Who is Esther McVey and what is her new role as 'common sense minister' in government?

Esther McVey
Esther McVey, who represents Tatton, was officially made minister without portfolio during Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Cabinet reshuffle. Credit: PA Images

A Cheshire MP has returned to the Cabinet for the first time in almost four years - being handed the unofficial title of 'minister of common sense'.

Esther McVey, who represents Tatton, was officially made minister without portfolio during Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Cabinet reshuffle.

But it is understood the GB News presenter and former work and pensions secretary, whose appointment is hoped will placate the Tory right after the sacking of Suella Braverman, will be the voice of 'common sense'.

Arriving at her first Cabinet meeting, Ms McVey said it felt "very good" to be back, adding "I'm obviously there to bring back the common sense".

Asked about her role as “minister for common sense”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters that was “not her public title”.

Pressed on whether her title was “the minister for the war on woke”, the spokesman said: “Again, happy to repeat she is the minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.”

New Tory chairman Richard Holden praised "plain-speaking" Ms McVey.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he praised the new minister and said that Ms McVey was "a great addition to the broad team".

Party chairman Mr Holden said: "What Esther is going to be doing is bringing that extra dimension to it.

"We are a broad church of a political party, we want all parts of the centre right in British politics to be represented. It’s the nature of our democracy.

"What we don’t do is have small splinter parties ahead of a general election and then a deal cooked up behind the scenes.

"What you see is a broad church, Conservative party with a common goal, united together in what it is deciding to put forward to the country. Esther is part of that."

What is a Minister without Portfolio?

A Minister without Portfolio is a minister who has cabinet status, but is not in charge of a specific department of state.

The title is used to get someone into the Cabinet who would not otherwise be there so they can attend cabinet meetings.

Despite not being in charge of a particular area, their responsibilities include contributing to policy and decision-making processes.

Esther McVey campaigning for the Tory leadership in 2019 Credit: Press Association

What is it believed Ms McVey's role will entail?

Ms McVey was appointed minister without portfolio within the Cabinet Office - where it is hoped she will speak "common sense" on social issues for the government.

It is believed she has been brought in with a brief to tackle “woke” issues in Whitehall.

Ms McVey’s record suggests she will provide a right-wing voice at the cabinet table on a number of issues.

Mr Holden was asked about the apparent appointment of Esther McVey to an "anti-woke role" in the Cabinet during an interview on Times Radio.

He declined to confirm if it was an “anti-woke” position, but said "her role is there to represent a part of that broad panoply of opinion that the Conservative Party represent".

Who is Esther McVey?

Liverpool-born Ms McVey has been the MP for Tatton in Cheshire since 2017.

Ms McVey, previously served in the governments of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

She previously represented the marginal Wirral West seat for the Tories. And before her entry into politics she was a broadcaster on GMTV.

She stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2019 after Theresa May resigned, but failed to get through the first ballot.

More recently she has been presenting on GB News, alongside her husband, fellow MP Philip Davies, and has frequently hosted anti-lockdown figures on her show.

Earlier this year, the pair were found to have broken Ofcom rules on impartiality during an interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

After accepting the Cabinet position Ms McVey has had to give up her paid TV presenting role as it is not compatible with being a minister.

But she is likely to remain a regular on the airwaves, giving the Government’s view on issues as a minister.

What could her priorities be?

It is thought one of her priorities could be cutting the number of diversity officers in the Civil Service.

In December 2022, Ms McVey was one of 40 Tory MPs to sign a letter endorsing a Conservative Way Forward report that argued cutting diversity and inclusion officers could save the taxpayer more than £500 million and get back one million working days "lost" to diversity training.

The report also claimed the Government was supporting "politically motivated" and "anti-British" campaigns to the tune of £7 billion a year, and called for a review of spending on "woke" causes.

In 2019, she launched the Blue Collar Conservatives group with backing from former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith. Although the group has been less active since 2020, its principles include commitments to free speech and tax cuts that will resonate with backers of Suella Braverman.

She has subsequently lent her name to other causes, including signing a letter from 43 MPs in July that called for the phasing out of internal combustion engine vehicles to be pushed back to 2035.

Ms McVey was also an outspoken critic of Covid lockdowns, describing them as imposing "Communist-style control over the public", and she chairs the all-party group on pandemic response and recovery which has been backed by lockdown-sceptic organisation Collateral Global.

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