Stephen Crabb – former Welsh secretary, the first man in the cabinet with a beard since David Blunkett, and now the replacement for Iain Duncan Smith as work and pensions secretary – was immediately dismissed as a “yes man” by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a nod to the fact that Crabb has never voted against the government.
But the Thatcher devotee will be the only man in Cameron’s team to have been raised in a council house by a tenacious single mother who left his violent father when Crabb was eight years old and took her three sons from Inverness back to her home in Wales, where they survived on welfare.
State-educated, Crabb, 43, shares Duncan Smith’s tendency to reference his Christian faith, and voted against same-sex marriage. His vote in favour of reducing employment support allowance for the disabled led to a petition calling for his resignation as patron of Mencap in Pembrokeshire.
Crabb’s broken nose bears testament to his passion for rugby, and the MP for the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency is also a fan of opera and enjoys curry. He is married to a French woman, Beatrice Monnier, who is employed part-time as his secretary. The couple, who met at Bristol University, have two children, Ioan, aged 14, and 12-year-old Isabelle.
After graduation from university he gained an MBA at London Business School. He has an interest in foreign affairs – especially Israel, Qatar and Burma – and first came into the House of Commons as a parliamentary intern with the Christian Action Research and Education charity in 1995.
He has said that he wants Britain to stay in the EU, arguing that the Welsh economy benefits enormously from the single market, while calling for reform in trade and deregulation. He was touched by the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, when it was revealed that he had claimed £8,049 on his second-home expenses to refurbish a flat in London which he sold, then “flipped” his expenses to cover a house being bought for his family in Pembrokeshire. A room in another flat of a fellow MP was then designated as his main home. Crabb was never asked to repay any money and said at the time: “My claims were always within the letter and the spirit of the rules.”
Although he has stated he is in favour of letting the Welsh language “flourish”, the Cymdeithas yr Iaith (the Welsh Language Society) in Crabb’s constituency have not been impressed by his commitment to their cause and have dubbed him and his fellow county MP, Simon Hart, “Crap and Fart”.
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