Vilified over her callous approach as Work and Pensions Secretary and forced into a Parliamentary apology for misleading MPs over welfare changes, Esther McVey has moved into housing.
The former daytime TV presenter, who finished last by some distance in the Tory leadership election, will be a junior minister to new MHCLG Secretary Robert Jenrick – giving responsibility for “the number one domestic priority” despite being relatively unknown.
Jenrick was PPS (Parliamentary Private Secretary) to McVey when she was Employment Minister.
Neither has any obvious experience of housing, though Jenrick has held a ‘property portfolio’.
There is surprise across Westminster and the sector at seeing Kit Malthouse go, seemingly shuffled to the backbenches despite face-value progress in the brief that eluded his predecessors.
As well as McVey’s vilified stint with Work and Pensions from January to November last year – during which she was forced to apologise to Parliament accused of ‘misinterpreting’ a damning National Audit Office report on Universal Credit – she held junior posts in the Coalition government between 2010-2015.
McVey was first elected to Parliament in 2010 but lost her seat in the 2015 General Election; in 2017 she returned to the Commons, taking Tatton to replace George Osborne.
She quit cabinet in November last year as a protest against the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
In her period out of the Commons between 2015 and 2017, McVey was chair of the British Transport Police; prior to her political career she was a TV presenter, she worked alongside Eamonn Holmes to present GMTV.
Jenrick, just 37, moves to MHCLG from the Treasury and was a Johnson supporter during the leadership race.
Bjorn Howard, group chief executive of Aster Group, hopes Jenrick and McVey both would not create “uncertainty or instability”, with an action plan for the Social Housing Green Paper due next month.
“Both will need to hit the ground running so this vital phase for social housing is not delayed,” said Howard.
Howard also urged the new PM to at least stay on the housing path set by his successor, “whose government supported the role of shared ownership in a better working housing market and offered funding for community-led developments.”
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said the abolition of Section 21 must be an immediate priority for the pair.
“And we need a real commitment to social housebuilding, which is the only way we can fix the crisis for good – to provide the stable homes that millions of people need in order to be able to plan for their family’s future,” she said.
On the cabinet reshuffle, Royal Institute of British Architect President Ben Derbyshire said that he is “seriously concerned” about the quality of some of the housing being built across the country, and urge the new government to review current Permitted Development Rights as a matter of urgency.
Voting record – Robert Jenrick:
- Backed the bedroom tax
- Backed a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- Backed phasing out secure tenancies for life
- Backed charging a market rent to high earners renting a council home
- Generally voted against more powers for local councils
- Voted against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents