Coffee House

Stephen Crabb: how my mother inspired my vision of welfare reform

19 March 2016

11:00 AM

19 March 2016

11:00 AM

Earlier, I republished my interview with Stephen Crabb, the new Work and Pensions Secretary. He was, then, Wales Secretary – not all of his (many) thoughts on welfare reform made the cut. So I’ve been through the transcript, and posted more of this comments below: they give a better idea of what the new welfare secretary is like.

At the time, benefits had been cut in the post-election Budget. Crabb was a bit nervous, saying-:

‘You have always got to handle the issue of welfare with care because you are dealing with support mechanisms for Britain’s most vulnerable people. That’s what welfare is. You’ve got to take care of the issue. But we should take encouragement from the election result, even in Wales: there is a strong measure of support for the mainstream of British opinion for changes that we want to make and so long as we keep demonstrating that what we are doing is helping to foster the employment growth and the other positive economic changes that welfare reforms. As long as we keep being able to demonstrate that, I think we’ll take public opinion with us.

‘We talk about the remarkable recovery across the UK over the last three or four years and it has been incredible. You don’t get that without having reformed welfare. It is a key part in driving the fall in unemployment, we have to keep articulating that – and we shouldn’t be shy about saying and challenging the other parties.

‘Every party should want to see welfare spending come down. That should be an aspiration for all of us because what you’re saying is we are working towards a society where there are fewer people caught in dependency, fewer people who are out of work and need that intervention from the state. The huge strategic error that Labour made was equating compassion with how high your spending figures were for welfare.’


And Crabb’s backstory – certainly not a stereotypical one – is often talked about as a key advantage for the MP who could have a shot at the Tory leadership one day. It’s also pretty handy for someone who is now in charge of welfare reform.

‘My experience of growing up: She started working just a few hours each week, increasing her hours and then moving to a position where with extra training she was able to move into full-time work, become a car owner, and reach full economic independence.

‘And for me that is absolutely the model of how the welfare system should work, it sustains people at a crisis in their lives and provides the incentive and the push – if necessary – to get them moving back on a journey back into work.

‘When we talk about all these different changes to benefits and we focus on one particular change. You need to stand back and look at it in the round. So long as the overall effect of our welfare package is to keep moving people towards sustainable pathways out of poverty – which does mean work – then that has to be a good thing and that will carry the support of the country.

‘Universal credit has the potential to be absolutely transformational in welfare and the effect it will have on benefits.’

What is significant is that Crabb is someone who believes in Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform mission. He is known to get on with Osborne but is not from the Chancellor’s inner circle (which makes it more difficult for any plan to kill off Universal Credit to succeed). Osborne’s support for the reform has never been wholehearted. Like IDS, Crabb approaches welfare reform from a moral, religious point of view. Both are practising Christians and believers in the concept of redemption.

Crabb also has a key ally in Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives leader who isn’t afraid to criticise policies introduced by her Westminster colleagues when she doesn’t like them, including the tax credit cuts that George Osborne had to abandon last year. I accompanied the pair, who are good friends, on a visit to a youth centre during Tory conference last year. They were keen to get out of the conference bubble and meet young people who felt that politics was a million miles away from them, and I was struck by how comfortable both of them were in a non-Westminster setting. Davidson recently tipped her friend as a future Tory leader. Today, he has moved a step closer to that.

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Show comments
  • 8thColour

    Vermin, pure vermin, which is why he got the job.

  • Sean L

    Benny from Crossroads.

  • john

    Who is this erk? No Eton? No Oxford? Is he somebody’s valet?

  • Badger

    Who cares?

  • Bluebottle83

    In May 2009 Crabb claimed £8,049 on his second home expenses in order to refurbish a flat in London. After selling the flat for a profit, he “flipped” his expenses to cover a house that was being purchased for his family in Pembrokeshire. A room in another flat was then designated as his main home.

    He’ s yet another sleazy M.P. with his hand in the pot of taxpayers’ money that could have be used to help disabled and chronically ill people.

    On 17 March 2016 he voted to cut ESA for disabled people by £30 per week. ‘Welfare reform’ to him means withdrawing support from tne most vulnerable of our society.

  • JP Janson De Couët

    Another bully, bullied as a child, a racist and a homophobe, put in charge of the most vulnerable. Lunacy.

  • tcjock

    Isabel..surely you are better than “my mummy told me to ” as a substitute for political analysis

  • London Calling

    Crab turned up at the party and to everyone’s amazement he crawled straight across
    the room, instead of crawling sideways. A guest lasked him, how did he manage to
    crawl so straight, and the Crab replied “I’m drunk, you fool”…..

    Actor David Niven 1910-1983

  • London Calling

    Isabel …..David Cameron had a disabled son (RIP) and said in
    the House of Commons a while back that he wouldn’t take any criticism from the
    Labour party about the complexity of disability forms as he had experienced
    filling them himself. However that does not mean Cameron has empathy with those
    with disabilities or those who care for them, otherwise cuts to those with
    disabilities would not have passed his desk without in a true Christian manner questioning
    the obvious consequences of the hardship disability cuts would cause. Therefore
    You appear to paint Crabb as valid for Duncan’s position based on his housing
    estate and mum on welfare credentials and ignore the fact that he screwed his expenses
    and supports IDS/DC/GO’S fraught ideology on the weakest, the poorest, whilst
    supporting the wealthy and turning Great Britain into a Prostitute State for
    the European Union…..Time for a reality check in my view….

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    I do not know Stephen Crabb – but there are four negatives for a start. One is that he is of the Thatcherite supporters. Two, that much is made of his single parent upbringing, in which his Mother managed to find a few hours a week until the lady was able to work for a living wage. That must have been at least ten to fifteen years ago, when situations were completely different to how they are now – in the majority of areas Nationwide – there is absolutely no employment anywhere, and any that does come up is filled by those of an age where a living wage simply does not apply. So I sincerely hope that he adjusts his standards accordingly.Three, that he is of the opinion that the UK has made a remarkable recovery in the past few years, when Government figures show that this is just not true! Far from there being a recovery – the economy is sliding further back! From the very time that the UK first entered the EEC, until the present day – the GDP has been falling continually – this is shown as a graph, on the Governments own site for the economy. It has been published widely over a number of sources that the National Health Service has received less funding, the security services have had severe cutbacks, businesses are still closing with more job losses, large companies have found loop holes in the tax system, while the government uses phantom excuses to obtain taxes from private individuals to make up for the losses. Even the wages in London have dropped to the lowest levels ever. Now we understand that one of the utility companies in France is struggling so it has been agreed to use our beautiful Somerset countryside to house one of their Nuclear plants – why not put it on French soil where they have far more land available? Surely, with the exception of the deaf, dumb and blind and those sitting in enclosed enclaves in London – cannot possibly fail to see the obvious. Four. He is for some undeclared reason – a ProEuro despot.

  • Landphil

    Always wondered who the nodding beardy donkey on the front bench was – now we know – he won’t last as he’s still busy filling in his expenses and hoping for no tales from Wales.

  • Bardirect

    Well, if his Mum’s striving for independence and self determination didn’t inspire in him a vision of EU reform and he blithely accepts Cameron’s illusory reformation, he lacks judgment and insight. Is he autistic? Or a bullshitter?

  • victor67

    The level of denial among Tories is quite remarkable. These reforms have caused needless suffering, misery and very often death from the bedroom tax, scraping the Independent living fund and worse of all punitive sanctions.
    Public support only comes from a right wing media operating a divide and rule strategy among the working poor spewing bile and demonizing the sick and unemployed. The real welfare scroungers were the corrupt bankers and city wide boys who crashed the economy and got bailed out by the taxpayer.

    • Alex

      Poverty deniers

  • Arron Blue

    Thank goodness for Westminster’s Oil Fund.

    • The Patriarchy

      Just as well there wasn’t one, or SNP would have pilfered that too.

  • Mark Windmill

    The idea of less dependency and helping people into sustained work is obviously right. But the reality is that ordinary people taking what work they can get, and making the best of what is on offer, deserves more credit than the Govt, whose ‘reforms’ have either stalled or been unhelpful.

    Universal Credit would be very helpful in giving people continuity of income as they gamely go in and out what temporary/part-time contracts they can get, but it is years behind schedule, and only deals with simple cases (when the point was to resolve complex cases). Also, Osbourne has cut it so much – to the level of his aborted tax credit cuts – that it will not make work pay, quite the opposite.

    The replacement of Disability Living Allowance by PIP has been a shambles, contracted out to big companies who frankly fibbed about what they could achieve and took the Govt for a ride again. Delays in claims were at times huge, even for terminally ill people, though things have improved a bit lately.

    Employment and Support Allowance (the main sickness benefit) has also been a debacle. Under ATOS, the mishandling of assessments and the high rate of successful appeals has created huge backlogs. As a result, for the first time in years the numbers ‘on the sick’ have actually gone UP, after years of gradual decline.

    The increase in the minimum wage and free childcare will hopefully do some good for people trying to earn a living, but the area of ‘welfare reform’ is really nothing to be smug about.

  • John Traynor

    Crabb’s record on expenses fiddling, his association with extremist “gay cure” groups and his repetition of the IDS lies about savage welfare cuts, particularly aimed at disabled people, means he is exactly the type of careerist, inhumane, immoral piece of filth that the Tories want at the DWP.

    • Trainspotter

      He is a lot worse. He is totally corrupt in every respect. That is why Cameron has appointed him.

  • pdhan

    He sounds like a bit of a Jeremy Hunt

  • Bill Brinsmead

    Both Stephen Crabb and Iain Duncan Smith claim to have management qualifications. (Crabb has an MBA)

  • paul

    Sideways move for Stephen !!

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Urgh, save us this ‘back story’ bull. Once upon a time we used to judge people on their ideas and their actions. Now we seem to judge them on who they were born to.

  • Planet Vague

    I am liking this chap already, which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t say very much at this point in time, a chap who, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t saying very much at this moment in time, obviously.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    “You have always got to handle the issue of welfare with care because you are dealing with support mechanisms for Britain’s most vulnerable people.”
    You have to handle it with “care”, or more properly speaking extreme trepidation in the case of our political class, because it’s a sacred cow – exactly like the NHS. Any mention of changes to these areas, the merest tentative suggestion that different-coloured paperclips might be introduced at these departments, provokes shrieks of outrage from bien pensant opinion and of course from the Labour Party, with accusations that the capitalists/Tories/global corporates/alien lizards (take your pick) are planning to turn the poor into slave labour or dog meat.
    One of the bigger reasons why this country is so held back, and struggles so hard despite the wealth of talent & energy here, is the massive chip on the shoulder of the Left, coupled with the gargantuan hypocrisy of champagne (or Tesco Rioja) Socialists whose chief hobby is virtue signalling. Countries that obsess about “the poor” (no-one is seriously poor now unless they work hard at it) instead of encouraging wealth creation, and appaluding it, are always going to remain in the 2nd rank. America is the biggest, richest, most powerful country because it celebrtaes wealth creation, appaluds successful individuals, and rewards enterprise.
    Crabb doesn’t sound very impressive, and certainly not the type to remedy the inherent problems we’re mired in.

    • victor67

      The real problem is a dysfunctional market economy reliant on debt that isn’t producing growth and regular downturns or crashes.The budget showed Osborne has no answers apart from more austerity.

      The Tories have relied on the asset rich South to maintain power but Generation rent is growing and getting poorer and restless.
      Interesting times don’t you think?

  • Alex

    “Like IDS, Crabb approaches welfare reform from a moral, religious point of view. Both are practising Christians and believers in the concept of redemption.”

    Wow, I think we’ve had just about enough Christian compassion to last us a lifetime from these fanatics.

    “Give us this day our daily bread … and deliver us from evil.”

    • The Patriarchy

      Did you have a point, or just want to share your uneducated bigotry?

  • Meezer

    The illusion that moving deckchairs and instructing the band to continue playing will somehow prevent the good ship Britannia from crashing into the iceberg doesn’t really work any more.

    • Alex

      Maybe if we had put a decent hull on it rather than cutting spending…

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Plus competent officers, and fewer Lascars in the crew.

  • Arron Blue

    The EU referendum will result in another Scottish referendum.

    • ScaryBiscuits


    • Michael Mckeown

      Why wait, do it now.

    • alabenn

      No it will not, you jocks are not as stupid as you make out, re-elect Labour and the English will vote you out.

    • The Patriarchy

      So why is nippy fishwife so scared of another Scottish referendum that she refuses to mention one in the SNP Manifesto?

  • JP Janson De Couët

    There’s nothing more unpleasant than a Tory MP from Wales

    • Chingford Man

      Says handsome You.

    • tcjock

      Oh yes there is…a Tory MP from Scotland… Mundell the useless.

    • The Patriarchy

      Islamo-fascist loving, child abuse apologist anti-semites like corbyn’s vermin aren’t too pleasant either.

  • In2minds

    “Crabb is someone who believes in Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform mission” –

    No doubt Crabb also thinks like the bloke who gave him his new job, that we are better in the EU!

    • Planet Vague

      Which we are so now wot?

    • Chingford Man

      Of course he is pro-EU.

      • Charles Hercock

        The most heartening thing in Isabel’s post is the comment about future leadership.
        Thank Christ.
        The mistake Labour made was to stick with the tired old faces (Cooper, Burnham) together with an unelectable Blairite(Kendall).
        The Tories will have the same problem when Cameron falls on his sword- tired Boris and May and the (now) unelectable Osborne.
        Cue Crabb.
        A Scot, brought up in Wales, state educated, worked holidays on a building site and a youthful 43.
        A true antidote to those fed up with posh boys and then a no brainer against Socialist Worker Corbyn at the General Election.

        • alabenn

          No one in favour of Remain. will become Tory leader, Cameron lied about his Eurosceptic credentials, that will not happen again.

        • In2minds

          “A true antidote to those fed up with posh boys ……. ”

          Are you about to burst into song, ‘Things can only get better’?


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