For Iain Duncan Smith’s next trick, he should tax the rich like he punishes the poor

No one empathises with the needy more than IDS...

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Looking ahead with a variety of emotions to a Tory victory on 7 May, let me be the first to propose a reshuffle sensation. Iain Duncan Smith must become Chancellor. George Osborne may hope to remain in situ if the Tories cling to power, but the advantages of having IDS at the Treasury are overwhelming.

For one thing, it would offer him payback for Osborne’s absurd depiction of him as too thick to reform benefits, though he has already effectively rebutted that slander. This very day, after its long but limited tour of the provinces, universal credit finally begins its national rollout … and darlings, as Iain wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, it’s a triumph! It may be true that Iain forgot to mention (among other fiascos) that the forecast of what UC will save has now been downgraded from an annual £2.2bn to £600m. But we ignore such trivia, just as we ignored the benefits reform-related reports of cancer patients dying within weeks of hearing from Atos that they were fit for work.

For as IDS wrote, his reforms are “underpinned by fundamental principles. First and foremost: unconditional support for those unable to work, and meaningful support for all those who are in genuine need.” Indeed, indeed. No one empathises with the needy more than Iain, and the next time he strolls to church from his father-in-law’s mansion in Bucks, where he reportedly lives rent-free, he will probably light a candle in memory of Malcolm Burge, the pensioner driven to suicide after his housing benefit was halved to £40 a week.

Anyway, IDS’s achievement in saving comparatively tiny sums at unimaginable cost to those who need every pound they can get earns him the chance to reverse that miracle by raising colossal amounts from those who palpably don’t.


As Chancellor, he would want to introduce “universal tax”, a scheme under which sanctions similar in principle (if not scope) to those that led to Mr Burge’s death would be visited on companies and individuals who remain stubbornly unwilling to pay up.

Apart from needing a fresh challenge to keep that massive intellect engaged, the least reward his past successes deserve is a grace-and-favour home. The Chancellor’s Dorneywood retreat is also in Bucks, so the relocation costs wouldn’t be too crippling. Since his current abode is privately owned, there is no “bedroom tax” liability incurred by its several empty rooms. But Iain knows that this is a technicality, and that he would owe a fortune if it were social housing. For such a profoundly moral man, the shame must be too excruciating to bear.

Mention the war, Jack, but not that other thing...

With Sir John Chilcot’s report due imminently (ha, ha and thrice ha), Jack Straw tells The Daily Telegraph of his regret for supporting the invasion of Iraq when Foreign Secretary. Bless him for that, though an oddity is the interview’s (entirely legal) avoidance of mentioning the charge that Jack colluded in the illegal rendition and torture of terrorist suspects.

Yet his wry acceptance of having “war criminal” yelled at him on the London underground is so touching that it feels churlish to dwell on that.


We get to keep Boris – and he  gets to keep his dollars

In a bid to find a political story unrelated to tax evasion, we turn to Boris Johnson’s jaunt to his birthplace of New York.

It was lovely to find Boris making up with Hillary Clinton, whom he once likened to Nurse Ratched, the sadistic horror from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Given how well the trip went, it seemed ungracious of Boris to celebrate his safe return by declaring the intention to renounce his US citizenship. “My commitment is, and always has been, to Britain,” he explained to the Sunday Times. One unforeseen side effect of giving up the passport would be his future avoidance of the taxes levied, wherever they live, on all US citizens …  Ah, I see where that has brought us. Still, we had a go.


From Abdullah to Prescott, Louise Mensch is on a run

For the second time in weeks, Louise Mensch makes sense in The Sun. Fresh from her denunciation of David Cameron and others for eulogising the Saudi King Abdullah, Louise highlights Lord Prescott’s rancid hypocrisy in continuing to write for the Sunday Mirror, the owner of which last week apologised for the industrialised phone-hacking that outrage his lordship close to self-combustion when he was a victim of the News of the World.

She also lacerates Ed Miliband, who often reminds us of his tigerish stalking of Rupert Murdoch, for remaining silent about the slavishly pro-Labour Mirror’s Group. Tiger, it’s time to roar again.


The Prince alone would drive you Koo Koo

What a glorious week for the Duke of York. As if his mother’s satirical gift of the rank of vice-admiral weren’t joy enough, he awoke yesterday to find an old lover defending him in The Mail on Sunday against the allegation that he had intercourse with a teenage “sex slave”.

It’s a relief to learn he was always a perfect gentleman with Stark, though it’s hardly proof that he was equally chivalrous decades later with someone else. From five pages of “extraordinary revelations”, meanwhile, the most memorable detail concerns her companion on Buckingham Palace visits. “I even used to take my pet parrot with me,” she recalls. “Candy was a roseate cockatoo.” On first reading, this seems a nod to mannered eccentricity, but on reflection it makes perfect sense. If you had to spend intimate time with Prince Andrew, wouldn’t you take a parrot? Just for the conversation?