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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Hard times, hearts and truths

Iain Duncan Smith wants to take child benefits and tax credits from mothers who have a third child and any more thereafter. Unbeatable China has a draconian one-child policy, so why not us? There is no public outcry because the proposed policy only targets the children of the most disadvantaged, those "feral" creatures, the enemy within. I thought IDS had come to understand such hopelessness.

Eight years ago, he went to Easterhouse estate in Glasgow, home to some of the poorest of British families with multiple problems, some self-inflicted, but most caused by the indifference of society, an amoral economic model and hard political decisions. He met Janice, whose young son, a heroin addict, had died of an overdose. The caring Tory cried. We were touched. So too was Bob Holman, a dedicated community worker on the estate: "[IDS] responded to poor people in a positive manner... he was impressed by the contribution of volunteers... I thought him a decent man."

I was at a Labour Party fringe meeting in 2005 when IDS called (in his deep voice with matching deep conviction) for the poorest of our citizens to get adequate resources so they could be part of the communities around them. I clapped heartily and thought the man was in the wrong party. Now we know: those were crocodile tears and the crocodile came back to maul the people he seemingly feigned to care about.

IDS is apparently an ideological progeny of those, who, over history, wanted to curtail the reproduction of humans they considered a nuisance, feckless, feeble and dispensable. They came from the left and right – and included the Webbs, Bernard Shaw and Marie Stopes and Sir Francis Galton who, in the 1880s, wanted the state to limit "unwanted" populations.

In 1974, Keith Joseph said in a speech that Britain's "human stock" was threatened by mothers of "low intelligence" who were producing "delinquent denizens of borstals".

Brilliantly marketed government spin has turned off all public sympathy for those crawling through life at the bottom.

This brings me to last week's column, when I wrote about the new racism waking up around Britain, from football clubs to school playgrounds. Some accused me of "hating" the working classes and the poor. I spent years with the dispossessed and still carry on that relationship through volunteering. I do want to unconditionally apologise to Millwall football fans for writing that [they] "behave like animals" when black players come on. I should have said "some fans".

This apology does not extend to abusive emailers, one of whom wrote to me to call me a " racist, lying s***", adding "you should be deported along with your disgusting tribe". Racism has not been seen off from these isles, not yet. Perhaps IDS will see what he is unleashing and feel shame.