Helen Whately succeeded Hugh Robertson as MP for Faversham and Mid Kent in 2015.
The one thing you can say is that she is loyal to her party, regardless of how its policies affect her constituents. When Cameron was in charge, she was a devout follower and a Remainer. Her best ever piece of writing is a passionate tweet, “Why I’m voting to stay in the EU” uploaded in May 2016. Post-referendum, when Theresa May twitched her way into power, Helen became a passionate Brexiteer, namechecking her glorious leader and party twice as often as Faversham or her constituents on Twitter.
Now Boris Johnson is Tory top dog, she is his biggest fan, calling him “an ardent feminist” (a view not shared by any of his lovers who know him as a man who comes and goes, without cleaning up after himself). She has not commented on his recently publicised comment that is “feeble” for a man to be unable to “take control of his woman.”
The 43-year -old’s image is a sweet, hardworking mum balancing the cares of motherhood with her duty as a fierce representative of the people of Faversham. But her voting record tells a very different story: a potentially good politician fallen into bad company. Since becoming an MP and the Conservatives’ Deputy Chair, she has emerged as a cheerleader for the worst extremes of the “nasty party”. She consistently votes for measures which punish the poor, the weak and the disabled while protecting tax dodgers and the mega rich.
In particular, she has voted to reduce welfare spending and benefit cuts for those in supported housing, taking away from the poor what little they have. At the same time, she used her vote to block attempts to stop the wealthy avoid tax by hiding their money in offshore trusts. She has also opposed measures to force big multinationals (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and many others) to pay their fair share of tax. She voted against higher taxes on banks and for reductions in capital gains tax, which helps people who already own assets, but does nothing for everyone else.
Currently, one in four children in Faversham lives in poverty. Meanwhile, Helen just moved into a Grade II listed £1.35 million farmhouse near Faversham. The house is 4,500 square feet, with seven bedrooms (five with en suite bathrooms), swimming pool, nearly seven acres of land and substantial outhouses and stables. Paying for it was clearly not a problem.
Her general voting record is all in the same, hard-right vein. She has voted against policies to reduce climate change and for increased NHS privatisation (despite claiming the new Kent NHS Medical School as one of her successes). She supported government mass snooping on everyone’s phones and emails. She also voted for yet more restrictions on trades unions. Back in her 2016 Remainer days, she urged ever close relationships with Europe. Since then, she has voted against the right of EU nationals already living in the UK to stay and for stronger policies on immigration and asylum.
She never opposes government policy, even when it is not in the best interests of her constituents. Faversham recently lost its Crown Post Office and the impact will be felt soon, as the company who got the franchise has already gutted Sittingbourne and closed Sheppey post offices. Helen has been silent on this issue. She opposed giving local councils greater control of local issues like housing, a crucial issue for Faversham as our town is now swamped with new estates.
Helen has shown herself happy to sing for her supper. She has enjoyed paid-for visits to Turkey, Bahrain and in April 2017 to Saudi Arabia. She did not declare the exact cost of this trip, the only entry on the register is an estimate: £3,717. The following year she defended the Saudis saying they “are taking steps to improve their actions on human rights”. Since then, Saudi Arabia has launched a genocidal war against Yemen, now the greatest humanitarian disaster on the planet.
When Jeremy Corbyn condemned the Saudis for this, she described him as “poorly informed”. She has not spoken publicly about the recent murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, hacked to death by the Saudis in their Turkish embassy or persistent human rights abuses in Bahrain and Turkey.
Over the last few years she has relentlessly promoted Leeds Castle. The grateful charity then
treated her and her millionaire husband to a slap up night out (£295 for accommodation) and dinner (£258). She was recently appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. In one of her first interviews, she promoted Leeds Castle, without mentioning the joys of a free night out, but then that is not something available to just anyone.
So far, in this election she has given some car crash TV interviews, being fact checked the first time live on air and found to be exaggerating. She has made bogus claims about Tory Party achievements, the most fatuous being “more police officers” when the truth is that there are 20,000 fewer officers now than when the Tories came to power in 2010.
SOME OF OUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Helen offered to answer any questions we sent her, then failed to do so. They included:
Would you put Faversham’s interests first if it meant voting against your party leadership?
How would your improve the lives of local families in poverty?
Do you stand by your claim that Boris Johnson is an ardent feminist?
How do you justify your vote for a no deal Brexit when it will be disastrous for many local farmers?
Why didn’t you pay for the Leeds Castle junket?
You were fact checked live on air by the BBC, who revealed you were repeating misleading figures about Labour spending plans invented by Conservative central office. Will you now make a public correction?
‘Get Brexit Done’
Better public services with more money for the NHS hospitals and GPs and more police officers
Better schools and colleges, new apprenticeships and tax cuts for businesses
Investment in roads
Superfast broadband for more homes
Protecting the countryside