The new secretary of state for work and pensions, Mel Stride, is on record as saying he thought it would be ‘extraordinarily difficult’ for the government to persuade MPs to link benefits uprating to wage rises instead of inflation.
Stride has been named as the new secretary of state for work and pensions by prime minister Rishi Sunak, He replaces Chloe Smith, who lasted for just one month and nineteen days in the post.
Since Iain Duncan Smith was replaced in 2016, there have now been eight people at the head of the DWP.
Apart from Therese Coffey, who lasted a few days short of three years, not one secretary of state has been in place for a full year.
Stride was educated at Portsmouth grammar school and went on to read philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Oxford, a standard degree for those wishing to pursue a career in politics.
Other Oxford PPE graduates include: Rishi Sunak, Elizabeth Truss, David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Nick Robinson, Robert Peston and Paul Johnson.
Stride went on to become paymaster general in May’s government and was chair of the treasury select committee until yesterday.
His voting record on welfare benefits is as unsympathetic as might be expected. According to TheyWorkForYou Stride voted in favour of a reduction in spending on welfare benefits 52 times and against only twice.
Stride is a strong supporter of Sunak and appeared frequently in the media in the run up to the latest conservative leadership election.
On 4 October, 11 days after Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget, Stride told Sky News’ Kay Burley that he thought it would be ‘extraordinarily difficult’ for the government to link benefits uprating to average wages rather than inflation.
Kay Burley: A suggestion now is that they [benefits] might go up with wages and that’s the difference between a 5.5% and a 10% increase in benefits. One wonders what backbenchers might do about that?
Mel Stride: I think they are going to find that extraordinarily difficult. I think colleagues are going to struggle with this. It could be one of those areas where the government is going to have to think again.
Kay Burley: So you mean a U-turn?
Mel Stride: Potentially. I think that’s potentially the case. . . I think the pressure on this is going to be very difficult from the backbenches towards government.
So, whilst Stride did not express a personal preference one way or the other, Stride made it clear that cutting benefits uprating was something that was unlikely to be supported by enough back benches to be viable.
We will hope that this remains his belief now that welfare benefits is his responsibility.