Saturday 19 March 2016

Iain Duncan Smith: When A Quiet Man Goes With A Bang, Forget The Sizzle, Check The Steak

IDS resigns
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), self-proclaimed “quiet man of politics”, former leader of the Tory party, Work and Pensions Secretary and Cabinet member resigned in an incendiaryletter to the Prime Minister yesterday. He left because the cuts to benefits announced in the budget just 3 days ago are going to be shelved and re-worked. He had long opposed these cuts, but been forced to defend them publicly. In essence IDS like many in his party had started the reform of the Welfare system with the assumption that people were work-shy, that disability benefits had been the sinecure of scroungers and that all that had to be done was to “encourage” and “motivate” people who had become economic malingerers, through failures in Welfare Policy, to become economically active, taxable individuals who could contribute to Britain’s recovery. The  "BedroomTax" , the re-badging of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence (PIP) and a raft of changes had the net result of hitting the disabled and the most vulnerable the hardest. When then it became apparent that Chancellor Osborne’s budget rewarded his political targets - young people, entrepreneurs and the very wealthy -  with benefits in the context of swingeing cuts against the poor, IDS resigned. He said of these benefits: “they are not defensible in the way they are placed within a budget that benefits higher earning tax payers”. He goes on to wonder if: “enough has been done to ensure we are all in this together”, calling into question the core Government claim that we really are all in this together.

PM and IDS hold opposing views on Europe
Meanwhile the timing of this resignation at a time when the Tory party has given a hall pass to its members at all levels to campaign for or against membership of the EU according to their conscience, makes his resignation politically deadly. He has thrown The Chancellor’s budget into complete disrepute and with it the judgement of a key stay in Europe campaigner and potential leader of the Tory party in George Osborne. This is a double blow to the PM, the Party and the Stay in Europe campaigners. If the budget of the government is unsound, what else, one might legitimately ask, is unsound about the political vision of PM Cameron, his Chancellor and the Stay in Europe cohort?
The answer to these questions do not lie in the alphabet soup of re-branded benefits or the arithmetical juggling of the Chancellor benefiting some, hitting others and clearly demonstrating we are NOT all in this together. 

Forget the sizzle, check the steak
Assumption: Benefits claimants are scroungers
The answer does not even lie in our understanding of government accounts and fiscal policy. To understand what is happening, all one needs to evaluate is the basic assumptions those who campaign for our votes hold about their fellow citizens. What view of men and women do they subscribe to? Do they respect the equal dignity of all, or do they think some are more deserving than others, no matter how well they spin their message with slogans and brand their policies?
People are the same everywhere. They can be driven by greed, haughtiness, a contempt for ordinary people, compassion, a sense of respect for their fellows and a sense of morality that renders some decisions unconscionable. The question is, which values our political aspirants have at front of mind. I’d argue that only a delusional person could not see what is happening in the UK politically now. Whether that person cares is of course another matter. And what is worse, the media is simply reporting the cosmetic facts and only joining the dots at the most superficial level. Will voters be smarter? They need to look beyond the sizzle of the steak and seek the beef to see how fresh it really is, in spite of the sweet seasoning we all smell and find so appetising. 

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