Iain Duncan Smith: The Little Man Who Could

Iain Duncan Smith…could he?

IDS claimed he could live on benefits:

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Iain Duncan Smith was challenged on whether he could live on £7.57 a day, which was said to be the lowest rate of jobseeker’s allowance given to adults under 25. In fact the current rate is £56.25 a week.

“If I had to I would,” he replied.

Alex Hern rightly points out that for a very rich man married to an even richer woman, with a huge expenses account, temporarily cutting your spending is easy enough:

But when the next week comes round; and the next; and the next; and still £53 is all you have to live on, it gets harder. Do you give up social events entirely? What happens when your TV license runs out? You may have some books lying around the house now, but you’ll finish them soon enough. And cooking cheap tasty food is easy when you have store-cupboard essentials; it gets harder when you not only have to factor in the cost of them, but also the cost of the electricity you use to cook. That’s not even beginning to examine whether Iain Duncan Smith would be eligible for Housing Benefit in his hypothetical example, or if he’d still be able to happily live rent-free in a £2m house. It seems doubtful that he’d move out to fulfil the example.

Iain Duncan Smith last signed-on and lived on unemployment benefit after he’d left the Scots Guards thirty-plus years ago: he spent some months on the dole (back then no one asked him to do workfare) looking for the right job to advance his career as a man with no qualifications.

Unemployment 1981When Iain Duncan Smith was on the dole, in 1981 – the UK was suffering a recession that year, GDP fell by 2.2% and unemployment was over 2.5 million – unemployment benefit for a single person was £22.50 a week.

Iain Duncan Smith might get a nasty shock if he thinks he remembers being able to live on £22.50 a week as a young ex-Guardsman. If benefits had been raised in line with inflation, the current rate would be £76.05 a week – nearly £20 more.

Thanks to Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne’s relentless cuts, the poorest family will lose on average about £17 a week compared with their situation in 2010.

Patrick Jenkin, Iain Duncan Smith’s long-ago predecessor as Secretary of State for Social Services, said in the House of Commons on 11th March 1981:

I am glad to be able to announce, in the International Year of Disabled People, a substantial increase in mobility allowance—from £14.50 a week to £16.50. That is an increase of nearly 14 per cent. and it marks the importance that we attach to that allowance. We are especially anxious to continue to make it possible for as many disabled people as can to lease or buy cars from Motability, and that increase will help to ensure the continuing success of that scheme. The VAT relief on adaptation to cars for the disabled and the other VAT concessions announced yesterday will also be welcomed by disabled people.

I turn to invalidity benefit. The Chancellor made it clear yesterday that it will not be possible to bring that benefit into tax next year, but I am anxious to make a start towards the restoration of the value of that benefit in advance of taxation. I therefore propose to restore the value of the invalidity allowances this November. Those allowances are the sums paid on top of the invalidity pension and depend on the claimant’s age when incapacity begins. The cost of restoring the allowances and of the increase in real terms of the mobility allowance, will be met from the contingency reserve. Our pledge to restore the value of the invalidity pension itself when it comes into taxation now stands unqualified.

Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne in the Telegraph today:

Of course, if you listened to the shrill voices of the Left you’d think that every change to the welfare system, and any attempt to save money, marks the beginning of the end of the world.

In reality, we are just restoring the original principles of the welfare state: that those who can work must work, and a life on benefits must not be more attractive than working. That is why this month we are starting to introduce the benefits cap.

The British public do not believe that benefit claimants should receive higher incomes than families who are in work – in some cases more than double the average household income. This is about fairness.

Equally, it is not fair that out-of-work benefits should rise faster than the incomes of those in work. So we’re increasing discretionary working-age benefits by 1 per cent, starting this financial year, and for the next three years. This decision has not been taken lightly. However, given the current difficult economic times, the decision is a necessary one. It will save more than £2 billion pounds a year.

Sue Marsh, one of Iain Duncan Smith’s “shirkers”, “workshy”, someone who in George Osborne’s view should be struggling to get by because she can’t hold down a paid job:

We always have a choice. Always.

However bleak things seem, however academically and clinically surgeons and medics make their textbook proclamations, we ARE masters of our own bodies and masters of our own destiny.

Will I succeed? Well, it seems to be going OK so far. It hurts. Whoaaaa it hurts. And it’s a little hard to hold a conversation down when my lazy, recalcitrant bowel decides to move into reverse, but it’s a billion times better than the alternative.

As for Mr Gloomy, I have a plan. It sustains me through the pain and vomiting and makes me giggle. At my next appointment, I will march into his office on stronger legs and in the nicest possible way, flip him the finger. I will be shinier, fatter, stronger and vindicated. I WILL.

And perhaps he will learn something too. Perhaps he will learn that the human spirit is full of miracles. That there really is no such word as can’t.

But what do the Tories and LibDems care, if by cutting her support they can save money? Can they?

I’d like to see Iain Duncan Smith trying to live on £20 a week less than he survived on as a young man. For a year. But we never will. Iain Duncan Smith will disappear into the House of Lords after May 2015, Lord Smith of Workfare, magnificently satisfied with himself.

Update: George Monbiot: Fine, our IDS petition is a ‘stunt’ – a stunt to shame the oblivious aristocrats

When I signed the £53 pw petition it had 381,770 supporters and seems to be going up at 3,000 per hour. So may reach half a million before the weekend….

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Filed under Benefits, Poverty

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