Esther McVey, minister for common sense: sounds ludicrous; here’s why it’s insidious writes Bremain Vice Chair Lisa Burton for Yorkshire Bylines.
For some, Rishi Sunak’s shuffle felt like a return of some common sense. Still, the appointment of Esther McVey as minister for commonsense, or even more ridiculously named, ‘Commonsense Tsar’, only proves it’s still all about nonsense.
Minister for common sense
Reactions to the announcement that Conservative MP Esther McVey was given a brand new shiny ministerial position as the minister for common sense were met understandably with confusion and well-deserved hilarity.
Here we have the Conservative Party who, in general, are against the so-called ‘nanny state’ and all about individual freedom and individual responsibility, yet we are now to believe that the British public needs schooling to ensure what they think of common sense is instilled in us all.
What will the position require, and what about the scope of the work? We already have a good idea because others have already laid the groundwork.
The Conservatives Common Sense Group
Yes, there’s a Conservative sub-group for common sense, which I wrote about here in March 2022. Set up in 2020 by Sir John Hayes, CBE MP, it has dozens of Conservative MP members. It is yet another Conservative group whose focus is on attacking liberal and compassionate thinking, challenging the government on policies like net zero and immigration. It is a significant player in the so-called ‘war on wokeness’.
They even have their own manifesto : ‘Conservative Thinking for a Post-Liberal Age’. A 136-page collection of what can only be called essays of opinion, written by some of the group’s members.
Many of their thoughts and ideas in the book are predictable. There are frequent attacks on human rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Sir John talks of the liberal elite and intolerant “woke” dogma of Black Lives Matter, transgender rights activists, advocates of “decolonisation”, and critics of “white privilege”, describing them all as “woke warriors”. He calls Extinction Rebellion extremists and attacks institutions and multinational businesses like Starbucks and the National Trust for daring to educate its members on slavery ties to some of its properties.
What they call common sense is, in fact, ultra-conservatism
Elements of ultra-conservatism typically rely on cultural crisis; they frequently support anti-globalism and adopt stances of anti-immigration, nationalism, and sovereignty. They use populism and political polarisation with in-group and out-group practices. Their primary economic ideology is neoliberalism, while the use of conspiracy theories is also common amongst ultraconservatives.
John Hayes, Chairman of the New Conservatives, President of The Common Sense Group, Braverman's handler & adviser,
has likened climate protesters to ‘Radical Islam’, has received a £50,000 salary from BB Energy since 2018.https://t.co/Z2lfRbQ2p2
Religion and politics do not mix
— Raven Cozens-Hardy (@RaveCozensHardy) November 14, 2023
You can see these ideas play out in both the manifesto and a letter written to the Telegraph, signed by Sir John and others, stating:
“Part of our mission is to ensure that institutional custodians of history and heritage tasked with safeguarding and celebrating British values are not coloured by cultural Marxist dogma, colloquially known as the ‘woke agenda’. History must neither be sanitised nor rewritten to suit snowflake preoccupations, and a clique of powerful, privileged liberals must not be allowed to rewrite our history in their image.”
Translated: Our mission is to ensure only the history we want to be taught is taught. It should not acknowledge any acts of brutality or atrocities committed by the Empire. People calling for what has been suppressed by us to be revealed are a danger to our society, a threat to our imperial greatness and British exceptionalism. A traitorous Marxist, liberal, set out to destroy the society we made in OUR image.
Why has McVey been tasked with leading the government’s ‘anti-woke’ agenda?
McVey entered the House of Commons as MP for Wirral West at the 2010 general election, lost her seat in 2015, and re-entered parliament in 2017. She stood in the 2019 Conservative leadership election but finished last. She then left the Cabinet and returned to the backbenches when Boris Johnson became PM and sacked her as housing minister.
McVey has caused controversy over the years with her comments on the welfare system, defending the bedroom tax introduced by David Cameron’s government and describing the rise of foodbanks since the financial crisis as “positive”. McVey also defended sanctions imposed on benefit claimants for making minor mistakes. During the leadership election, she refused to back net zero targets for 2050, and her husband, Philip Davies, was one of only five MPs to have voted against the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2008.
Esther McVey appointed Minister without Portfolio.
Falsely claimed that EU would force UK to join the Euro.
Broke Ministerial Code in accepting GB News job
Misled parliament on Universal Credit
Sacked by Johnson
Claimed £8,750 in expenses for personal photographer
— Prem Sikka (@premnsikka) November 14, 2023
In June 2021, she joined GB News, with her husband joining later. They jointly presented programmes titled Friday and Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip, which she has now had to step away from due to her new position. She also regularly writes for the Daily Express.
GB News has come under criticism for having Conservative MPs as hosts as Ofcom rules are clear: no politician can be used as an interviewer or reporter “unless editorially justified”, while Ofcom has now found McVey and GB News (who currently have 14 live investigations by Ofcom) to be in breach of impartiality rules.
GB News supports Conservative policy, populism and thinking above all others. They regularly indulge in the ‘anti-woke’ agenda, conspiracy theory, climate change denial and hard-right populism. Like the Conservative government, they are on a mission to divide and conquer us.
To distract us from their astounding failings, they set one group of people against another, attacking compassion, empathy and tolerance; therefore, they have provided McVey with the ideal training ground to continue this path. Now, unluckily for us, she gets to do it all in the name of common sense and government.