Jeremy Corbyn believes that Esther McVey’s appointment as Work and Pensions Secretary is “a cause for alarm” for disabled people and others, his spokesman has revealed.
The Labour leader’s criticism of the minister came amid a Conservative backlash at online abuse directed at McVey, as well as fresh criticism of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s claim that she was a ‘stain on humanity’.
Supporters of the newly-installed Cabinet minister suggested some of the attacks stemmed also from McDonnell’s decision in 2014 to quote an activist who called for her to be “lynched”.
Corbyn condemned all personal abuse, his spokesman said, but felt that his fellow Labour MP had made justified criticism of McVey’s record on welfare cuts.
“Jeremy is also highly critical of her record. Her appointment is a cause for alarm and will be for disabled people in particular, but people across the country [too].
“Esther McVey is extremely unpopular because of her record in the last government as the DWP minister and the treatment of disabled people by that government.
“So it’s not encouraging at all. It’s alarming that she has now taken on this role with all the baggage that goes with that.”
Asked if Corbyn agreed with the Shadow Chancellor that McVey was “a stain on humanity”, the spokesman replied: “He has a very strong view that her record was disastrous and very damaging for disabled people.”
McVey was subjected to heavy online abuse following her appointment, with one Twitter user saying it amounted to a ‘death sentence’ for thousands of disabled claimants, adding “we’ll do whatever it takes to put her out of her misery”.
Another critic, upset at her tenure when she was a DWP minister under David Cameron,called her “evil personified”.
Others were less personal, but pointed instead to her handling of the introduction of the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) system, claims of ‘bogus’ claimants of Disability Living Allowance and cuts to Remploy factories that hired disabled people.
But colleagues of McVey felt the personal attacks were beyond the pale. One told the Telegraph: “This kind of personal abuse is not just tolerated by Jeremy Corbyn it is actively encouraged by him.
“He promoted to shadow Chancellor the man who said of Esther they should ‘lynch the bitch’.”
The spokesman for the Labour leader said: “Jeremy has made clear time and again that he’s opposed to all forms on online harassment or abuse.
“If there are such cases they should not take place and should be condemned.”