Esther McVey

Jacob Rees-Mogg says appointment of Esther McVey as ‘tsar for wokedom’ is ‘tokenistic flimflam’

Former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has called Esther McVey’s appointment to the cabinet as a minister without portfolio “tokenistic”.

It was reported by the Sun newspaper yesterday that McVey would return to the cabinet as Rishi Sunak‘s de facto “common sense tsar”.

Downing Street later confirmed the appointment.

McVey has previously served as the secretary of state for work and pensions, as well as a series of other more junior government roles. 

Reacting to the news yesterday, former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I think what’s happened in the Cabinet Office is very strange – that an extremely experienced capable minister, who was doing excellent work in terms of making government more efficient and run properly in the form of [former paymaster general] Jeremy Quin gets moved out to create a tokenistic post. 

“I think that’s very strange”.

He told Channel 4 News: “What is a ‘tsar for wokedom’? What does it mean? I don’t believe in tokenistic phrases for government posts. … We got this in the Blair years where we started talking about government departments in nice to do language. And I’ve always thought this is flim flam”.

He also asked: “What is her role? Explain her role in one sentence?”.

McVey’s appointment came as part of a wide-reaching reshuffle conducted by the prime minister yesterday, in which home secretary Suella Braverman — viewed as a standard-bearer for the right of the party — was sacked.

She had penned a controversial Times op-ed in which she questioned whether the police were biased towards pro-Palestinian protestors — what she termed “hate marches”. 

McVey is also associated with the right of the party and, in 2018, she resigned in protest at Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal.

She stood briefly in the 2019 Conservative leadership election, and at her launch event boasted a photo of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. 

In 2012, she founded the Conservative pressure group and parliamentary caucus the “Blue Collar Conservatives” which has aimed to “champion working people and develop a conservative agenda to benefit the voters and communities most neglected by Labour”.

In 2022, she stood down as chair to be replaced by fellow Conservative MP Lee Anderson.

She also hosts a show on GB News with her husband and fellow Conservative MP Philip Davies. 

Also as part of yesterday’s reshuffle, former foreign secretary James Cleverly was announced as the person to replace Suella Braverman in the Home Office.

Replacing Cleverly as foreign secretary was former prime minister David Cameron, now Lord Cameron. He stunned SW1 when he arrived on Downing Street just before 9 am.

Meanwhile, Richard Holden replaced Greg Hands as the chairman of the Conservative Party and Steve Barclay has been demoted to environment secretary.

Therese Coffey, who had served as the head of DEFRA since October 2022, left government.

Replacing Steve Barclay as health secretary was Victoria Atkins, who previously served as financial secretary the Treasury.

Laura Trott was promoted to the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replacing John Glen. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.