Coffey, the UK’s work and pensions secretary, was seen dancing and singing the Dirty Dancing-associated hit at a party during the Conservative Party conference with children’s minister Will Quince.
Opposition MPs and poverty activists expressed anger at Coffey’s seemingly celebratory mood – and song choice – despite having just overseen the biggest cut to social security since the second world war.
“The secretary of state singing that she is having ‘the time of her life’ while making families £1,000 a year worse off today is frankly an insult and a disgrace,” said Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary.
“It is not too late for the government to reverse this disastrous decision, support struggling families and cancel this cut.”
Responding to the footage shortly after attending an anti-cut demonstration at the UK government headquarters in Edinburgh, Neil Cowan – policy and campaigns manager for the Poverty Alliance – said: “It’s hard to watch this without being overcome with anger.
“This is a day when the UK government has carried out an unjust cut that will push over half a million people across our communities into poverty. It will drive people into debt, distress, hunger, homelessness and hardship.
“It’s a decision that will outrage people across the country, and which goes against the values we share as a society.”
Coffey should be “righting this wrong”, Cowan added. “Instead she’s focusing on karaoke rather than compassion, and partying rather than protecting. It is very simply disgraceful.”
An army of more than 100 campaign groups, opposition parties across the UK, ex-Tory welfare ministers and celebrities have all condemned the cut in recent months. But Boris Johnson went ahead with the payment reduction, insisting people should work instead of relying on benefits.
The cut “makes a mockery” of the prime minister’s levelling up rhetoric, said Helen Barnard, deputy director for JRF. Around 40 per cent of people claiming universal credit are already in work while many others are searching for jobs or not expected to work at all due to illness or disability.
Johnson is “abandoning millions to hunger and hardship with his eyes wide open,” Bernard said. “Low income families urgently need him to reinstate this vital lifeline.”
After Coffey took to the stage in Manchester, Munira Wilson – health and social care spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats – said: “I’ve no problem with politicians having fun.
“But just hours before this woman plunges thousands into poverty by slashing universal credit, how can Thérèse Coffey even live with herself, let alone belt out Time of My Life?”
The work and pensions secretary has declined requests for comment.
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