Can any of us even imagine a Sunday morning which doesn’t include Iain Duncan Smith talking nonsense?

IDS’s latest tour de force concerned the rule change whereby the disabled now qualify for the full Personal Independence Payment if they cannot walk 20 yards


Ever since Mr Tony Blair foresaw its luminous success and made the Millennium Dome the first line of Labour’s 2003 manifesto, party leaders have been understandably timid about predictions of that kind. Nonetheless, I make this suggestion to David Cameron. He should announce that the first line of his 2015 manifesto will read: “Don’t kick us out, or you’ll end the cherished British tradition of waking on Sunday to Iain Duncan Smith talking surreal gibberish on telly.” IDS’s latest tour de force, in conversation with Andrew Marr, concerned the rule change whereby the disabled now qualify for the full Personal Independence Payment if they cannot walk 20 yards, where before it was 50 yards. The rationale is hotly disputed. On one side are most sentient beings, if not all other than one, who see  the intent as removing from or lowering payments to those who can walk the shorter distance but not the longer one. It was easy to guess why Marr, with depleted motor function since his stroke, seemed so aerated by this cruelty. On the other, IDS parotted the mantra about “making the system fairer”. He couldn’t recall how many of the 11,049 people surveyed about this agreed with him, though Marr reminded him that the number is seven. He suffered another memory lapse when asked how many have lost benefits because of the change, claiming not to be aware of anyone who has; Marr refreshed him that it is in fact in the tens of thousands.

Yet, as so often with Iain, his linguistic brilliance competed for the attention with his laissez faire relationship with the strict truth. “It is a criteria by which, if people succeed at that,” he explained of the new 20-yard rule, “they’ll get full support.” What a fantastic triumph it must be, to succeed at not being able to walk less than the length of a cricket pitch. As for the commitment to fairness, this drew another exquisite formulation. “Actually, it will be better for them,” said Iain of those newly impoverished because they can walk 20 yards, but not 50, “in the long run”.

Guess what? This Miller business is a witch-hunt

IDS offered could only nuanced support for Maria Miller, insisting that the PM should consider her future while citing the danger of – what else? – “a witch-hunt”. He might have added that her only mistake was not having a father-in-law with a Jacobean mansion in which she could live rent free, but passed on that. Yet no one could accuse the Tory backbencher Therese Coffey of sending out mixed messages. This priceless presence on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has been touring the studios to insist that the relevant Secretary of State ain’t done nuffink, nor nuffink, nor not. What comfort for Maria this must be. The last embattled figure to whose defence Therese publicly came was Rebekah Brooks. In 2011, she informed the House that Mrs Brooks was the victim of – go on, have a  guess – “a witch-hunt”.

Nadine Dorries, another Farage in the making

Also enjoying a raised media presence is the Emily Bronte of Merseyside. Nadine Dorries has published her debut novel, The Four Streets, and according to Ann Treneman, interviewing her sympathetically in The Times, it isn’t half bad. Nadine is one of those rare political peacocks who connects with the punters, in the loose manner of the late Bob Crow and Nigel Farage, and a feeling in my water presages a startling bout of revisionism, with her eccentricities restyled as proof of her salt-of-the-earthiness.

She is also, of course, a searingly  original thinker, as she established in an impassioned article in this newspaper five years ago, when she raided the thesaurus in contemplation of the MPs’ expenses scandal, and dredged up “McCarthyite witch-hunt”.

There should be no secrets between friends

I am riven by yet another fit of the vapours after reading a Daily Mail article which ghoulishly dwells on the part played in the Police Federation’s Plebgate catastrophe by my friend Jon Gaunt. In his latter capacity as one of Coventry’s top-ranked media strategists, the former shock jock and discarded Sun columnist orchestrated the meeting in Mitchell’s Sutton Coldfield constituency about which the attending coppers told some porkies.

As for the “PC Pleb and Proud!” T-shirts worn by officers at the 2012 Tory conference, by some uncanny happenstance, the Mail reveals, these were made by a firm owned by a certain Jon Gaunt. Gaunty was unable to comment, citing “confidentiality” eight times. But one day, as his supporters know, he will clear his name, and bring this witch-hunt to an end.

Wee Dougie deserves a break, in public at any rate

In the Mail on Sunday, meanwhile, is a disturbing report about further tensions within Labour high command. Harriet Harman and Ed Balls have been overheard moaning, outside the latter’s office, about election supremo Douglas Alexander, who moonlights as shadow Foreign Secretary. “The trouble with Douglas is that he just isn’t engaged at the moment,” Harman told Balls, apparently, who nodded in agreement. Wee Dougie, bless him, has never really recovered from his lengthy stint as Gordon Brown’s favourite glove puppet – and given what a clunking fist he had inserted up him, small wonder about that. But he doesn’t deserve this public contempt, and we ask his colleagues to desist. It’s an easy mistake, but if they must moan about the little man, common courtesy demands they do so on the other side of an office door.

The first item in this article has been amended to refer to the Personal Independence Payment, which is the benefit to be tested by the 20 yard rule

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas