Role: Esther founded her own charity for young inner-city women
Defeated Tory leadership candidate Esther McVey would drastically reduce Britain’s foreign aid budget so she could spend extra on schools and the police if she became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
McVey, MP for Tatton, who was knocked out in the ballot to find the next PM last week, earned a six-figure sum before she became an MP. She keeps all her savings in the bank because she is aware a career in politics is ‘precarious’.
The 51-year-old spent the early years of her life in foster care as a Barnardo’s child. She founded charity If Chloe Can in 2013 to help young inner-city girls. The charity provides practical careers advice to teenage girls helping them to realise their aspirations.
How do you feel about losing the leadership race?
Naturally, I am disappointed to be out, but I am pleased to have been able to make my case in the debate around the leadership for Brexit, Blue Collar Conservatism and the need to power up the Northern economy. These are passionate ideas and beliefs that I will continue to promote within the Party and across the country.
What did your parents teach you about money?
To always have more coming in than you have going out. My parents were young and poor when they had me and at the same time my grandma was dying. So I was put in foster care when I was born with charity Barnardo’s. That allowed my parents to work all hours when I was little and get a small deposit together for a house. When I was four and a half, I came back home to Mum and Dad.
As you can imagine, my parents always understood exactly what it meant to have no money and to struggle. They impressed on me the need to have money and security, but also how important kindness is. When you are at a low point in your life or in need, they always said it is important that the State and charities are there to help you get back on track.
My dad did many jobs over his lifetime. He was a taxi driver, sold ice creams and then set up his own business as a metal merchant and moved into demolition and construction. Eventually, he became a specialist in property development and land reclamation.
Was money tight when you were growing up?
It started off being tight but my parents firmly believed that through hard work and determination we could progress. Bit by bit, we became better off and I was the first person in my family to go to university. I guess that is why I believe in social mobility. I do not think it matters where you come from. It is about where you are going to and what you want to achieve.
What was the first paid work you ever did?
I worked for free for my father at weekends and during the summer holidays when I was at school. The first paid work I did was waitressing when I was 18 and at university. It was fun.
The first paid work Esther did was waitressing when she was 18 and at university (stock image)
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, straight after university. I spent about a year doing work experience for free and trying to get a TV job. I wanted to work in the media, but I did not know anything about it or anyone in the industry. It was a struggle.
I only managed to make ends meet because I received criminal injury compensation while at university. When I was 19, someone started a fight in a restaurant I was in and threw a glass across the bar. I needed five stitches in my eyebrow. I used the £1,500 I received to live on and after a year I got a job on children’s TV for the BBC.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. In the late 1990s, I presented the ITV programme How Do They Do This? I got paid a ridiculous amount for a small amount of work – about £40,000 to host eight episodes.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2009, just before I became a politician. In the early 2000s, I left the TV industry but it took me ten years to win my seat as an MP. What enabled me to keep going was my own business. I bought a building and set it up as an office and incubator space for start-up companies. My best year was 2009 when I sold the property. I made a six-figure sum.
Esther said her biggest money mistake was not buying a two-bedroom flat in South Kensington, London, in 2000
What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought for fun?
I splashed out on an authenticated Ringo Starr autograph at a charity auction. It was written on a floorboard from the stage of The Empire in Liverpool where The Beatles gave one of their last concerts. It cost about £2,000.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Not buying a two-bedroom flat in South Kensington, London, in 2000. I was too cautious. The places I looked at seemed so expensive – they were about £450,000. I thought surely prices would come down. A two-bed flat in that part of London is now worth more than £2 million.
The best money decision you have made?
Taking a master’s degree in corporate governance at in 2008. It cost £10,000. I really enjoyed learning about the best businesses worldwide and aspects of brand and reputation management. I see people who build businesses as the creators in society. They generate money, wealth, jobs and communities.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
I have an MP’s pension, but I do not invest in the stock market. I keep my money in the safest place possible. Jobs in politics can be precarious.
Do you own any property?
Yes, in my constituency in Tatton. It is a four-bedroom house. I live there with my other half and my 73-year-old father.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I would cut the Foreign Aid budget and spend more right away on the schools and police. Getting a good education is key in life. Given the right support, anybody can achieve irrespective of their background. I would not only increase the core budget for schools, but also the budget for pupils with special educational needs and those who go into further education. That is really key if we want to help all of our citizens.
I would spend more on the police because you need a safe environment to live in. We all need to know that when we go home and close the door, it is all going to be OK. I would release money from overseas aid because it is the only budget that has nearly doubled since 2010. Most other budgets have either been cut or frozen. I just think we need to re-prioritise our spending now on our young children and to make sure we are safe.
Do you donate to charity?
I founded my own charity, If Chloe Can. We work with young inner-city girls to help them with the challenges of life, offer them advice on careers and give them role models. Our current programme aims to build confidence, assertiveness and resilience.
What is your number one financial priority?
To pay off my mortgage and make sure I always have a roof over my head.