New DWP Secretary of State knows a lot you don’t

Works and Pensions Committee hears ‘clever’ Thérèse Coffey fool herself over welfare reform.

Thérèse Coffey is really very clever.

Not Eton hold-your-nose-while-looking-down-it clever.

But clever enough to de-catastrophise Universal Credit by “really trying to get to the nitty gritty”.

And clever Thérèse Coffey can get to that “nitty gritty” because she is – as she told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee – the only person in government who’s got a PhD in science.

“I’m driven a lot by data analysis and really trying to get to the nitty gritty,” said clever Thérèse Coffey.

She’s clever like that.

So, how could a Work and Pensions Committee used to dealing with the likes of Will “we really can’t say” Quince and “flippant” Justin Tomlinson cope with such cleverness.

By letting clever Thérèse Coffey fool herself.

An evidence-based link showing the two-child cap on benefits forcing families to food banks?

“I’m not sure I agree with that assertion,” said clever Thérèse Coffey.

How clever.

Stats showing the scheme – which hit households with 592,000 kids in its first two years – had caused destitution.. the callous cruelty of messaging that one child matters more than another given the order in which they were born…

It’s a “popular policy” that clever Thérèse Coffey “fully supports”.


Questioned by Labour’s Neil Coyle on being comfortable with kids forced to rely on handouts, food banks and living in destitution.

“It’s not a con sequitur,” said clever Thérèse Coffey – cleverly.

She could have said it’s not something that logically follows from something else – but that wouldn’t have been clever enough for someone as clever as Thérèse Coffey.

“It’s the reality,” said Coyle.

“And if you’re not comfortable with reality that’s a big problem.”

Reality is relative to clever Thérèse Coffey.

Why get real when Universal Credit was “working fine” in her Suffolk Coastal seat.

“9.9 out of 10. No question. It’s working,” said clever Thérèse Coffey – getting to the “nitty gritty”.

Back in that ‘reality’ of a two-child limit preventing parents from claiming Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit for a third child or subsequent” children born after 6 April 2017 – effectively a cut of up to £2,780 per child – clever Thérèse Coffey is in “active discussion” about “another sticking plaster” to help people with housing costs under the cap.

Previous plans to extend the cap to kids born before 2017 have already been scrapped.

But clever data-driven Thérèse Coffey can’t see how it causes poverty, telling Coyle he was trying to see a causal link.

“There is a causal link between the policy and destitution and poverty. Yes. Absolutely. 100%,” said Coyle – cutting through the cleverness.

As for UC claimants forced to borrow an advance from their own future benefits to bridge a five-week gap.

To clever Thérèse Coffey that “actually works”.

Enough said.

Against the overwhelming evidence of social catastrophe inherent in welfare reform, someone as clever as Thérèse Coffey can speak of “product lines” and a “balance sheet” in analysing whether reform is working.

Such clever “nitty gritty” was clearly lost on Lib Dem Heidi Allen who asked clever Thérèse Coffey: “Just objectively, imagine living on such a tiny amount of money that is not enough to live on, and then you’ve got to pay some of it back? How can that work?

“I’m talking about people with no food in the cupboard, not a penny in the bank.”

Questions too conceptual for clever Thérèse Coffey – not enough “nitty gritty”.

Committee chair Frank Field told clever Thérèse Coffey:  “I see people who are hungry and who are driven to destitution… It’s pretty grim.”

There’s “nitty gritty” for you.

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