In the often unintelligible acronym- and jargon-crazed world of Work and Pensions Questions, no-one could accuse the right-wing Tory Philip Davies of not telling it like he thinks it is.
Today Davies invited Iain Duncan Smith to condemn the characters on Channel Four’s Benefits Street who complained about cuts while “being able to afford to buy copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos done and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television.”
Did he understand the concerns of “people who go out to work who cannot afford those kind of luxuries?
His point was clear, if a little odd. Maybe Donald Trump is covered with the things, but you can’t help feeling that tattoos would come rather low down the list of enviable “luxuries” after fast cars, yachts, and Rolex watches.
As a BBC-hater moreover, Davies should be relieved the claimants are watching Sky.
And it seems a trifle inconsistent from a keen champion of the gambling industry, who said last week that criticism of fixed odds betting machines is “about middle-class people being patronising towards working-class people by telling them how they should spend their money.”
But Davies did at least lay bare his core views. You have to hope that Duncan Smith was not doing the same with his un-PC mockery of Labour’s (gay) Chris Bryant.
As in “I know that Christmas is over but I think one of the pantomimes left its dame behind on the Opposition Front Bench”. But then Duncan Smith may only have been trying to ingratiate himself with George Osborne, said not to have the highest opinion of his colleague, and the first to use the “pantomime dame” gag about Bryant.
Ministers again came under fire over Atos from MPs concerned that the company seems rubbish at deciding whether disability claimants are fit for work. This time from what could loosely be said to be its own side. The recently liberated – by being sacked as a minister – Lib Dem David Heath asked whether it would not be best to “remove the incapable Atos”.
Minister Mike Penning pointed out that Atos was first hired by Labour, which is all too true, But while Penning is a nice chap, didn’t his mum ever tell him two wrongs don’t make a right?
Meanwhile pensions minister Lib Dem Steve Webb zapped his shadow Greg McClymont who complained the government was not telling people how the pension changes would affect them.
Was he “really suggesting that we should write 40 million letters?” asked Webb. This got a big laugh from the government benches. But then McClymont was hardly suggesting that Webb should sign each one personally.