Lord Freud must go - ministers should articulate policy without causing offence

 

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The Independent Online

What is the point of Lord Freud being a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions? Note, we are not asking what is the point of Lord Freud. Before he turned to politics, he proved his worth both as a journalist, writing for the Financial Times, and as a City banker. He worked on some of the biggest financial deals of the 1980s and 1990s, helped raise £50bn for firms such as Railtrack, Eurotunnel and Euro Disney, and made himself a very wealthy man. He has also written a very readable book about his time in the City.

But a man with this kind of professional background, born into a famous family, is not automatically going to have a feel for what it is like to be dependent on the Welfare State. His ministerial career has been littered with crassly insensitive remarks, of which the latest is his claim that some disabled employees are “not worth” the national minimum wage.

He has on previous occasions implied that people who go to food banks are not poor but are using them just because they are there, and has suggested that parents of adult children who have had to move into smaller council homes, because of the “bedroom tax”, should have a sofa for visitors to sleep on.

Today, having been forced into making an unqualified apology for his latest gaffe, David Freud was notably absent when the House of Lords was discussing credit unions.

His defenders will say that the minister’s notorious comment touched on a serious issue about how the severely disabled can find work if they are to receive the same pay as someone who is able to do the same job in less time. But to suggest that their disability means that they are “not worth” even the minimum wage is a gratuitous insult that undermines the purpose of helping them into work. An essential part of a minister’s job is to articulate government policy without causing offence, especially to the vulnerable. Lord Freud seems to be incapable of that task. He should quit.

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