Amber Dudd – anyone for Coffey?

I cannot work out what the point of Amber Rudd’s resignation is.

Rudd knows Johnson well, from what I’ve observed, Johnson is all over her in his slightly predatory way. They are often pictured as Tory pin-ups.

Rudd knew exactly what was coming when she accepted her position in Johnson’s cabinet and if she didn’t – she’s a lightweight.

Her job was to stand up for her department for which she is Secretary of State and to moderate the populist behaviour of her prime minister.

She has decided not to do that, preferring to make a political statement.

She should have made that statement earlier.

Where does this leave pensions?

By resigning the whip, Rudd effectively resigns from being Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in future Governments. What she says in her letter about her department, suggest she valued it.

Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 10.18.38.png

small print from Amber Rudd’s resignation letter

But she has deserted it.

What replaces her is anybody’s guess.  In the gallery of Tory thugs left supporting Johnson, there aren’t many I would want to associate myself with, for me it’s “what” not “who”.

Thankfully we haven’t seen Esther McVey back. She’d have  put the kybosh on any impetus behind the dashboard. Certainly the progressive pensions bill looks as far away as ever. Johnson will have to appoint something to the role – let’s hope it’s short-lived.

Coffey anyone?

Since starting this blog – I discover we now have Therese Coffey as our new DWP SOS. She is the 7th conservative to occupy this role since 2016-suggesting the importance placed on welfare by the party in recent times.

We know a little about Therese Coffey in pensions, she seems to have spent most of her political career in the whip’s office , she’s a former FD and she likes listening to Muse.

What little we know of her suggests Coffey is not my cup of tea.

Her best known intervention involving pensioners isn’t encouraging. In 2014 Coffey’s authored a paper for the Free Enterprise Group recommending pensioners should be forced to pay National Insurance

This puts her firmly in the “tough on pensioners – tough on benefit scroungers” camp of fellow scouser Esther McVey.  Thankfully her policy proposal has so far gone no further than that, national insurance is paid on earnings, not pensions.

But she seems also of the – “don’t let pensions get in the way of a free-market economy school of thought”

I see nothing in her wider career to date that suggests she is progressive.

Coffey is the first unfortunate consequence of Amber Dudd’s resignation. I hope she is a caretaker and lasts as long as this Government. If that is the case – let’s look at alternatives.

De-caffeinated alternatives

If we look to the Labour benches, Margaret Greenwood currently holds the DWP shadow brief and she’s supported by Jack Dromey, Guy Opperman’s counterpart.  Short of campaigning for a higher take up of pension credit, Margaret hasn’t said much about pensions but Jack has a keen handle on the major issues and works well with Guy Opperman.

The Liberals have put up Tim Farron as their pension spokesperson- a  very decent man. As far as anyone can make out, Archie Kirkwood speaks for the party on pensions – from the Lords, Stephen Lloyd doesn’t do much speaking for pensions anymore but has been on the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Since Steve Webb’s departure, Liberal pension policy has taken a back seat (in a very small car).

And then there is the SNP, whose DWP spokesperson is Neil Gray With due respect to Mr Gray, the pensions spokesperson is Mhairi Black who is so brilliantly outspoken as to be both the SNPs spokesperson on pensions and on youth affairs.

Pensions has cross-party interest and (I suspect) the pension policies proposed by Government command common (cross-party) support. What we are sadly short of – as of today – is a single person who could promote the pensions agenda. Rudd has proved a Dudd.

Party conferences are upon us.

The party conferences are upon us and no doubt will be jumpy affairs. The lobby people I speak to are struggling to find politicians within the Lib-dems to turn up to pension events but see plenty of interest in Labour ranks, what goes on at the Tory conference is anybody’s guess but Rudd’s resignation looks like making DWP related sessions a matter for political contention rather than thought leadership.

I hope that in the limited window that BREXIT will allow, the great issues surrounding pensions, pension credit take-up, collectivisation (in DC), support of pension freedoms, the dashboard and the future of the DB legacy, will get some attention. But I fear that Rudd’s departure will mean that any proper debate on how the DPW will spend the money will be replaced by further upheaval.

If , as seems very likely, the party conferences are used to forge the manifestos for a general election, then not only is Amber Rudd’s dereliction of her post, harmful to debate, but harmful to the promotion of progressive pensions policies in the general election to come.

Rudd’s another dud

It really is a great shame that politicians who talk about the honour of taking a Cabinet position, have so little regard for the importance of keeping promises. Amber Rudd took on the role of DWP Secretary of State in November 2018

Iain Duncan Smith led the DWP from 2010 until 2016, spanning the whole five-year coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

He was replaced by Stephen Crabb, who lasted just four months before being removed in the wake of the 2016 EU membership referendum.

Damian Green then led the department for 11 months before being transferred to the Cabinet Office in June 2017.

David Gauke lasted seven months in the role before being replaced by McVey in January.

Esther McVey lasted ten months and quit because we weren’t Brexiting fast enough.

With the exception of IDS, who had no interest in pensions (and a bloody good pensions minister) , there has been no consistent leadership of the DWP in the past ten years. One commentator described the role as as stable as a shed in a hurricane, he was right.

As can be seen from this chart as supplied by Professional Pensions.

Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 09.25.19

I expected more of Rudd and frankly I am disappointed that she appears to be more interested in political positioning than doing the job she set out to do with great authority. and which she kept when she knew just what was coming.

Rudd Tisa

Rudd in November – full of sound and fury…

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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10 Responses to Amber Dudd – anyone for Coffey?

  1. John S Mather says:

    Henry If you read her letter of resignation this has nothing to do with pensions. Her timing is fortunate for those who think that Cummings is going to damage the economy and that is where the concern for pensions should be.

    Last year I found a very good book while inn the the US it was covered some months later in a number of newspapers here is one link that came up on google. Worth a read

    • henry tapper says:

      John, I guess that’s my point, the DWP SOS has been a highly politicised position since IDS. We have to go back a long way to find a politician in that role who hasn’t been more interested in his.her role on the executive. Surely Work and Pensions deserves better?

  2. George Kirrin says:

    No mention of SNP’s Mhairi Black in your list of Westminster pensions spokespersons, Henry?

  3. Derek Scott says:

    George has a point. SNP are still the third largest group of MPs at Westminster, behind the Tories and Labour, but well ahead of the Lib Dem’s in numbers.

  4. henry tapper says:

    Point taken, pensions are no less important an issue north of the border and I’m sorry for being such a little Englander!

  5. George Kirrin says:

    Theresa Coffey, come on down.

  6. Nigel Hawkes says:

    I don’t think describing tories as thugs is very helpful. The expulsions were not of loyal tories as they had refused to support the manifesto on which they were elected so Rudd’s statement is incorrect. You are right that her resignation has nothing to do with pensions and perhaps the new minister will have some reforming zeal unlike their predecessor.
    This is just yet another episode that illustrates the importance getting Brexit sorted so that pensions and numerous other issues can have the attention they deserve once the UK becomes a self governing democracy.

  7. henry tapper says:

    I’m still a member of the Tory party and wouldn’t describe myself as a thug. I do think that the talent pool left to select Cabinet Ministers from is – “diminished”. Infact the only people likely to enter this cabinet are likely to be slightly to the right of Genghis Khan – which tells me they will be brutal – nasty and generally thuggish. It’s a shame that a progressive person – Amber Dudd – has walked away – the nation and especially the DWP – could have done with her.

  8. Bob Ward says:

    As with some recent MPs jumping ship I fear the defection of Rudd was not to do with her excuse statement describing disproportionate effort to ‘No Deal’ resourcing rather than negotiations, it is more likely due to the immense family pressure from her very wealthy Brother who has funded the Pro-remain campaign. She has supported remain along with other MPs who are intent in stopping the people’s democratic decision and her pensions appointment was such an attractive career move that she temporarily put that aside for personal career kudos and is now showing her true colours

  9. henry tapper says:

    That may or may not be the case Bob, but my worry is that it creates another precedent for politicians to use the DWP SOS as a backdoor to cabinet. Imagine the impact on morale inside the DWP as this revolving door continues to spin.

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