Three disability charities have asked Conservative MPs, including the London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, to resign as patrons after they voted in favour of government cuts to disability benefits.
Richmond Aid asked Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, to step down as its patron, which he did on Wednesday; the Andover branch of the MS Society asked Kit Malthouse, the MP for North West Hampshire, to resign last weekend; and James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, was removed by the south east-based charity Advocacy for All on Monday.
All three MPs voted earlier this month in favour of a measure to cut £30 a week from Employment Support Allowance – a benefit to support disabled people which many of the charities’ beneficiaries rely on.
In a statement, Richmond Aid said it believed it would be "inappropriate" for Goldsmith, who is also the Conservative Party’s candidate for London Mayor, to remain as patron after supporting the cut, which it said, did "not recognise the well documented additional costs of living with a disability".
Lucy Byrne, the charity’s chief executive, warned the move would make it more difficult for people with disabilities to find work."Having voted for this brutal cut, we believe that Zac Goldsmith’s position as patron is no longer tenable," she said.
Ed Holloway, executive director for services at the MS Society, confirmed that the Andover branch had asked Malthouse to resign. "After careful consideration, the branch felt that Mr Malthouse’s lack of support for the MS Society’s campaigning on disability benefits prevented him from being an effective patron," he said.
In a statement on his website, Malthouse said many people had misunderstood the cut, which would in effect reduce ESA to the same level as Job Seekers Allowance for new claimants, but with more support to help them stay in work, which he said was "surely the best therapy of all".
He said: "I was sorry to hear that Andover MS Society do not want me to continue as patron. Obviously if they wish to find a different patron that is a matter for them.
"I have no desire to remain if their members do not wish me to do so. I did not seek the position but I was very pleased when they asked me, not least since MS has affected my wider family in the past and I believe there has been wide misunderstanding about what is proposed."
Vivienne Lester, chief executive of Advocacy for All, said the charity was "disappointed and surprised" by Cleverly’s vote and called for him to remove any reference to Advocacy for All from his website and other online platforms.
"As the patron of a charity for disabled people, we would have expected James Cleverly to have consulted with our members and clients to get their views on the difference these cuts will make to their daily lives," she said.
She said the charity had given him the opportunity to meet trustees to explain himself. No one from Goldsmith's or Cleverly’s offices was available for comment on Friday morning.