New housing minister Dominic Raab will (hopefully) want to avoid the start he had as justice minister when he spoke of foodbank users having “cash flow problems”.
That had him jeered during a BBC2 debate for comments criticised as “stupid and deeply offensive”.
Raab grabbed a fig leaf to claim his comments were an interpretation of Trussel Trust data – an interpretation the Trust flatly, obviously rejected.
For the doubt of the benefit, Raab’s words, should he chose to recall, were: “In terms of the foodbank issue, and I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data, what they tend to find is the typical user of a foodbank is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically.”
A foodbank in his own constituency – opened by Raab himself – caught him out citing low income as the main reason more than 910 adults and children had needed its aid over a 12 month period.
Debt was the second most likely cause to seek assistance, with 669 people, including 362 children, helped by the foodbank.
And more than 160 people were referred due to benefit changes and delays.
In another hint of what’s ahead, the record shows Raab generally voted for the ‘bedroom tax’ or – as he’d call it – the spare room subsidy reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms.
He’s stuck up for Universal Credit too.
But then he would.
And doesn’t like lifetime tenancies.
Raab revealed a touchy side in threatening to pull out of a constituency hustings event after accusing a rival of ‘delusional’ remarks that he claimed, by implication, compared Tories to Nazis.
That was over food banks as well.
That rival stood by her citing of the oft-quoted poem by Martin Niemoller, the German anti-Nazi and Lutheran pastor, relating to apathy displayed during the Nazi rule.
Raab, whose father was a refugee from the holocaust, wanted an apology and retraction.
Instead, Raab he was told in reply that he was taking point of the statement “a little too personally” when the warning was against authoritarian states targeting the weakest in society and relying on the silent acceptance of the majority to carry out some form of social engineering – in the context of Tory benefit cuts and sanctions.
Hard to see Raab continuing those “we really care” roadshows Alok Sharma shammed his way through – even convincing some something might be done.
Sharma’s so soon sideways shift to Work and Pensions put paid any such possibility.
Raab’s more of a “having to make difficult decisions” man.
His attitude to stamp duty perhaps offers the best insight what his term offers – for however long it lasts.
Stamp duty being a “mean spirited tax that holds back aspirational families”.
And it was all Labour’s fault.
To Raab, then, housing is all about getting a foot on the ladder – providing his government has not “done yer legs”.