who want to withdraw their children from sex education in schools.

On human rights, she voted both to repeal the EU Fundamental Charter of Rights and the Human Rights Act. She is in favour of allowing discrimination against Indians of lower caste and also wants the human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to lose some of its powers.

On Europe, although she voted Remain, she has since been hostile to Europeans from both the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) living here after a ‘no deal’ Brexit. She voted against giving them and their families residential rights, but made an exception for the Irish.

On benefits and pensions, she is a firm supporter of the so-called bedroom tax, under which disabled people have to fund for themselves any extra bedroom for a carer. She does not believe that people who are long-term disabled need higher benefits, wants pensioners in work to pay National Insurance, and supports cutting the welfare bill.

A landlord herself, she voted against changing the law to prevent landlords letting property that was unfit for human habitation.

Her declarations in the House of Commons’ Register of Interests reveal that she has a penchant for going to major racing events at other people’s expense. Both Ladbrokes – which campaigned against the limit on fixed-odds betting terminals – and ITV have paid for her and two of her staff to go to Royal Ascot. Her last visit in June was worth £2,318. She has also enjoyed free trips to Chester, Doncaster (paid for by Ladbrokes) and regularly to the Grand National at Aintree (for herself and a guest costing anything between £640 to £1,125).

She has employed her sister, Clare Coffey, on a casual basis on the parliamentary pay roll since 2015, and takes interns from the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, which pay for interns and provides them with accommodation.

Boris Johnson has, rather unsurprisingly, not given her Amber Rudd’s former role as Minister for Women and Equalities – given her views on the subject. Perhaps just as worrying, that post therefore currently remains vacant.

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