By Richard Fleury
Welcome to our new occasional feature following the activities of Faversham’s own Conservative MP Helen Whately.
Helen is a big fan of transparency and openness, so here at the Faversham Eye, we thought help keep readers in the picture about what she’s up to in our name on the national stage.
A politician with whose innocuous, blandly pleasant image has earned her the nickname ‘Magnolia’, it’s hard to believe the MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent has a voting record to rival the most reptilian right-wing extremist. But she does.
Most recently, she was among MPs who voted to take school meals away from a million poor children. In the House of Commons last month, a Labour motion to block a Government plan to take free, hot meals from one million children from low-income families was defeated by 312 MPs, including Whately.
The UK has one of the worst rates of child malnutrition and one in five children suffer food insecurity. The number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has increased by 200,000 in a year, to a total of 3.7 million.
In her own constituency, that means 4455 children growing up in poverty will miss out. In the poorest Faversham ward, Davington Priory, 240 children are growing up in poverty. That’s 38 percent of children, way above the national average. In the Abbey ward 268 children are in poverty, in Watlng the number is 293 and in St Ann’s it’s 232 children*.
On Brexit, our MP voted against taking No Deal off the table. Rather than support a cross-party agreement to prevent Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal under any circumstances, Helen Whately voted against it. Despite the Tory Government warning about the disastrous consequences of a No Deal Brexit for two years.
Then on 27 March she voted to leave the EU with No Deal, supporting John Baron MP’s proposal to exit the EU on 12 April without one, however damaging.
She also conspicuously failed to condemn the actions of Swale Borough Council Leader Andrew Bowles who was briefly suspended from the Conservative Party for retweeting propaganda promoting the far-right anti-muslim, hate-peddler and convicted criminal Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the name ‘Tommy Robinson’.
In 2017 Whately defended the brutal Saudi regime during an emergency commons debate about the imminent execution of 14 protesters and children.
Forgetting to mention her lavish, £3,187 junket to the kingdom just months before, she stood up to tell MPs they ‘should appreciate that the government of Saudi Arabia are taking steps to improve their actions on human rights’.
Whately met King Salman as part of the ‘fact-finding’ trip paid for by the Saudi Arabian ministry of foreign affairs. Saudi has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on luxury visits for British politicians as part of a PR offensive amid concerns over the state’s appalling human rights record and alleged war crimes in Yemen. Just a year after Whately’s trip, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally assassinated in Turkey on the orders of King Salman, according to the CIA.
Rebuked by Speaker John Bercow for omitting to to mention her Saudi jolly, Whately said: “I perhaps should have drawn the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests”.
Also in 2017, Whately voted to scrap a scheme to give sanctuary to lone children fleeing the Syrian conflict. Introduced by Lord Dubs who himself escaped the Nazis as a child refugee, the ‘Dubs Amendment’ was designed to support 3,000 unaccompanied children from war-ravaged countries. Only 350 were helped before the Government stopped it with the assistance of our MP. The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “saddened and shocked” by its closure.
Meanwhile in parliament, Whately has earned a reputation for sycophantically reading out planted questions, such as asking Theresa May how wonderful it was that the NHS was judged the world’s “best, safest and most affordable healthcare system”. For this, and many, many other services to her own career, satirical magazine Private Eye awarded her the title of Most Shameless Toady in 2017.
(* figures from the Department for Work and Pensions)