For anyone who may have missed a devilishly subtle change in mainstream attitudes to welfare, a brace of news stories collided on Friday to offer a handy tutorial.
One reported that copies of the Beveridge Report – that 1942 statement of the intent to use welfare to eradicate the plagues of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness – were air-dropped on Germany during the war. The copy found in Hitler’s bunker had an annotation in which the Führer banned any public mention of the report, fearing the morale-sapping effect if Germans realised how noble the enemy actually was.
It simultaneously emerged, meanwhile, that Iain Duncan Smith’s bold attempt to restrict welfare is an even bigger calamity than previously thought. Despite IDS’s cunning plan to have the distasteful announcement released on Friday, while the “Ukip earthquake” was dominating the news cycle, it was hard to avoid noticing this: his flagship Universal Credit was said to have narrowly escaped (after pressure from IDS) a Major Project Authority “red rating” - Whitehall Mandarin for “unworkable catastrophe". Eight months after a “reset” was supposed to rescue it, UC remains an unmitigated disaster. Hard fact of this kind being a red rag to a bullshitter, Iain continues to insist that all is tickety-boo.
So to those behind the new Longitude Prize, rewarding whoever finds a solution to one of six facile tasks (discovering a cure for dementia, eradicating hunger across the globe, that sort of doddle), we suggest the addition of a more properly challenging seventh. For £20m, can anybody locate Iain Duncan Smith’s brain?
Guests Gatting and Carling are worthy of Cameron
The latest list of Chequers dinner guests is out, and what a delight to find, among various sports folk David Cameron had over last year, the former England cricket captain Mike Gatting. In geopolitical punditry terms, the world’s most-spherical human is best known for declaring, before leading the infamous 1990 rebel tour to South Africa: “I don’t know much about how apartheid works, but one way to find out is by going there.” Once there, his researches extended as far as watching a demonstration against the tour, and then dismissing it as “just a bit of singing and dancing”. A most worthy prime ministerial dining companion, as was his one-time rugby counterpart. Whether Will Carling arrived in his traditional manner when visiting the very highest in the land, hidden in the boot of a car, is not known.
Campbell keeps quiet about Egyptian connections
I am ecstatic to note Alastair Campbell extending his international campaign to promote progressive values. Ali was spotted a while ago in oil- and gas-rich Kazakhstan, whose dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has a quaintly retro approach to human rights, and who, by weirdest happenstance, has paid Mr Tony Blair handsomely to advise him on “good governance”. Heaping spooky coincidence on Jungian synchronicity, Alastair is now suspected of selling his strategic genius to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a few weeks after Mr Tony praised him for leading the military coup against Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi, who is accused of brutally suppressing internal opposition, will become president in a faintly dodgy election this week. Questioned about this addition to his business portfolio by the Mail on Sunday, Ali denied working on Sisi’s campaign, but would not comment on whether he has spoken to Sisi or his people, or how much, if anything, he was paid for possibly doing so, and whether Mr T brokered such discussions, if indeed they took place. This reticence is strangely out of character, and we look to Alastair to correct this on his blog, which until now has held its tongue on the matter.
Police toss a coin
Helmets off to the Police Federation’s latest triumph. Whether Jon Gaunt, mastermind of the Solihull meeting with Andrew Mitchell, had a hand in it is anyone’s guess. But when the vote for a new chairman was tied 15-15, the Fed elected Steve White by the toss of a coin. Good luck to Inspector White. Heads Theresa May dismantles him, tails she takes him apart.